All news https://www.idiv.de/ en All news https://www.idiv.de/typo3conf/ext/tt_news/ext_icon.gif https://www.idiv.de/ 18 16 TYPO3 - get.content.right http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Wed, 18 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200 Native plant gardening for species conservation https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2350.html Researchers recommend urban conservation gardening measures to reverse horticultural trends Researchers recommend urban conservation gardening measures to reverse horticultural trends

Halle/Leipzig. Declining native species could be planted in urban green spaces. Researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Leipzig University and other institutions describe how to use this great potential for species protection. In their most recent study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, they recommend practical conservation gardening methods in a bid to restructure the horticultural industry and reverse plant species declines.

Despite global efforts to protect biodiversity, many plant species are still declining. In Germany, this includes 70 percent of all plant species, with almost a third (27.5 percent) threatened, and 76 species are already considered extinct. Much of this loss can be attributed to the decline in natural habitats, in part due to increasing urbanisation. Ten percent of the total area of Germany, for example, is settlement area.

However, it is precisely these settlement areas that hold enormous - albeit untapped - potential for nature conservation. After all, these areas include millions of private gardens, balconies and green roofs, as well as parks and other public green spaces. Researchers from iDiv, the Universities of Halle and Leipzig and other institutions propose using these potentially available areas for conservation gardening. 

This horticultural practice specifically encourages the planting of declining native species. Native plants are plants that occur naturally in their habitat, where they have adapted to specific environments and have co-evolved with other species. Although critical to the functioning of our ecosystems, native plants are most affected by decline and are in need of conservation. “Gardeners have always played a role in distributing plant species, so why not also help bring back the many native species that are disappearing,” says lead author Josiane Segar, researcher at iDiv and MLU. Public and private gardens and green spaces could play a central role in conserving plant diversity, but this would require a major rethinking of the horticultural industry in order to do so.”

According to the researchers, the economy for conservation gardening, as well as the ability to redesign the industry already exists. Horticulture is a commercially important sector in many countries: In Germany, for example, 8.7 billion euros were spent on plants in 2018, and the trend is rising. During the corona pandemic, per capita spending on plants increased by a record-breaking 9 percent. Furthermore, public awareness of the decline in biodiversity has risen sharply. Planting declining native species would also have clear advantages. Many of them are adapted to dry soils and would cope better with droughts in the wake of climate change than many of the species currently used in gardening. The authors posit that these factors could lead to increased demand for conservation gardening appropriate plants if they could be made widely available in garden centres.

The researchers, therefore, propose that a key approach to promoting conservation gardening would be to create a stronger link between the mainstream horticultural industry and the domestic native seed market. Certified native seed production and marketing should be promoted through financial mechanisms and policy support, e.g., in the form of reduced VAT. Product labels in garden centres could help to point out the benefits of conservation gardening and influence the demand curve. Appropriate criteria for awarding public contracts to horticultural companies could also help encourage the use of declining native plant species in public green spaces. Funding applied research to develop region-specific lists of declining plant species, as well as planting concepts and seed mixtures for these species could foster a science-driven approach to gardening. In addition, key players such as botanical gardens, universities, nature conservation associations, neighbourhood cooperatives and public administrative bodies could spread essential knowledge about the cultivation and care of declining native plants.

”Conservation gardening would facilitate a targeted, structural change in conventional gardening and horticulture. Large scale implementation does not require extensive changes to the existing conservation architecture,” says senior author Dr Ingmar Staude from iDiv and Leipzig University. “In fact, it uses existing, economically viable structures to encourage the use of declining species when planting green spaces. In an increasingly urban world, this could foster a tangible and inclusive form of nature conservation for citizens.”

Urs Moesenfechtel / Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Segar, J., Callaghan, C. T., Ladouceur, E., Meya, J. N., Pereira, H. M., Perino, A., Staude, I. R. (2022): Urban conservation gardening in the decade of restoration, Nature sustainability. DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00882-z. Open access link: https://rdcu.be/cNqDg 

 

Contact:

Josiane Segar (speaks English)
Doctoral researcher
Research group Biodiversity conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: josiane.segar@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1162.html

 

Dr Ingmar Staude (speaks English and German)
Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733136
Email: ingmar.staude@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/818.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Media Release Wed, 18 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200
iDiv honours Professor Beate A. Schücking https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2348.html Role of the former Rector of Leipzig University for iDiv acknowledged Role of the former Rector of Leipzig University for iDiv acknowledged

Leipzig. iDiv has honoured Professor Beate A. Schücking’s many years of commitment to the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). During a ceremony on Monday, iDiv presented her with a tree sponsorship in the Leipzig University Botanical Garden. As Rector of the university and as a member of the iDiv Board of Trustees, Professor Schücking has played a major role in the success story of the research centre over the past eleven years.

On Monday afternoon, representatives of iDiv and Leipzig University gathered in the university’s botanical garden. There, a laudatory speech, pictures, and a musical contribution by the jazz duo Timm-Brockelt commemorated the individual stages of her many years of commitment to iDiv. To thank her for her extraordinary commitment to biodiversity research and to the research centre, the staff of iDiv gave her a sponsorship for a Cornelian cherry in the Botanical Garden. The event ended with a relaxed get-together in beautiful spring weather.

Laudator Prof Aletta Bonn, member of iDiv’s management board, paid tribute to Professor Schücking’s pioneering role: "As the first female rector in Leipzig University's 600-year history, she has significantly shaped the reach and appeal of the university with a modern, vigorous management style. She has created and opened spaces, allowed her teams to shine and develop their strengths. With her level-headed, calm, and strategically astute leadership, she has successfully formed and consolidated alliances and broken new ground in cooperation in Saxony and across state borders. She has thus enshrined a new integrative science style and inspired us all. Biodiversity needs people like Professor Schücking."

iDiv Speaker Prof Christian Wirth compared Professor Schücking's work with the characteristics of the Cornelian cherry (lat. Cornus mas): "Similar to the Cornelian cherry, as Rectorc, you were a jack-of-all-trades and all-round provider as a rector: medical doctor, philosopher, psychotherapist by training and later, even a designer, administrator, entertainer, moderator, decision-maker, fighter, arbitrator, ... and the list goes on. I always found it remarkable how patiently and gently you dealt with the university. Above all, the Cornelian cherry has a very deep ‘heart root system’. That's what you did, Professor Schücking: you rooted yourself in the University of Leipzig with a lot of heart, very deeply and intensively - and thus tracked down the nutritional forces for the development of the university. We are very grateful to you."




 

Contact:

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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TOP NEWS Tue, 17 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Earthworms increase the stability of soil organic carbon https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2346.html Novel concept helps managing soils as a carbon sink Novel concept helps managing soils as a carbon sink

Report by Dr Gerrit Angst, postdoctoral researcher of the Experimental Interaction Ecology at iDiv and Leipzig University and first author:

Leipzig/Budweis/Munich. Earthworm activity stimulates microorganisms to accelerate the production of more stabilised soil organic carbon. This is the conclusion from a synthesis of recent literature collated by a team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University, the Czech Academy of Sciences, and the Technical University of Munich. Based on this synthesis, the authors developed a novel concept of the role of earthworms in soil organic carbon dynamics that aids management of soils as a carbon sink. The study has recently been published in Global Change Biology.

Earthworms were recognised as a central component of ecosystems with distinct effects on their environment as early as 1881 by Charles Darwin. More recent research indicates that earthworms, as "ecosystem engineers", strongly influence the soil’s greenhouse gas balance and the soil carbon budget via burrowing and the creation of cast aggregates. Despite their widely accepted relevance to soil processes in many ecosystems, earthworms have not found their way into any recent conceptualisation of soil organic carbon dynamics. "This was very surprising to us and certainly narrows down the potential to manage soils as a carbon sink in the face of global change", says Dr Gerrit Angst, lead author of the article from iDiv and Leipzig University. The international author team, comprised of researchers from Germany, the Czech Republic, and The Netherlands thus developed a novel concept that aligns recent ideas on soil organic carbon formation with the activity of earthworms.

Recently, scientists have been recognising that the dead remains of microorganisms (or microbial necromass) represent a central component of soil organic carbon. The formation of this necromass is thought to be strongly dependent on efficient microbial growth, which is in turn related to the decomposability of the organic matter these microbes feed on. "Based on recent experimental evidence, we argue that earthworms reduce the relevance of the decomposability of pre-existing organic matter to microbial necromass formation. Earthworms achieve this by creating favourable conditions for microbial growth in their casts", explains Angst. Such casts are rich in nutrients and represent an intimate mixture of earthworm-excreted, easily decomposable mucus, organic matter, and mineral particles, such that potential nutrient and carbon limitations are alleviated and microbes and their substrates co-located. Microbial biomass is thus efficiently built up, and upon microbial death, the microbial necromass is stabilised within the cast structures by interaction with mineral particles.

Based on this concept, soils affected by earthworms can be expected to harbour higher amounts of microbial necromass resistant to external disturbances as compared to soils devoid of earthworms. This may be specifically relevant in soil areas not commonly considered hotspots of microbial carbon formation, such as areas remote from the plants’ root zone or deeper soil layers. Co-senior author of the study, Prof Nico Eisenhauer from iDiv and Leipzig University concludes: "Management strategies seeking to increase the resistance of soil organic carbon in the face of climate change may therefore want to involve measures that foster earthworm abundance."

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; AN 1706/2-1)

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Angst, G., Frouz, J., Scheu, S., van Groenigen, J.W., Kögel-Knabner, I. & Eisenhauer, N. (2022):  Earthworms as catalysts in the formation and stabilization of soil microbial necromass. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/GCB.16208

 

Contact:

Dr Gerrit Angst
Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
SoWa Research Infrastructure and Institute of Soil Biology, Czech Academy of Sciences
Phone: +49 341 9739179
Email: gerrit.angst@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1575.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology Research TOP NEWS Wed, 11 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200
More than four million euros for research on trees and shrubs https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2345.html DFG extends funding for the international research training group TreeDì DFG extends funding for the international research training group TreeDì

Halle/Leipzig/Jena/Beijing. The International Research Training Group TreeDì can continue its work. On Friday, the relevant Grants Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) approved its continued funding with more than four million euros until 2027. The programme is conducted in cooperation with the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Leipzig University as well as the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). The aim of the research is to better understand the interactions of trees and shrubs in forests. On the German side, the doctoral researchers work and interact at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and a large number of iDiv scientists are involved in the TreeDì research and qualification programme, for example, in teaching.

The first phase "balance sheet" of the International Research Training Group (IRTG) is impressive: so far, four completed doctorates and 33 publications in internationally recognised journals, including Science Advances, Ecology Letters and Global Change Biology. "This is a great summary and shows that you can conduct top-class international research even during a pandemic," says group spokesman Prof Helge Bruelheide from MLU and a member of iDiv. 

The IRTG started in 2018. Since then, the focus has been on how trees in a forest interact and cooperate with each other, for example by exchanging nutrients via roots and fungal partners. The doctoral projects focus on the underlying processes and mechanisms of this cooperation. "Forests are among the most important ecosystems in the world because they bind large amounts of carbon dioxide, play a key role in the regulation of the climate and are a habitat for numerous animal species," says Bruelheide. 

Several trips to China were originally planned for the research work; special, ‘custom-designed’ forests with over 200 different combinations of tree species have been planted there as part of the world's largest biodiversity experiment "BEF-China". However, from 2020, German on-site research had to be suspended due to the pandemic. "Instead, we carried out a large greenhouse experiment here in Germany. We sowed twelve tree species from China, let them grow in special test containers and observed their interactions," says Bruelheide. Long-term experiments being carried out at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) Research Station Bad Lauchstädt in southern Saxony-Anhalt were also used. Bruelheide continues, "So, we had our own, smaller, on-site biodiversity experiment with which we could compare German and Chinese tree species." In addition to the scientific findings, experience regarding the management of an international research project and strategies for dealing with the pandemic situation was shared with the scientific community in a journal article.

In the new funding phase, until 2027, work on tree-tree interactions will be intensified and a new focus will also be added. “There are large numbers of shrubs between the trees. They are the second layer in the forest and even dominate many ecosystems. So far, however, they have been severely underrepresented in research,” says Bruelheide. Therefore, some of the projects in the new funding phase will investigate how trees and shrubs interact with each other. One question, for example, is whether shrubs plug into the trees’ subterranean fungal networks or form their own. This will also enable clarification of how species diversity can increase the stability of forest ecosystems.

Of the 18 new doctoral positions to be made available in the next funding period, half are in Germany and half in China. In addition to the bilateral research programme, doctoral researchers benefit from made-to-measure career development programmes and reciprocal research exchange visits in Germany and China. "We are pleased to be able to continue and expand the close scientific cooperation and international exchange with the IRTG," says Prof Yanfen Wang, the spokeswoman on the Chinese side. At the UCAS in China, and at iDiv, run by the Universities of Halle, Jena and Leipzig in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), an excellent research environment is available.

Further information at: https://www.idiv.de/de/treedi.html 

 

Contact:

Prof Helge Bruelheide
Professor for Geobotany
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-345 5526222
Email: helge.bruelheide@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: http://www.botanik.uni-halle.de/geobotanik/helge_bruelheide/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv TOP NEWS iDiv Members Media Release Mon, 09 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Dinosaur extinction changed plant evolution https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2343.html Effects of missing large herbivores on food plants still detectable today Effects of missing large herbivores on food plants still detectable today

Leipzig, Amsterdam, Zurich. The absence of large herbivores after the extinction of the dinosaurs changed the evolution of plants. The 25 million years of large herbivore absence slowed down the evolution of new plant species. Defensive features such as spines regressed and fruit sizes increased. The research led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University has demonstrated this using palm trees as a model system. The researchers were also able to show how profound the changes were: Even the reappearance of large herbivores millions of years later could only partially overwrite the changes that had already taken place. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It provides a view of the geological past and, at the same time, promotes a better understanding of the consequences of current extinction processes.

With the extinction of large, non-flying dinosaurs 66 million years ago, large herbivores were missing on Earth for the subsequent 25 million years. Since plants and herbivorous animals influence each other, the question arises whether, and how this very long absence and the later return of the so-called "megaherbivores" affected the evolution of the plant world.

To answer this question, a research team led by iDiv and Leipzig University analysed fossil and living palms today. Genetic analyses enabled the researchers to trace the evolutionary developments of plants during and after the absence of megaherbivores. Thus, they first confirmed the common scientific assumption that many palm species at the time of the dinosaurs bore large fruits and were covered with spines and thorns on their trunks and leaves.

However, the research team found that the "evolutionary speed" with which new palm species with small fruits arose during the megaherbivore gap decreased, whereas the evolutionary speed of those with large fruits remained almost constant. The size of the fruits themselves, however, also increased. So, there were palms with large fruits even after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Apparently, much smaller animals could also eat large fruits and spread the seeds with their excretions. “We were thus able to refute the previous scientific assumption that the presence of large palm fruits depended exclusively on megaherbivores,” says the study’s first author Dr Renske Onstein from iDiv and Leipzig University. “We therefore assume that the lack of influence of large herbivores led to denser vegetations in which plants with larger seeds and fruits had an evolutionary advantage.”

However, the defence traits of the plants; spines and thorns on leaves and stems, showed a different picture: the number of palm species with defence traits decreased during the megaherbivore gap. “Defence traits without predators apparently no longer offered evolutionary advantages,” says Onstein, who heads the junior research group Evolution and Adaptation at iDiv. “However, they returned in most palm species when new megaherbivores evolved, in contrast to the changes in fruits, which persisted.”

With their work, the researchers shed new light on evolution and adaptation during one of the most enigmatic and unique periods in the history of plant evolution, during and after megaherbivore extinctions. Understanding how megaherbivore extinctions affected plant evolution in the past can also help predict future ecological developments. For example, the authors have noted the loss of traits during the megaherbivore gap. This loss can affect important ecosystem functions and processes, such as seed dispersal or herbivory. The ongoing extinction of large animals due to human hunting and climate change may thus also affect trait variation in plant communities and ecosystems today and in the foreseeable future.

Urs Moesenfechtel

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Onstein, R. E., Kissling, W. D., Linder, H. P. (2022): The megaherbivore gap after the non-avian dinosaur extinctions modified trait evolution and diversification of tropical palms. Proc. R. Soc. B 20212633. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.2633

 

Contact:

Dr Renske Onstein
Head of the junior research group Evolution and Adaptation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733 -129
Email: renske.onstein@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/core_groups/evolution_and_adaptation.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Evolution and Adaptation Fri, 29 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
More than one in five reptile species are threatened with extinction https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2340.html Reptiles likely benefit from efforts to save other animals

Based on a media release by NatureServe, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Conservation International

Virginia, Halle. At least 21% of all reptile species globally are threatened with extinction, according to a new study led by NatureServe, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Conservation International, with contributions from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). The study, published in the journal Nature, also shows that conservation efforts for other animals also contribute to the preservation of many reptile species.

For the Nature study, a diverse research team, representing 24 countries across six continents, analysed the conservation needs of 10,196 reptile species in comparison with mammals, birds, and amphibians. Reptiles in the study include turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and tuatara, the only living member of a lineage that evolved in the Triassic period approximately 200-250 million years ago. 

Miguel Fernandez, postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU, and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Science and Policy at George Mason University, led the integration and analysis of all the geospatial information of this study. “Our work provides an in-depth analysis of the extinction risk for nearly every reptile on the planet,” he says. “It is shocking that we still know so little about this amazing group; in just a couple of years we have increased our knowledge of the status of reptiles sixfold.”

The research revealed that efforts to conserve threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians are more likely than expected to co-benefit many threatened reptiles. Although reptiles are well known to inhabit arid habitats such as deserts and scrubland, most reptile species occur in forested habitats, where they – and other vertebrate groups – suffer from threats such as logging and conversion of forests to agriculture. The study found that 30% of forest-dwelling reptiles are at risk of extinction, compared with 14% of reptiles in arid habitats.

The study also highlighted what we stand to lose if we fail to protect reptiles. If each of the 1,829 threatened reptiles became extinct, we would lose a combined 15.6 billion years of evolutionary history – including countless adaptations for living in diverse environments.

“The results of the Global Reptile Assessment signal the need to ramp up global efforts to conserve them,” says Neil Cox, co-leader of the study and Manager of the IUCN-Conservation International Biodiversity Assessment Unit. “Because reptiles are so diverse, they face a wide range of threats across a variety of habitats. A multifaceted action plan is necessary to protect these species, with all the evolutionary history they represent.”

The authors note that urgent, targeted conservation measures are still necessary to protect some of the most threatened reptile species, especially island endemic lizards threatened by introduced predators and those that are more directly impacted by humans. For example, hunting, rather than habitat modification, is the main threat to turtles and crocodiles, half of which are at risk of extinction. The findings of the global reptile assessment serve as a baseline that can be used to measure changes in extinction risk and track species recovery progress over time. Results will also be valuable to help guide allocation of conservation resources through identification of Key Biodiversity Areas and other places where active management could prevent extinctions.

“Reptiles are not often used to inspire conservation action, but they are fascinating creatures and serve indispensable roles in ecosystems across the planet. We all benefit from their role in controlling pest species and serving as prey to birds and other animals,” stated Dr. Sean T. O’Brien, President, and CEO of NatureServe. “The analysis of the first global reptile assessment enables us to pinpoint where reptiles need the most help and serve as a major step to countering the global extinction crisis.”

Over 900 scientists were recruited to contribute to the IUCN Red List assessments; the findings of which helped inform this analysis.  

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Cox, N. and Young, B. E., ... Fernandez Trigoso, M. A. et al. Global reptile assessment shows commonality of tetrapod conservation needs. Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04664-7

 

Contact:

Dr Miguel Alejandro Fernandez Trigoso
Postdoctoral researcher of the Biodiversity Conservation reseaerch group
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Assoziierte Fakultät, Umweltwissenschaft und -politik, George Mason University
Phone: +49 341 9733192
Email: miguel.fernandez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1553.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Media Release Wed, 27 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Generating knowledge together - The Citizen Science Strategy 2030 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2339.html Presentation of the Strategy and Citizen Science Festival on 29 April in Berlin Presentation of the Strategy and Citizen Science Festival on 29 April in Berlin

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Berlin/Leipzig. Generating knowledge together - that is the goal of Citizen Science. On 29 April 2022, scientists from the Helmholtz and Leibniz Associations as well as the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) will present the Citizen Science Strategy 2030 for Germany to the public and present a series of current projects at a Citizen Science Festival. The strategy addresses the greatest challenges and potentials of Citizen Science over the next ten years. It contains 94 specific recommendations for action to further develop citizen science in Germany and to integrate it permanently into science, society and politics. The Citizen Science Strategy 2030 Germany was developed in a two-year participatory process with more than 200 actors from 136 organisations. The process was largely funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

 

The full text is only available in German.

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UFZ News Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 26 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
How healthy are our streams?<br /> https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2337.html Nationwide measurement campaign of the citizen science project FLOW starts Nationwide measurement campaign of the citizen science project FLOW starts

 

This media release is only available in German.

 

Contact:

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Ecosystem Services Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 12 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Christian Wirth receives Leipzig Science and Humanities Prize 2022 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2333.html iDiv delighted at award for founding director iDiv delighted at award for founding director

Based on a media release by the City of Leipzig, Leipzig University and the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig

Leipzig. This year’s Leipzig Science and Humanities Prize goes to Christian Wirth, who is a professor for special botany and functional biodiversity at Leipzig University, a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, and Speaker of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). With this prize, the City of Leipzig, Leipzig University and the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig honour researchers who meet the highest academic standards and thus reinforce Leipzig’s reputation as a city of science with a national and international reputation for its research and education landscape. 

iDiv is particularly enthusiastic about the award: were it not for its founding director, the iDiv research centre would never have been formed.

Professor Henrique Pereira, research group head at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg says on behalf of the iDiv Speaker Board: “Christian Wirth is one of the founding fathers of iDiv and has led iDiv to become the top biodiversity research centre worldwide in under a decade. This is a truly remarkable achievement that we owe to his unique leadership talent, which combines a selfless dedication to the institution, a devotion to biodiversity research, and a deep calmness in handling the most difficult conflicts. In addition, he continues to be an active researcher himself, doing cutting edge science, teaching and training a new generation of researchers, always with a kind hand. It’s truly an honour to have Christian as our colleague and iDiv Speaker.”

Professor Nico Eisenhauer, research group head at iDiv and Leipzig University, adds: “Researchers often see themselves as ‘dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants’. Christian Wirth is one such giant. He has shaped Leipzig and Central Germany as a centre of science in a unique way and helped it gain international visibility. He is a successful researcher, a popular university lecturer and a highly gifted science communicator. A more deserving laureate could not have been chosen. We are grateful and proud to be able to work with, learn from, and benefit from Christian Wirth. It is an honour to stand on his shoulders!”

In November 2009, Christian Wirth was appointed professor for special botany and functional biodiversity at the Institute of Biology at Leipzig University and at the same time Director of Leipzig University’s Botanical Garden. His research focuses on biodiversity and ecosystem functions, specifically the functional diversity of forest trees and forests, as well as the link between population ecology and biogeochemistry. In his time at Leipzig University, Professor Wirth has published around 205 journal articles. This makes him one of the most productive and influential researchers at Leipzig University and internationally. 

In October 2012, Wirth served as founding director of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), of which he has been first a director and then a speaker. Almost ten years after its establishment, iDiv is an internationally recognised beacon of biodiversity research and has established a new field of research.

Furthermore, Professor Wirth has shaped the field of biodiversity research in a variety of capacities. For example, he is a member of the Ständige Senatskommission für Grundsatzfragen der biologischen Vielfalt of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), represents the subject of biodiversity as a fellow in the Max Planck Society and serves as a reviewer for the German Science and Humanities Council. In addition, he is a founding member of the Research Initiative for the Conservation of Biodiversity (FEdA) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and an adviser for the establishment of the National Monitoring Centre for Biodiversity (NMZB). Professor Wirth regularly advises the City of Leipzig and Saxon Forestry Offices on environmental issues and in 2020 was appointed by the Minister of the Environment of the Free State of Saxony as a scientific expert to a working group on the future of the Leipzig floodplain forest. 

In Leipzig, Professor Wirth leads the Leipzig Canopy Crane research facility, where he works closely with scientists in chemical ecology on questions related to plant defence mechanisms. He is also significantly involved in globally renowned collaborative projects on biodiversity funded by the DFG. Since 2021, Professor Wirth has led the Fact Check Biodiversity project, which has received 3 million euros in funding from the BMBF. For this project, around 100 representatives from universities, government agencies, and associations are working together to develop a national assessment for the conservation of biodiversity.

The award is endowed with 10,000 euros. A voluntary jury of nine researchers selects the prize recipients. 

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/132.html

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
(speaks English and German)
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members iDiv Thu, 07 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
How can we improve biodiversity monitoring in Europe? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2331.html Based on a press release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) National...

Based on a press release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

National biodiversity monitoring programmes in Europe face many challenges: too little coordination, inadequate technical and financial resources as well as unclear targets. This is the conclusion of an initial policy report by the Europe-wide project “EuropaBON”. The analysis includes data from more than 350 experts in policy, science and environmental protection. The team is also drafting a proposal for the transnational monitoring of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems.

The European data landscape is highly fragmented in the area of biodiversity. A variety of different methods for data collection and analysis often makes it impossible to compare across countries the information that has been obtained. “In addition, many countries have difficulty even meeting the minimum biodiversity monitoring required by the European Commission,” says Professor Henrique Pereira, who conducts research at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and heads the “EuropaBON” (Europa Biodiversity Observation Network) project. The reasons for this are manifold: too little funding, insufficient technical capacities, a lack of support from long-term political goals, the inability to access data from the agricultural, energy and fisheries sectors, as well as a certain scepticism about changing existing methods.

Yet the monitoring of data could greatly help shape policies and guidelines in an evidence-based way, as the first policy report of the “EuropaBON” project shows. The pan-European project was launched in November 2020 with the task of developing a unified, comprehensive and equally practical approach to monitoring Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Since then, the team has conducted surveys, interviews and workshops with more than 350 representatives from science, policy and conservation.

The specific aim was to obtain an overview of previous monitoring measures and the challenges associated with them, as well as to find initial approaches toward a common standard. “We are very happy about the stakeholder responses that paint a comprehensive picture of the current situation in many European countries. These now serve as the basis for a joint design of a new, multi-national biodiversity monitoring network in Europe with stakeholders from policy, science and society across Europe,” says Professor Aletta Bonn, lead PI for the policy report, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, and iDiv.

Consistent, high-quality biodiversity data is needed to meet the goals of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. As part of this strategy, member states commit to restoring threatened or already destroyed ecosystems by 2030 and halting biodiversity loss. “The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy is currently at the core of the integrated policies. But to achieve its goals, European countries and the European Commission need more robust, comparable data at all scales,” says Dr Ian McCallum, co-lead for the report, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, adding that such data would help policymakers and scientists develop evidence-based targets and progress reports for conserving and restoring ecosystems and their services.

One particular method shows real promise for harmonising the different approaches in Europe: the identification of so-called “Essential Biodiversity Variables” and “Essential Ecosystem Service Variables”. In its report, the “EuropaBON” team presents a list of the 15 highest ranking variables that could be used in a common approach. These range from bird and marine fish biodiversity, to plant and invasive species distribution and land-use change. However, most of these 15 variables are currently not being monitored at all or are not monitored adequately in Europe. 
The project "EuropaBON" aims to develop a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe. It is led by MLU and iDiv and involves 15 partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. The EU is funding the project with three million euros.

Further information at: https://europabon.org/ 

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Moersberger H., Martin J.G.C., Junker J., Georgieva I., Bauer S., Beja P., Breeze T.D., Brotons L., Bruelheide H., Fernández N., Fernandez M., Jandt U., Langer C., Lyche Solheim A.L., Maes J., Moreira F., Pe’er G., Santana J., Shamoun-Baranes J., Smets B., Valdez J., McCallum I., Pereira H.M. & Bonn A. (2022): EuropaBON: User and Policy Needs Assessment. EuropaBON/German Centre of Biodiversity Research (iDiv). DOI: 10.3897/arphapreprints.e84517 

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/132.html

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Dr Ian McCallum
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Phone: +43 2236 807 328
Email: mccallum@iiasa.ac.at

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation iDiv Members TOP NEWS Thu, 31 Mar 2022 00:00:00 +0200
European earthworms reduce insect populations in North American forests https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2329.html Researchers recommend taking underappreciated factors for biodiversity loss into account Researchers recommend taking underappreciated factors for biodiversity loss into account

Leipzig/Calgary. Earthworms introduced into northern North America have a negative impact on the insect fauna above ground. Soil ecologists, led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University describe this observation in the journal Biology Letters. The researchers found this impact for abundance as well as for biomass and species richness of insects. Their results indicate that changes in insect communities can have causes that have previously received little attention. These should be given greater consideration in nature conservation. 

At least since the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, there have been almost no earthworms in the northern part of North America. However, over the last few centuries, they have been introduced, probably through soil and plant transport from Europe. Since then, they have been dispersed and changed the soil significantly, with far-reaching consequences for the soil ecosystem. What impact these invaders have on the world above ground has, up to now, rarely been investigated.

The study was performed in a forest near Calgary in Canada, which has areas that are either inhabited or uninhabited by earthworms. Here, the researchers used insect vacuum samplers to capture aboveground insects and compared the catches. They discovered that the abundance, biomass, and species richness of insects in areas with invasive earthworms, and those areas without them differed significantly. Where earthworm biomass was highest, the number of insect individuals was reduced by 61 per cent, insect biomass by 27 per cent and species richness by 18 per cent.

Insect above ground affected by invasive earthworms underground

“We had expected that earthworms would have an impact on aboveground insects,” says lead author Dr Malte Jochum from iDiv and Leipzig University. “Even so, I was surprised at how pronounced the effects were, and that not only the abundance but also biomass and species richness were affected”.

The mechanisms by which the earthworms affect the insects are, however, still not clear. “It’s possible that the earthworms eat the food and reduce the habitat of those aboveground insects, such as beetles and fly larvae, which break down dead plant material,” says Jochum. Since the majority of insects are herbivores, it could also be hypothesised that the observed decline in insects is due to changes in the vegetation caused by altered soil conditions. In this case, however, the researchers were unable to detect any significant alteration in the number of plant species or plant coverage. “Still, this doesn’t rule out the influence of the plants,” says Jochum. However, the data on species composition and other functional characteristics of the plant communities have yet to be evaluated.

The increase in predatory insect species and spiders was also striking. These seem to be benefitting from the changes.

Underestimated causes for biodiversity loss to be considered in conservation

“Up to now, only a few causes have been used to explain global changes in insect populations; mostly alterations in habitats above the ground,” says senior author Prof Nico Eisenhauer from iDiv and Leipzig University. “These new results show that biodiversity loss can also have other causes which have, so far, received little attention and that these should be taken into consideration when developing management and conservation strategies for biodiversity.”

Introduced earthworm species are not only found in North America but on almost every continent. However, since there had been very few earthworms in northern North America for a very long time, the effect of these invaders is particularly pronounced. ”For regions like Europe, where natural communities have always co-developed with earthworms, comparable negative effects due to new earthworm species are very unlikely,” says Jochum. “Quite the opposite. Here they are important ecosystem engineers, which many important ecosystem functions depend on.”

The study was conducted as part of the EcoWorm project and was funded by the European Research Council (Horizon 2020) and the DFG (FZT 118). 
Sebastian Tilch 

 

Original publication: 
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold) 

Jochum, M., Thouvenot, L., Ferlian, O., Zeiss R., Klarner, B., Pruschitzki, U., Johnson, E.A., Eisenhauer, N. (2022). Aboveground impacts of a belowground invader: how invasive earthworms alter aboveground arthropod communities in a northern North American forest. Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2021.0636 

 

Contact:

Dr Malte Jochum
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733193
Email: malte.jochum@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology Wed, 30 Mar 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Die Regenwürmer der Erde https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2357.html Seit Jahrzehnten wissen Wissenschaftler:innen, wo die meisten oberirdisch lebenden Tier- und... Helen R. P. Phillips 1,2,3*, Erin K. Cameron 3 and Nico Eisenhauer 1,2

1 Experimental Interaction Ecology, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
2 Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany
3 Department of Environmental Science, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada

 

Seit Jahrzehnten wissen Wissenschaftler:innen, wo die meisten oberirdisch lebenden Tier- und Pflanzenarten zu finden sind. Sie haben daher Weltkarten erstellt, die diese sogenannten Verbreitungsmuster zeigen. Für viele der oberirdisch lebenden Organismengruppen findet man in den Tropen die meisten Arten, während die Anzahl der Arten abnimmt, wenn man sich in Richtung der Pole bewegt. Doch bis vor kurzem wussten wir noch nicht, wie die weltweiten Verbreitungsmuster für die Lebewesen aussehen, die im Boden leben. Wir haben uns deshalb entschieden, eine Weltkarte der Artenvielfalt der Regenwürmer zu erstellen. Regenwürmer erfüllen viele nützliche Funktionen für den Menschen. Zum Beispiel bewegen sie den Boden, wodurch die Bodenqualität verbessert wird, was wiederum zu einer Steigerung in der Nahrungsmittelproduktion führt. Wenn wir Regenwürmer und die Ökosystemfunktionen, die sie bereitstellen, schützen wollen, sind Weltkarten von Regenwürmern wichtig, damit wir verstehen, wo sie leben und warum gerade dort.

Weltkarten der Tiere

Die Erde besitzt etwa 150 Millionen km² Landfläche. Eine Fläche so groß, dass man sie sich nur schwer vorstellen kann. Wenn es so viel Land gibt, wie können wir dann wissen, wo die Tiere sind und wie viele es gibt? Warum interessieren uns überhaupt die Anzahl der Tierarten und deren weltweite Verbreitungsmuster? Nun, wir wollen zum Beispiel wissen, wo wir Naturschutzgebiete erschaffen müssen, um möglichst viele Arten zu schützen. Vielleicht wollen wir auch wissen, wie die allgemeinen Verbreitungsmuster der Tier- und Pflanzenbestände sind und ob diese Muster einheitlich zwischen verschiedenen Arten sind. Der tropische Regenwald hat zum Beispiel viele unterschiedliche Vogelarten, aber gilt das auch für andere Tiergruppen?

Naturschutz­gebiet
Ein Gebiet, in dem Tiere, Pflanzen und die Umwelt geschützt sind.

Um mehr über die Anzahl an Tieren zu erfahren, werden sowohl von Wissenschaftler:innen als auch in anderen Berufen Erfassungen durchgeführt. Bei einer Erfassung wird einfach die Anzahl der Arten (oder die Anzahl der Individuen) mit einer für diese Art geeigneten Technik gezählt. Wenn wir zum Beispiel Schmetterlinge erfassen wollen, dann nutzen wir ein tragbares Netz, mit dem wir versuchen, so viele Schmetterlinge wie möglich zu fangen. Die Art und Weise, wie wir das machen, ist einheitlich, das heißt wir erfassen eine bestimmte Fläche für einen genauen Zeitraum. So eine Erfassung dauert lange und kann auch sehr viel Geld kosten. Außerdem sind wir nicht in der Lage, eine Erfassung an jedem Ort der Erde durchzuführen. Wir können wir also wissen, wie viele Tiere es weltweit gibt?

Erfassung
Das Zählen der Anzahl an Arten (oder Anzahl an vorhandenen Individuen) durch eine für die jeweilige Art geeignete Technik.

Wir können die Mathematik nutzen! Genauer gesagt können wir nutzen, was die Wissenschaft statistische Modelle nennt, oder einfach gesagt Modelle. Wissenschaftler:innen erstellen seit vielen Jahrzehnten Modelle, um abzuschätzen, wie viele Arten an Vögeln, Pflanzen und anderen oberirdisch lebenden Arten es weltweit gibt. Leider wurde diese Methode bisher nicht für die Lebewesen genutzt, die unter unseren Füßen leben. Wir haben uns deshalb entschieden, ein Modell für Regenwürmer zu erstellen. Regenwürmer sind wirklich spannend (Abbildung 1). Diese Bodenorganismen sind an vielen Ökosystem­funktionen beteiligt [1]. Sie helfen beim Abbau von Laub und führen so die darin enthaltenen Nährstoffe zurück in den Boden, sie helfen das Wachstum unserer Nutzpflanzen zu verbessern, und sie helfen uns das Klima so zu erhalten, wie wir es brauchen. Außerdem sind Regenwürmer im Vergleich zu anderen Bodenlebewesen recht einfach zu untersuchen, weil wir sie sehen können! Daher gibt es auch schon einige Informationen zu Regenwürmern.

Statistisches Modell
Der Prozess, mithilfe von bekannten Faktoren (zum Beispiel Temperatur) einen Faktor vorherzusagen, den wir nicht messen können (z.B. die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten).

Ökosystem­funktionen
Leistungen für den Menschen, die durch die natürliche Umwelt und die dortigen Lebewesen bereitgestellt werden. Ökosystem­funktionen beinhalten zum Beispiel gesteigerte Nahrungs-mittelproduktion, Abbau von Laub und Hilfe beim Erhalten des Klimas so wie wir es brauchen.

 

Was haben wir gemacht um die weltweite verbreitung der regenwürmer zu verstehen?

Um ein Modell zu erstellen, das die Anzahl an Regenwürmern weltweit berechnet, benötigen wir Daten über Regenwürmer. Regenwurmdaten beinhalten die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten, die in einer Erfassung gesammelt wurden. Eine Person kann nicht jeden Ort erfassen, aber wir wollen so viele

Erfassungen weltweit machen wie möglich. Also haben wir andere Wissenschaftler:innen gefragt, ob sie uns ihre Erfassungsdaten schicken. Diese Personen waren Regenwurm-Expert:innen, die wir kannten oder die die Ergebnisse ihrer Erfassungen bereits in wissenschaftlichen Zeitschriften veröffentlicht hatten. Wenn Wissenschaftler:innen etwas veröffentlichen, dann werden ihre Daten immer von anderen Wissenschaftler:innen überprüft und kritisiert. Wir waren daher zuversichtlich, dass die Daten vertrauenswürdig sind, vor allem weil die Daten schon analysiert und veröffentlich waren. Erfassungen werden oft auf unterschiedliche Art und Weise durchgeführt, aber viele Wissenschaftler:innen graben einfach ein quadratisches Loch aus, suchen den Boden nach Regenwürmern ab und zählen die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten, die sie entnommen haben. Insgesamt haben wir Daten von 180 Wissenschaftler:innen weltweit zusammengetragen, die etwas über 9.000 Regenwurm-Erfassungen beinhalten.

Die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten, die die Wissenschaftler:innen pro Erfassung gezählt haben, reichte von keine Arten in einigen Erfassungen bis zu 12 Arten in anderen. Außerdem brauchten wir Informationen über das Klima (z.B. Temperatur und Niederschlag) und den Boden (z.B. pH-Wert) am Ort der jeweiligen Erfassung. Diese Informationen haben wir von frei verfügbaren Datensätzen gesammelt.

Niederschlag
Umfassender Begriff für Regen, Hagel und ähnliche Ereignisse.

ph-Wert
Messwert, der beschriebt wie sauer (z.B. Zitronensaft) oder wie basisch (z.B. Backpulver) etwas ist.

Modelle nutzen schließlich einen bestimmten Faktor (z.B. Klima oder Boden-pH-Wert) um die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten in einem Gebiet zu berechnen. Doch wie funktionieren Modelle? Stellen wir uns Folgendes vor: Wir erfassen viele Strände und fragen die Eisverkäufer:innen, wie viele Eiskugeln sie verkauft haben. Dann holen wir uns die Information über die mittlere Temperatur an jedem Strand. Wir können nun ein Modell erstellen, dass zeigt, wie die Anzahl an verkauften Eiskugeln an jedem Strand durch die Temperatur beeinflusst wird. Wie vermutet werden umso mehr Eiskugeln verkauft, je heißer die Temperatur ist. Mithilfe dieses Modells könnten wir also errechnen, wie viele Eiskugeln bei irgendeiner Temperatur verkauft werden. Das hilft uns dann an den Stränden, an denen wir keine Erfassung machen können. Ähnliches können wir auch für die Regenwürmer machen, um zu verstehen wie sich die erfasste Artenzahl durch Umweltfaktoren wie der Temperatur verändert.

Unser Regenwurm-Modell beinhaltet viele Details über die Umwelt – insgesamt 12 verschiedene Aspekte -, aber das Grundprinzip bleibt das Gleiche. Die 12 Umweltfaktoren beschreiben den Boden, die Art der Vegetation, und das Klima. Mithilfe unseres Modells berechnen wir dann, wie viele Regenwurmarten es an jedem Ort der Welt gibt. Anschließend haben wir das auf einer Karte dargestellt (Abbildung 2).

Was wir über Regenwürmer herausgefunden haben

Wie wir schon zu Beginn dieses Artikels erwähnt haben, erwarten wir in den Tropen gewöhnlich die höchsten Artenzahlen. Das ist so, weil wir typischerweise mehr Arten an Orten finden, an es wärmer ist. Unsere Karte zeigt aber, dass das für die Regenwürmer nicht der Fall ist. Unser Modell besagt, dass wenn du eine Erfassung in den Tropen und eine in der gemäßigten Zone machen würdest, du mehr Regenwurmarten in der gemäßigten Zone findest.

Gemäßigte Zone
Die mittleren Längengrade der Erde, die zwischen den Tropen und den Poleregionen liegen. Die gemäßigte Zone hat im Unterschied zu den Tropen voneinander unterscheidbare Jahreszeiten (Frühling, Sommer, Herbst und Winter).

 

Warum könnte das so sein? Die Anzahl der Regenwurmarten in einer Erfassung wird von mehreren Umweltaspekten beeinflusst. Und auch wenn der Boden wichtig ist, haben wir herausgefunden, dass das Klima (zum Beispiel Temperatur und die Regenmenge) der wichtigste Faktor war, der die Artenzahl bestimmt. Da Regenwürmer feuchte, warme Bedingungen zum Leben bevorzugen, ist die gemäßigte Zone viel besser für sie geeignet. So finden sich mehr Regenwurmarten, wo die Umweltbedingungen für sie ideal sind. So lange die Umwelt­bedingungen nicht zu extrem sind – zu trocken, zu heiß, zu kalt – ist es sehr wahrscheinlich, dass dort Regenwürmer vorkommen. Einige Regenwurmarten mögen vielleicht Bedingungen, die sich ein wenig von denen der meisten anderen Regenwürmer unterscheiden. Andererseits gibt es auch einige Arten, die Regionen tolerieren, die weniger ideal sind, weil dort weniger Arten leben mit denen sie zum Beispiel um Nahrung konkurrieren müssen. Aber das ist ein Forschungsgebiet, das Wissenschaftler:innen noch immer untersuchen.

Regenwurm­modelle können Naturschutz­bemühungen erweitern

Regenwürmer sind sehr wichtig für viele Ökosystemfunktionen, die der Mensch benötigt. Sie steigern zum Beispiel die Nahrungsmittelproduktion. Mit dem neuen Wissen von unserem Modell hoffen wir, dass Regenwürmer nun berücksichtigt werden, wenn Wissenschaftler:innen und Naturschützer:innen Schutzgebiete erstellen. Normalerweise werden Schutzgebiete aufgrund der Anzahl an Pflanzenarten oder anderen oberirdischen Lebewesen ausgewählt. Aber da die Anzahl an Regenwurmarten in den Tropen verhältnismäßig klein ist, sollten wir Regenwürmer und andere Bodenlebewesen separat betrachten und möglicherweise extra für sie eigene Schutzgebiete erstellen.

Originaler Artikel

Phillips, H. R. P., Guerra, C. A., Bartz,M. L. C., Briones,M. J. I., Brown, G., Crowther, T. W., et al. 2019. Global distribution of earthworm diversity. Science 366:480–5. doi: 10.1101/587394

Quellenangaben

  1. Orgiazzi, A., Bardgett, R. D., Barrios, E., Behan-Pelletier, V., Briones, M. J. I., Chotte, J. L., et al. 2016. Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi: 10.2788/2613
  2. Phillips, H. R. P., Guerra, C. A., Bartz, M. L. C., Briones, M. J. I., Brown, G., Crowther, T. W., et al. 2019. Global distribution of earthworm diversity. Science 366:480–5. doi: 10.1101/587394

EINGEREICHT: 31 März 2020; ANGENOMMEN: 08 April 2021;
ONLINE VERÖFFENTLICHT: 10 Mai 2021.

BEARBEITET DURCH: Vishal Shah, West Chester University, United States

QUELLE: Phillips HRP, Cameron EK and Eisenhauer N (2021) Earthworms of the World. Front. Young Minds 9:547660. doi: 10.3389/frym.2021.547660

INTERESSENSKONFLIKT: Die Autoren versichern, dass die Studie ohne kommerzielle oder finanzielle Beziehungen durchgeführt wurde, die als möglicher Interessenskonflikt ausgelegt werden könnten.

COPYRIGHT © 2021 Phillips, Cameron and Eisenhauer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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Deutsch Wed, 09 Mar 2022 15:39:24 +0100
Earthworms of the world https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2358.html For decades, scientists have known where the highest numbers of species that live aboveground are... Helen R. P. Phillips 1,2,3*, Erin K. Cameron 3 and Nico Eisenhauer 1,2

1 Experimental Interaction Ecology, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
2 Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany
3 Department of Environmental Science, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada

 

For decades, scientists have known where the highest numbers of species that live aboveground are found. So, they made maps of the world showing these patterns. For most of the aboveground groups, the highest numbers of species occur in the tropics and numbers decrease toward the poles. However, until recently, we did not understand such global patterns for many organisms living in the soil. We decided to create global maps of earthworm species richness. Earthworms provide humans with many useful services, such as moving the soils and improving their quality, which can increase the amount of food that is grown. If we want to protect earthworms and the services they provide, these global maps of earthworms are important because we need to understand where they are and why they live there. 

Mapping the world’s animals

There is around 150 million km2 of land on earth. That is an area so huge that it is hard to imagine. With so much land, how do we know where the animals are, and how many there are? Why would we even want to know about the numbers of animals and their patterns across the world? Well, for example, we may want to know where to create nature reserves to protect the most species. Or maybe we are simply interested in knowing what the general pattern of animal and plant populations are, and whether that pattern is consistent across lots of different species. For example, tropical forests are known for having many different species of birds, but is that true for other animals? 

Nature reserves
Areas where the animals, plants, and the environment are protected.

To learn about the numbers of animals, people (both scientists and non-scientists) usually do surveys. A survey is simply counting the number of species (or number of individuals present) using a suitable technique for that species. For example, if we want to survey butterflies, we use a hand-held net and try to capture as many butterflies as possible using consistent methods, surveying a certain area of land for a given amount of time. However, doing surveys takes time, and it can also cost a lot of money. Additionally, we will never be able to do a survey at every location in the entire world. So, how do we know how many animals there are across the world? 

Survey
Counting the number of species (or number of individuals present) using a suitable technique for that species.

We can use math! Specifically, we can use something scientists call statistical models, or just models for simplicity. For many decades, of birds, plants, and other aboveground species there are across the globe. Unfortunately, this method has never been used for many of the organisms beneath our feet. So, we decided to create a model for earthworms. Earthworms are particularly cool (Figure 1). These soil organisms provide humans with many ecosystem services [1]. They help break down the fallen leaves so that the nutrients go back into the soil, they help make our crops grow better, and they help keep our climate the way we need it. Also, for a soil organism, earthworms are quite easy to survey because we can see them! Besides, there is quite a lot of information available about earthworms.

Statistical models
The process of trying to use known factors (such as temperature) to predict a factor that we may not be able to measure (such as the number of earthworm species). scientists have been creating models to estimate how many species

Ecosystem services
Benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and the organisms in it. Ecosystem services can include increasing food production, breaking down fallen leaves, and helping to keep our climate the way we need it. 

 

What did we do to understand global patterns of earthworms?

To create a model to estimate the number of earthworms across the world [2], we needed data specifically about earthworms. Earthworm data consists of the numbers of earthworm species, collected using surveys. One person cannot survey everywhere, but we wanted to get as many surveys from across the globe as possible. So, we asked lots of other scientists to send us data from their surveys. These people were earthworm scientists that we knew, or who had already published the results of their surveys in scientific journals. We were confident that the data were trustworthy, especially the data that had already been analyzed and published. When scientists publish papers, their data are always checked and critiqued by other scientists. The surveys were often done using slightly different methods, but many scientists simply dug a square hole in the ground, searched the soil for earthworms, and counted the numbers of earthworm species they removed. In total, we gathered data from 180 researchers across the globe, containing just over 9,000 surveys of earthworms. 

The number of earthworm species scientists counted in their surveys ranged from no species in several surveys to 12 species found in another. We also needed information about the climate (for example, the temperature and rainfall) and the soil (such as the pH) at the location of each survey. We got this type of information from freely available databases.

pH
The scale used to specify how acidic (lemon juice is acidic) or how alkali (baking soda is alkali) something is.

Models ultimately use a certain factor (such as climate, soil pH) to estimate the number of earthworm species in an area. To understand how models work, imagine this: we survey lots of beaches and ask ice cream sellers how many ice cream cones they have sold. We then get information on the average temperature at each beach. We could then create a model showing how temperature a????ects the number of ice cream cones sold at each beach. As you might expect, the hotter the temperature, the more ice cream cones are sold. Using this model, we could then estimate how many ice creams will be sold at any temperature, which gives us an idea about ice cream cone sales on beaches where we cannot survey. We can do something similar for earthworms to see how the numbers of species found in a survey changes with an environmental factor like temperature. Our earthworm model contains many details about the environment−12 different aspects in total—but the basic principle remains the same. The 12 environmental details included information about the soil, the type of vegetation covering the ground, and the climate. Using our model, we then estimated how many species of earthworms there are for all points in the world, and we made a map of that (Figure 2).

What we found out about earthworms

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we usually expect the tropics to have the highest numbers of species. This is because, typically, we findmore species in places that have higher temperatures. What our maps show is that this is not the case for earthworms. Our model indicates that, if you were to do a survey in a tropical region and one in a temperate region, you would find more earthworm species in the temperate region.

Temperate region
The earth’s middle latitudes, which span between the tropics and the polar regions. The temperate region typically has more distinct seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) compared to tropical climates.

 

Why might this be? There are many aspects of the environment that shape the number of earthworm species found in a survey. And although the soil is important, we found that climate (for example, temperature and amount of rain) was the most important factor determining the number of species. As earthworms prefer to live in moist, warm conditions, the temperate region is much more suitable for them. There are more earthworm species where the environmental conditions are ideal. As long as the environment is not too extreme—too dry, too wet, too hot, too cold—it is very likely that there will be earthworms. Some species of earthworms may like conditions that are slightly different from most other earthworms. Alternatively, some species of earthworms may tolerate living in regions that are less than ideal, because there are fewer species to compete with for food, for instance, but this is an area scientist are still studying.

Earthworm models can broaden conservation efforts

Earthworms are really important for many ecosystem services that humans need, such as increasing food production. With the new knowledge gained from our model, we hope that earthworms will now be considered when scientists and conservationists think about creating nature reserves. Typically, nature reserves are established based on the number of species of plants or other aboveground organisms. But, since high numbers of earthwormspecies do not exist in the tropics (unlike many aboveground plants and animals), we need to think about earthworms and other soil organisms separately, and potentially establish nature reserves just for them. 

Also, as we found that climate is the main aspect of the environment correlated with the numbers of earthworms, the fact that our climate is changing is concerning. Our future research will establish how the numbers of earthworms change as the climate changes, since some species may respond positively to changes in climate, whereas others may not. We need to understand how climate change will affect earthworms and other soil organisms, so that we can prepare to protect these valuable organisms for the future.

Original source article

Phillips, H. R. P., Guerra, C. A., Bartz,M. L. C., Briones,M. J. I., Brown, G., Crowther, T. W., et al. 2019. Global distribution of earthworm diversity. Science 366:480–5. doi: 10.1101/587394

References

  1. Orgiazzi, A., Bardgett, R. D., Barrios, E., Behan-Pelletier, V., Briones, M. J. I., Chotte, J. L., et al. 2016. Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi: 10.2788/2613
  2. Phillips, H. R. P., Guerra, C. A., Bartz, M. L. C., Briones, M. J. I., Brown, G., Crowther, T. W., et al. 2019. Global distribution of earthworm diversity. Science 366:480–5. doi: 10.1101/587394

Submitted: 31 March 2020; Accepted: 8 April 2021;
Published online: 10 May 2021.

Edited by: Vishal Shah, West Chester University, United States

Citation: Phillips HRP, Cameron EK and Eisenhauer N (2021) Earthworms of the World. Front. Young Minds 9:547660. doi: 10.3389/frym.2021.547660

Conflict of interest: Die Autoren versichern, dass die Studie ohne kommerzielle oder finanzielle Beziehungen durchgeführt wurde, die als möglicher Interessenskonflikt ausgelegt werden könnten.

Copyright © 2021 Phillips, Cameron and Eisenhauer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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English Wed, 09 Mar 2022 15:39:24 +0100
While some insects are declining, others might be thriving https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2324.html Only weak trend correlations between different insect groups Large-scale study finds only weak trend correlations between different insect groups sharing the same habitat. This has implications for biodiversity monitoring

Leipzig/Halle/Jena. Observations of abundance changes in one group of insects– for example grasshoppers – say very little about how other types of insects, such as flies, are doing, even in the same place. This is because different groups of insects may show similar trends in one place, but dissimilar trends in other places. These are the findings of a new meta-study systematically examining long-term data on insects from more than 900 locations worldwide. The study, published in Biology Letters, was led by a team of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). It highlights the importance of monitoring multiple groups of species simultaneously to provide guidelines for conservation policies.

The decline in insect numbers became part of the global conversation in 2017, when scientists reported the loss of three-quarters of the flying insect biomass from western German nature reserves over 30 years. This made people realise there just weren’t as many bugs around as there used to be. An explosion of studies from across the world have emerged since, often showing large declines, prompting hundreds of popular articles about the insect decline problem. 

Since 2018, a group of scientists led by iDiv, MLU, the University of Jena and the UFZ has been building and analysing a database of studies from across the world that had monitored the abundances of groups of insects over multiple years. This group is led by Dr Roel van Klink, postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU. “The fact that such declines happened right under our noses, but no-one saw that this phenomenon is occurring in many places, is quite alarming,” says van Klink. “It shows just how important it is to monitor our environment.” But monitoring insects is challenging due to their small size and high diversity. In Germany alone, there are 30,000 species of insects. Second author Dr Diana Bowler adds: “most monitoring programs only study one insect group, but no one has investigated whether the status of the group under study tells us anything about the well-being of other insects.” Bowler is a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv, the University of Jena and the UFZ.

In their latest publication, van Klink and colleagues wanted to know whether changes in one type of insect could predict changes in other kinds of insects. For example, if butterflies decline, does that mean beetles, flies and bees decline, too? When changes in one group of species can predict the changes in other groups, they can be used as indicators, which would be useful, because then not all insect species would need to be monitored. If this is the case, it would give scientists and policy-makers a simple way to use information from one group of insects to make conclusions and recommendations about all insects.  

However, van Klink and colleagues found little evidence for indicator species in their analyses. Abundances of different groups of species showed different trends. “Trends of beetles and butterflies were the most similar, often increasing or decreasing together, but even their relationship was quite poor,” says van Klink. “But grasshoppers are just out there doing their own thing, with their abundances through time unrelated to those of other groups of species,” he adds. 

Overall, the results of this study emphasise what the team has been saying for years. “Insects are not a homogeneous group of organisms, all showing dramatic declines across the world, as some headlines would have us believe,” says Prof Jonathan Chase, research group head at iDiv and MLU, and senior author of the study. “Nature just isn’t as simple as we would like it to be”, van Klink adds. He continues: “No doubt humans are having unprecedented impacts on the natural world around us, and it's our job to find out exactly how, why and where these changes occur, and to which kinds of insects.” The scientists hope that their work emphasises the need to monitor and better understand changes in abundances of a broad range of insect groups through time. “We cannot simply monitor one group of insects and assume all the others do the same,“ says Diana Bowler. “We need to care about the whole diversity of insects.”

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).
Jonathan Chase, Roel van Klink

 

Original publication:
(researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)
van Klink, R., Bowler, D. E., Gongalsky, K. B., Chase, J. M. (2022). Long-term abundance trends of insect taxa are only weakly correlated. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2021.0554

 

Contact:

Dr Roel van Klink
(speaks English, German and Dutch)
Postdoctoral researcher in the Biodiversity Synthesis research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: roel.klink@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/788.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
(speaks English and German)
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Biodiversity Synthesis TOP NEWS Media Release Wed, 23 Feb 2022 00:00:00 +0100
7 to 9 percent of all European vascular plants are globally threatened https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2322.html Study closes gaps in the risk of extinction of plant species Study closes gaps in the risk of extinction of plant species

Halle, Leipzig. Seven to nine percent of all vascular plant species occurring in Europe are globally threatened. This is the result of a study led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and Leipzig University. The researchers combined Red Lists of endangered plant species in Europe with data on their global distribution. The study has been published in the journal Plants, People, Planet. It helps assess the overall level of threat to plant species and thus supports the basis of international nature conservation activities.

How certain is the continued survival of animal and plant species? How high is the risk that they might become extinct? The answers are collated in regional, national and global threat assessments; known as ‘Red Lists’. Legislators and, in particular, nature conservation organizations make decisions about specific conservation activities based on these lists. The problem is, however, that although there are many national Red Lists available, they are often not being integrated into the global Red List of Threatened Species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Despite being the most comprehensive global list available, the global Red List still lacks threat assessments for almost 90 percent of all known plant species – a substantial assessment gap.

An international research team has now addressed this assessment gap for European vascular plants, namely most plants except mosses, algae, and lichens. It established that seven to nine percent of the European vascular plant flora is globally endangered. This is because these species occur solely in parts of Europe and are endangered in every part where they occur. Seven to nine percent corresponds to about 1,800 of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 known European vascular plant species. Of these 1,800 species, 83 percent are not yet listed on the IUCN global Red List.

The results are based on a novel integration of data streams on the global geographic distribution of vascular plant species and national Red Lists from 37 European countries, spanning a period from 1999 to 2020. The researchers noted that national Red Lists typically include only half of all plants occurring in a given country, and therefore the team's findings are conservative estimates.

The IUCN list for the major vertebrate groups was completed decades ago. “But this is not the case for plants,” said Hanna Holz, a biology MSc student at the University of Halle and first author of the study. “Such data gaps can be disastrous because they lead to uncertainties in priority setting in international conservation policy,” said Holz. “Our findings help update and expand the most important instrument in international conservation policy.”

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) set itself the goal of compiling a comprehensive list of endangered plant species by 2020 but did not achieve this aim. Senior author of the study, Dr Ingmar Staude, stressed that “Through a comprehensive synthesis of existing national Red Lists with global distribution data, national efforts can be incorporated relatively easily into global risk assessments of plants and, hopefully, accelerate these efforts.” Staude was a doctoral researcher at iDiv and the University of Halle and is now a senior scientist at Leipzig University.

Urs Moesenfechtel

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Holz, H., Segar, J., Valdez. J., Staude, I. R. (2022): Assessing extinction risk across the geographic ranges of plant species in Europe, Plants, People, Planet. DOI: 10.1002/ppp3.10251

 

Contact:

Dr Ingmar Staude (speaks English and German)
Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733136
Email: ingmar.staude@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/818.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks English and German)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1464.html

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Mon, 07 Feb 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Love of nature is partially heritable, study of twins shows https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2320.html Identical twins’ nature experiences more similar than fraternal twins but local environment also key Identical twins’ nature experiences more similar than fraternal twins but local environment also key

Based on a press release by PLoS Biology

Singapore/Exeter/Brisbane/Leipzig. A person’s appreciation of nature and their tendency to visit natural spaces are heritable characteristics. This is the result of a large-scale study of UK twins between the National University of Singapore, the University of Exeter, the University of Queensland, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The study has now been published in the journal PLoS Biology.

In an attempt to demonstrate the genetic heritability of nature orientation and nature experiences, an international research team surveyed 1153 pairs of twins on how strongly a person feels connected to nature, and the amount of time one spends in nature. The participating twins were part of TwinsUK, the United Kingdom’s largest adult twin registry, and the most clinically detailed twin study in the world. Researchers found that identical twins, who share almost 100 percent of their genes, were more similar to each other in these “nature-loving characteristics” compared to fraternal twins, who share around 50% of their genetic material.

They found that the heritability for these characteristics ranged from 34 percent for frequency of garden visits to 46 percent for nature orientation suggesting a moderate influence of genetics on how often people visit nature, and their emotional connection to nature.

Lead author of the study Dr Chia-Chen Chang from the National University of Singapore says: “We also found that environmental factors explained more than half of the differences between individuals, reinforcing previous findings that a person’s environment is a key driver of their enjoyment and experiences of nature”. The influence of environmental factors on how often people visit public nature spaces also increased with age.

“Therefore, it is important that we design cities to bring people closer to nature,” says Dr Rachel Oh, a postdoctoral researcher at UFZ and iDiv. “This could be achieved through the provision of high-quality and easily accessible natural spaces. Efforts to increase people’s experiences of nature will become increasingly important, as the impacts of a modern, urban lifestyle on mental health becomes clearer, some of which include a higher risk of psychiatric disorders.” 

The study builds upon past research which has looked at the relationship between a person’s geographical circumstances (urban or rural) and their desire to seek out nature experiences.

This research was financed by the National Parks Board and the Ministry of National Development, Singapore to L. Roman Carrasco. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Urs Moesenfechtel

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni in bold).

Chang, C.-c., Cox, D. T .C., Fan, Q., Nghiem, T. P. L., Tan, C. L. Y., Oh, R .R. Y. et al. (2022): People's desire to be in nature and how they experience it are partially heritable, PLoS Biology. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001500

 

Contact:

Dr Ruy Ying Rachel Oh (speaks English and Chinese)
Postdoctoral Researcher in the Ecosystem Services research group
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Germany
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Germany
Phone: +49 341 9733121
Email: rachel.oh@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1414.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, MA (speaks German, English)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Ecosystem Services Thu, 03 Feb 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Trees call for help from birds and predatory insects https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2316.html Chemical "cry for help" from trees verified in a natural habitat for the first time Chemical "cry for help" from trees verified in a natural habitat for the first time

Leipzig/Jena. Trees emit scents when attacked by caterpillars and other herbivores. They use these to attract predatory insects and even birds, thus getting rid of their pests. This had only been demonstrated in smaller-scale experiments so far. A team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Leipzig University has now demonstrated this phenomenon for the first time in a natural habitat – in the 40-metre-high canopy of the Leipzig floodplain forest. The chemical calls for help are so effective that they significantly determine the composition of the insect community in the canopy. This knowledge could be used for future natural pest control in agriculture and forestry, the researchers write in the journal Ecology Letters.

Yes, trees can talk too. Not acoustically like us, but via scents. Like a human fingerprint, each tree species emits its very own bouquet of volatile organic compounds (VOC). Animals have learned to ‘read’ this pattern over the course of evolution; leaf-eating insects find their host trees this way. But the trees are not completely at their mercy; they actively defend themselves. For example, they produce bitter substances which herbivores do not like, and they also release particular VOCs to put different parts of the plant on the alert. In this way, however, the trees also attract other animals such as birds and predatory insects, which have also learned to interpret the VOC’s meaning. These then come flying to eat the tree’s pests. From the trees' perspective, evolution has provided them with a kind of "cry for help".

The defence mechanism of trees mainly determines insect abundance

“The fact that plants can chemically attract parasitic wasps, predatory bugs and even birds when attacked by pests had been known for some time,” says first author Dr Martin Volf, who led the study at iDiv, and now works at the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. “However, this defence mechanism had never been tested for adult trees in a realistic environment so far. This was made possible by a combination of research methods, from animal behaviour experiments at the height of 40 metres on iDiv’s Leipzig Canopy Crane in the floodplain forest to molecular analyses of plant scents through metabolomics,” says the biologist. Metabolomics is the systematic study of the unique chemical fingerprints of organisms, in this case, tree leaves.

To test the effect of induced defence on predators, the researchers chemically simulated herbivore feeding on leaves by spraying branches in the crowns of adult oaks with methyl jasmonate, which is a plant hormone involved in triggering plant defences. They also placed plastic caterpillar dummies on these leaves. They regularly documented the bite and peck marks by birds and other predators. In addition, the researchers recorded the abundance of real caterpillars. In the laboratory, they offered leaves from induced and non-induced branches to moth caterpillars.

Chemical defence is a major driver of insect species composition

The researchers found that predators such as birds, parasitoid wasps and predatory bugs visited branches that were experimentally induced more often than untreated ones. The number of oak caterpillars was also significantly lower there. In the feeding test, the caterpillars of the gipsy moth (Lymantria dispar) avoided induced leaves, indicating that the trees produced repellent substances such as tannins, which the researchers had identified in the molecular analyses. The induced chemical defence turned out to be the most critical control mechanism of the species composition of insects in tree canopies. 

Combination of diverse research methods thanks to iDiv research infrastructure

“The results reveal the different dimensions in which biodiversity operates: for example, the diversity of chemical defences of trees and the diversity of insectivores that depend on them are interdependent,” says Martin Volf. Senior author, Prof Nicole van Dam, head of the Molecular Interaction Ecology research group at iDiv and the University of Jena, says: “These findings can help us find alternative, natural strategies for pest control in agriculture and forestry and thus implement the plan to save pesticides.” And she adds: “The study is also an excellent example of successful integrative biodiversity research, as it brings together very different dimensions of diversity, chemical and ecological, enabled by modern infrastructure.” 

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118) and a research fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung to Martin Volf (Ref.3.3- CZE- 1192673- HFST- P).
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni in bold).

Volf, M., Volfová, T., Seifert, C. L., Ludwig, A., Engelmann, R. A., Jorge, L. R., Richter, R., Schedl, A., Weinhold, A., Wirth, C. & van Dam, N. M. (2021): A mosaic of induced and non-induced branches promotes variation in leaf traits, predation and insect herbivore assemblages in canopy trees. Ecology Letters, DOI: 10.1111/ele.13943

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Volf
Formerly:
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Now:
Institute for Entomology at the
Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Phone: +420 387775038
Email: volf@entu.cas.cz

 

Prof Dr Nicole van Dam
Head of research group Molecular Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller-University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733165
Email: nicole.vandam@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/van_dam_nicole.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Molecular Interaction Ecology Tue, 18 Jan 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Can "rewilding" synergize biodiversity conservation and sustainable regional development? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2318.html BMBF research project starts in the Oder Delta model area BMBF research project starts in the Oder Delta model area

Based on a media release by Rewilding Oder Delta (ROD) and the UFZ

The research project "REWILD_DE - Conservation of biodiversity and valorisation of ecosystem services through rewilding - learning from the Oder Delta", funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), started in November 2021. Scientists and practitioners are working together to explore the potential of rewilding for the restoration of biodiversity and the promotion of nature-based economic development in the model area of the Oder Delta in western Pomerania (north-eastern Germany). Furthermore, they will investigate to what extent the experiences and results gained during the project can be transferred beyond the project area and serve as a model for other regions. The project is coordinated at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with project 3 partners: the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (HNEE) and the association Rewilding Oder Delta (ROD), a practice partner in the study area. 

The project

The research project REWILD_DE takes up the concept of "rewilding" using the example of Oder Delta, the only rewilding area in Germany, and addresses the scientific and socio-economic questions as well as aspects of practical implementation. What opportunities does rewilding offer in various applications - e.g. river restoration, natural grazing approaches, coexistence with wildlife - for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity? Which ecosystem services in terms of regional economic and other societal benefits are provided or supported? How can rewilding strengthen the regional economic potential? And finally: What role can it play for biodiversity and nature conservation in Germany? The project aims to find substantiated answers to these questions and to develop practice-oriented solutions.

During the three-year project period, it will be analysed under which conditions biodiversity and ecosystem services can be valorised through rewilding, so that support from the affected stakeholders is generated in the region around the Stettin Lagoon. This instrumental perspective is to be complemented by the development of a "rewilding dialogue" with the local population. Creative approaches and methods of public relations are to be used to achieve an understanding of the guiding principles and to promote appreciation for the immaterial values of nature. The project will also recruit representatives of the key regional actors for a stakeholder advisory board that will accompany the project. Finally, the project partners will also examine the implementation of rewilding in the Oder Delta to be able to comprehensively assess the extent to which the concept is applicable for nature conservation in other areas of Germany.

Rewilding as a model

Halting biodiversity loss is a key challenge at the global, European and German levels. In this context, rewilding has increasingly gained traction in recent years as a particularly promising, participatory and process-oriented method of biodiversity and nature conservation. By re-allowing natural processes, promoting natural wildlife presence and density, and strongly involving local people and stakeholders, rewilding aims to strengthen the adaptive capacity of ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity and provide so-called ecosystem services. In doing so, economic use of the areas is not ruled out; on the contrary, great importance is attached to strengthening the regional natural economic potential and sustainable value creation. Rewilding also contributes significantly to achieving the goals of the current UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.

The area

The concept of rewilding is being used more and more all over the world - in Europe it is supported in an exemplary way by the organisation "Rewilding Europe" in nine model areas. Since 2015, one of these has extended on both sides of the German-Polish border around the Stettin Lagoon: the Oder Delta. The first rewilding efforts began here back in 2012; since 2019, the newly founded Rewilding Oder Delta (ROD) association has been networking, bundling, and supplementing the activities of a wide range of partners, such as companies or start-ups, and working closely with the region's nature parks.

The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of the Research Initiative for Conservation of Biodiversity (FEdA) over three years with a total of almost 2 million euros (funding code: 16LW0064K).

 

Contact:

Dr Néstor Fernández
Scientific Employee; German, Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 97 33229
Email: nestor.fernandez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/fernandez_nestor.html

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Biodiversity Conservation UFZ News Mon, 17 Jan 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Implementing global biodiversity targets in Central Germany https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2314.html Environment ministers from Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony discuss regional biodiversity... Environment ministers from Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony discuss regional biodiversity protection measures

Leipzig. The environment ministers of the Central German states and representatives from nature conservation organizations and authorities today exchanged views on the implementation of the international biodiversity targets at the state level. The virtual meeting took place at the initiative of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig and is part of a long-term dialogue.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Fri, 14 Jan 2022 00:00:00 +0100
How to use ecosystem services in social-ecological networks https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2310.html Report by María Felipe-Lucia, Senior Scientist at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity... Report by María Felipe-Lucia, Senior Scientist at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and first author of a new publication in Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Leipzig. Social-ecological networks (SEN) have recently been proposed as a promising approach to conceptualise and analyse interactions and outcomes in social-ecological systems. In a social system, networks represent interactions between actors, such as knowledge exchange, trust, collaboration, which influence governance effectiveness. In ecology, networks depict biological nodes (e.g. species, patches) and processes that connect them (e.g., predation, landscape connectivity). Despite similarities in the approaches applied in both social sciences and ecology, these areas have developed largely in parallel without capitalising on their complementarity. As a result, there is limited integration of social and ecological theories, inclusion of ecological complexity in governance research, and vice versa. Building from different disciplines, in our new article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution we propose a typology to represent ecosystem service in SENs and identify opportunities and challenges of using SENs in ecosystem service research. 

SEN are increasingly recognized as a way to bridge these fields of research and develop social-ecological theory. In particular, the integration of ecosystem services in SEN could strongly contribute to such bridging and advice decision-making by assessing management options in the face of global change or regime shifts, among others. Yet, progress in conceptualising social-ecological systems is still hindered by a lack of clarity regarding which questions from ecosystem service research would benefit from a SEN approach.

Using Network analyses to understand Social-Ecological Systems

The promise of network approaches for studying and managing ecosystem services has recently sparked extensive discussion in the literature. From a more ecological perspective, pioneering work conceptualised ecosystem services as a multi-network of layers, in which ecosystem services can be an attribute of ecological nodes (e.g. weed diversity). Others represented ecosystem services as nodes in an integrated network together with ecological and social nodes.

In turn, from a more sociological point of view, the network perspective of ecosystem services could consist of building blocks or network motifs. Other studies have depicted ecosystem services as links between social and ecological nodes. Therefore, despite the potential of SEN to advance ecosystem service research, there was not yet a clear approach about how to best conceptualise individual ecosystem services in SEN analyses.

Facilitated by this academic exchange, the coauthors held a SESYNC workshop led by L. Dee, A. Guerrero and R. Friedman and including the researchers involved in previous publications, to build consensus on this topic. Our new paper communicates the outcomes of the SESYNC workshop and represents the culmination of this discussion by presenting a unified framework to advance ecosystem services research.

In this paper, we synthesize the different research streams contributing: 

  1. a typology of how to incorporate ecosystem services in SEN (i.e., as nodes, links, attributes and emergent properties of networks) matching key research questions in ecosystem service research identified in the recent literature;
  2. applications of SENs in ecosystem service research to foster: (i) understanding of the social and ecological drivers of ecosystem services; (ii) forecasting of the impacts of stressors; (iii) investigation of trade-offs between ecosystem services; and (iv) assessment of the effects of alternative management options;
  3. perspectives on how future studies could address the remaining challenges to fully utilise the potential of SEN in ecosystem service research.


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Felipe-Lucia, M.R., Guerrero, A.M., Alexander, S.M., Ashander, J., Baggio, J.A., Barnes, M.L., Bodin, Ö., Bonn, A., Fortin, M.-J., Friedman, R.S., Gephart, J.A., Helmstedt, K.J., Keyes, A.A., Kroetz, K., Massol, F., Pocock, M.J.O., Sayles, J., Thompson, R.M., Wood, S.A., Dee, L.E., 2021. Conceptualizing ecosystem services using social-ecological networks. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2021.11.012

 

Contact:

Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia
Research group Ecosystem Services Change, Department of Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733183
Email: maria.felipe-lucia@idiv.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=45282

 

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TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services Tue, 04 Jan 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Climate and soil determine the distribution of plant traits https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2308.html New findings could improve scientific Earth system models New findings could improve scientific Earth system models

Based on a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

Zurich/Jena/Leipzig. An international research team succeeded in identifying global factors that explain the diversity of form and function in plants. A team led by researchers from the University of Zurich, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), collected and analysed plant data from around the world. Their publication in Nature Ecology and Evolution for the first time shows for characteristics such as plant size, structure, and life span, how strongly these are determined by climate and soil properties. Insights derived from this could be crucial to improving Earth system models with regard to the role of plant diversity.

At first glance, the diversity of plant form and function seems difficult to comprehend. However, it can be described in terms of morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics. Previous studies showed that traits across species fall into two main categories within which each plant must maintain a balance: first, size and second, economy of metabolism. 

In this recent study, a team of researchers has now confirmed for the first time, using a greatly expanded global dataset for 17 different plant traits, that these two main categories apply to all plants studied worldwide. In the size category, plants balance height, leaf size, and seed size, among other traits. These traits are also influenced by hydraulic components of water transport in plants. The economics category describes how quickly and effectively the plant gains energy and biomass through photosynthesis, balanced against how long it survives. This category is determined by measurable characteristics such as the structure and composition of the leaves in terms of leaf area, as well as their elemental composition (nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon). The team showed that life strategies of the plant species collected worldwide in the TRY database at MPI BGC are well explained by these two main categories.

Plant traits are influenced by a wide variety of external factors, such as climate, soil conditions, and human intervention. It has not yet been possible to determine which factors are decisive at the global level. To answer this question, the research team led by Julia Joswig, a doctoral researcher at the University of Zurich and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, analysed the characteristics of over 20,000 species. Information on climate and soil conditions at the location of each plant was included in the analysis. 

“Our study clearly demonstrates that plant traits worldwide can be explained by joint effects of climate and soil,” says Joswig. “This suggests that aspects of climate change and soil erosion, both of which occur as a result of land-use change, for example, should be researched together.” Many of the relationships described here were already known from small-scale, local studies. “But the fact that these processes could now be shown globally and their significance quantified is an important milestone,” adds last author Prof Miguel Mahecha, who is a professor at Leipzig University and iDiv member. “Studies of this kind can guide global Earth system models to represent the complex interaction of climate, soil and biodiversity, which is an important prerequisite for future predictions.” 

As expected, the study shows how the height of plant species changes along latitudes, due to differences in climate. However, the economic traits of plants do not show this gradient. Similarly, soil quality is only partially affected by climate, so there is a latitude-independent component in information about soil. Joswig and her colleagues show that this soil information is also relevant for the economic traits. Besides climate, soil-forming factors include organisms living in the soil, geology and topography, and of course time. Global change affects climate, organisms, and to some extent topography. Therefore, the study suggests that global risks to plant life should be explored especially in relation to climate change and soil erosion.

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). 


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni bold)

Joswig, J. S., Wirth C., Schuman, M. C., Kattge, J., Reu, B., Wright, I. J., Sippel, S. D., Rüger, N., Richter R., Schaepman M. E., van Bodegom, P. M., Cornelissen, J. H. C., Díaz, S., Hattingh, W. N., Kramer, K., Lens, F., Niinemets, Ü., Reich, B., Reichstein, M., Römermann, C., Schrodt, F., [...] & Mahecha, M. D. (2021): Climatic and soil factors explain the two-dimensional spectrum of global plant trait variation, Nature Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01616-8 

 

Contact:

Julia Joswig
University of Zurich
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Phone: +41 44 63 55103
Email: julia.joswig@geo.uzh.ch

 

Prof. Dr Miguel Mahecha
Remote Sensing Centre for Earth System Research
Leipzig University
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: miguel.mahecha@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Thu, 23 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Extreme droughts also afflicting the Leipzig floodplain forest https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2307.html Decrease in growth due to drought stress in 2018 and 2019 Decrease in growth due to drought stress in 2018 and 2019

Leipzig. The Leipzig floodplain forest was not equipped to endure two consecutive hotter drought years. Although the trees were able to partially cope with the 2018 drought, the accumulated and ongoing damage from drought stress caused their growth to collapse in the second drought year 2019. Depending on the tree species, this decrease in growth ranged from 9% to 42% when compared to climatically normal years. This is the result of a study published by a team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in the journal Global Change Biology. The study may enable better understanding and prediction of how forests respond to climate change.

Compared to previous drought years in Central Europe, 2018 was not only extremely dry but also unusually hot. This phenomenon, known as a ‘hotter drought’, was followed by a second hotter drought year in 2019. Individual drought years occur regularly, but two consecutive, extremely hot and dry years had not yet been observed at our latitudes. However, due to climate change, such extreme events will occur more frequently in the future.

The double drought caused unprecedented forest damage throughout Central Europe. In Germany, an average of one out of every forty trees died. The Leipzig floodplain forest was also affected, with many of the already damaged trees dying off. The cumulative drought stress also had a negative impact on the healthy trees; their growth declined and they exhibited stress responses never observed before. This has now been shown by a research team from iDiv, Leipzig University, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, the University of Freiburg and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry.

The researchers compared drought stress effects for the tree species oak, ash and maple in previous drought years - 2003, 2006 and 2015 - with the effects in the hotter drought years 2018/19. They found that healthy trees could partially compensate for a lack of water in single drought years, but were unable to cope with two consecutive drought years. The probable reason: The trees' starch reserves were running out, and their hydraulic system became increasingly damaged.

“You could imagine that when floodplain forests are faced with drought, they are better able to cope with it, compared to naturally drier sites. But that was not enough. Two drought years in a row have already led to severe drought stress,” said lead author Florian Schnabel, scientist at iDiv and Leipzig University. ”If such extreme events occur more frequently in the future, we’ll get closer to a tipping point even in comparably water-rich forests.”

The year 2018 did not yet induce exceptional stress responses or decreases in growth for oak and maple. In 2019, however, all of the tree species examined exhibited unprecedented signs of stress. All species reacted more severely in the second hotter drought year than in previous years of drought - a consequence of accumulated, sustained damage by drought stress.

The researchers measured the trees’ stress levels on the basis of their annual growth rings and the composition of the carbon in them, the so-called isotope ratio. They then compared the values ​​in drought years with those of climatically normal years. The annual rings were examined using wood core samples. The cores allowed the scientists to "go back in time" and study the trees’ response to droughts of the past.

”Our research helps to predict the reactions of tree species and forests to this new type of climate phenomenon,” said Prof Christian Wirth, senior author of the study, research group leader at iDiv and Leipzig University, and fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. “What we can already see is disturbing; consecutive periods of hotter drought pose a new threat to forests under climate change. Floodplain forests should actually be able to cope with drought. The fact that the Leipzig floodplain forest reacts so severely is the result of decades of drainage, and a warning signal. Without a revitalisation of floodplain dynamics, with regular flooding and a raising of the groundwater level, the floodplain forest is defenceless against climate change.”

 

Original publication: 
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Schnabel, F., Purrucker, S., Schmitt, L., Engelmann, R. A., Kahl, A., Richter, R., Seele-Dilbat, C., Skiadaresis, G., & Wirth, C. (2021). Cumulative growth and stress responses to the 2018–2019 drought in a European floodplain forest. Global Change Biology, 00, 1–14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16028

 

Contact:

Florian Schnabel (speaks German and English)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
University Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9738595
Email: florian.schnabel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/979.html

 

Prof Christian Wirth (speaks German and English)
iDiv Speaker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Email: christian.wirth@idiv.de
Web: https://www.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/profile/mitarbeiter/prof-dr-christian-wirth/

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks German and English)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Mon, 20 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Well insured: Forests with many tree species grow more consistently https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2298.html Species richness stabilises forests against extreme climate conditions Species richness stabilises forests against extreme climate conditions

Leipzig / Beijing. The annual growth of forests fluctuates due to extreme climate conditions such as drought and heavy rainfall. These fluctuations are less pronounced in species-rich forests than in those with low species richness. Furthermore, forests with many different tree species produce more wood. It is not only a question of the species’ richness, but also the diversity of their functional characteristics. This has been shown by an international research team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing (CAS). The results of the study have been published in the journal Science Advances. They provide significant impetus for ways in which forestry can promote more reliable productivity.

Forests around the world are under stress. Due to increased global warming, they have to adapt ever more rapidly to climatic fluctuations and the accompanying extreme events. This leads to reduced growth and die-back of trees, so that forests then not only absorb less carbon but, at the same time, emit more. This in turn drives climate change. Ecosystem services such as climate regulation, water storage and the provision of (building) materials then also decline.

An international research team has now investigated which factors influence the functioning of forests under climatic stress and how these interact. The team included members from iDiv, CAS, Leipzig University, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, TU Dresden Department of Forest Sciences, the University of Zurich and other institutions. They found that the forests which are best safeguarded against the effects of climatic stress are those that are species-rich. If some of the tree species in a forest grow less due to extreme weather conditions such as a year of heavy rainfall or drought, others can counterbalance this loss. This stabilises and ensures the productivity of the overall system.

Overall, species-rich forest stands provided a more stable biomass production than monocultures due to this protection against weather fluctuations. This means that annual timber growth varied less. ”This connection between species richness and stable productivity, and their underlying mechanisms could so far only be shown in grassland experiments. We can now, for the first time, show this under experimental conditions for highly diverse subtropical forest ecosystems,” said lead author Florian Schnabel, scientist at iDiv and Leipzig University. ”We were also able to show that species-rich stands were not only better safeguarded than monocultures, but also produced more wood,” said Schnabel. The doctoral researcher is a member of the TreeDì International Research Training Group TreeDi, which largely made the study possible.

The growth stability of the forests in the study was not only a result of the number of different tree species, but primarily of their differing functional characteristics. With regard to tree growth, for example, this can mean that one species grows well in a wet year and another in a dry one, a feature known as ‘asynchrony’. The diversity of species characteristics and the dynamics of the resulting reciprocal interactions between the species in, for example, the use of water, light and nutrients determine this asynchrony. This then affects the growth stability of the entire tree species community. The study showed that, in particular, drought tolerance, hydraulic conductance and evaporative capacity are important factors in tree growth stability. The more diverse a forest community’s characteristics, the more stable that community’s biomass production rate under fluctuating climatic conditions. The forest communities with the most stable growth were not those dominated by drought-tolerant species, but those distinguished by diverse water-use strategies.

The data on which the research results are based come from BEF-China, the world's largest experiment for the study of forest biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems. Another study recently carried out in BEF-China supports those results. Co-first author Dr. Xiaojuan Liu from CAS, who is also the senior author of this second study said: ”Our study also showed that forests with a high richness of tree species with diverse functional characteristics achieve higher productivity than forests with a low diversity.”

Both studies highlight that growth stability and productivity in secondary and plantation forests can be improved by increasing the number of tree species. The studies provide important impetus for forest management strategies, and not only in subtropical areas. They encourage global forestry and initiatives for carbon offsetting to focus on planting, restoring and maintaining diverse, species-rich forests. This is key to maintain and increase forest growth stability and productivity in the face of climate change.

Senior author of the study, Prof Christian Wirth, is iDiv-speaker and research group leader at Leipzig University as well as a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. He emphasises the importance of the research result; “The world's forests are more and more threatened by periods of drought. We therefore urgently need to protect their functioning. A crucial component for this is a change in our forest management, moving away from monocultures towards diverse mixtures - wether through planting or natural reforestation. This is the best insurance for the forests themselves, and, of course, also for their users.”

 

Original publication: 
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Schnabel, F., Liu, X., Kunz, M., Barry, K. E., Bongers, F. J, Bruelheide, H., Fichtner, A., Härdtle, W., Li, S., Pfaff, C.-T., Schmid B., Schwarz J. A., Tang, Z., Yang, B., Bauhus, J., von Oheimb, G., Ma, K., Wirth, C. (2021). Species richness stabilizes productivity via asynchrony and drought-tolerance diversity in a large-scale tree biodiversity experiment. Science Advances.
https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abk1643

Second publication mentioned within the text:
(Scientists within iDiv affiliation bold)

Bongers, F. J., Schmid, B., Bruelheide, H., Bongers, F., Li, S., von Oheimb, G., Li, Y., Cheng, A., Ma, K., Liu, X. (2021). Functional diversity effects on productivity increase with age in a forest biodiversity experiment. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01564-3.

 

Contact:

Florian Schnabel (speaks German and English)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
University Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9738595
Email: florian.schnabel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/979.html

 

Prof Christian Wirth (speaks German and English)
iDiv Speaker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Email: christian.wirth@idiv.de
Web: https://www.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/profile/mitarbeiter/prof-dr-christian-wirth/

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A. (speaks German and English)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Fri, 17 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Sensational discovery in the Leipzig floodplain forest https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2303.html Extremely rare insect species discovered during a field trip Extremely rare insect species discovered during a field trip

Based on a media release by the Leipzig University

Leipzig. Researchers and biology students from the University of Leipzig have discovered an extremely rare insect during a zoological field trip in the Leipzig floodplain forest: Bittacus hageni, belonging to the order of scorpionflies. The researchers caught several specimens in the leaf canopy of the Leipzig floodplain forest. This species is only found in very few places in Europe. In Germany, it was considered extinct until 2003. The find, which the researchers describe in the journal Entomologische Nachrichten und Berichte, highlights the importance of the Leipzig floodplain forest as a unique but endangered habitat. But it also proves the importance of student excursions to make valuable discoveries possible.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 13 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Uniqueness is disappearing https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2302.html Plant communities around the world are becoming increasingly similar Plant communities around the world are becoming increasingly similar

Based on a press release by the University of Konstanz

Konstanz/Leipzig. Plant communities all over the planet are becoming more and more alike, even between regions far removed from each other. The reason is the dispersal of non-native plant species, according to the result of a global research project led by biologists from Konstanz and with the participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The results of the study, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, highlight the importance of effective protective measures in order to maintain regional uniqueness.

If non-native plants can successfully disperse in an existing ecosystem, this often leads to increasing similarity among regional plant communities. On a global scale, this results in a loss of regional uniqueness. In particular, the so-called super-invader plants, with their global distribution, ensure that even regions that are far away from one another, with clear geographical separation are becoming more and more alike. The same plants are found in many areas, and with increasing frequency. This is the conclusion of an international research team led by biologists from Konstanz.

Investigation with the help of a global database 

In their current study, for the first time, the researchers used global databases to examine the composition of regional floras from almost all parts of the world. They also investigated the influence of biogeographical and man-made factors on the advancing homogenisation of regional plant communities, the so-called "flora". In order to evaluate the uniqueness of individual regions, both the number of plant species shared, or not shared with other regions, as well as the degree of relationship between the plant species were taken into account. The regional evolutionary histories of these plant species were thereby also included.

Co-author Dr Marten Winter, head of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv), is one of the founders of the ‘GloNAF - Global Naturalized Alien Flora’ database, which provided the information on the naturalised non-native plant species for this study. He and the GloNAF team have been contributing to the expansion of this important source of information for the past ten years. ”First and foremost, GloNaf allows a range of data sources to be brought together and integrated with one another, making it possible for us to identify global patterns that were previously recognisable only in individual regional studies,” says Winter. ”In the next step, we’ll combine the data from this study with further even more detailed information on the spatial distribution and abundance of plants. This will enable us to better understand the dispersal dynamics of non-native species.”

Various biogeographical factors play an important role in the dispersal of non-native plants and the loss of uniqueness in regional flora. According to the study, these include the geographical distance between the observed regions and their "climatic distance" from one another. “The more climatically similar two regions are, the easier it is for a plant from one region to establish itself as a naturalised species in the other, once geographical obstacles have been overcome. Plants from a region with a short climatic distance to the new habitat are, so to speak, 'climatically pre-matched'”, explains first author of the study, Dr Qiang Yang from the University of Konstanz.

Political factors 

However, man-made factors also influence the dispersal of non-native plants and the homogenisation of global regional flora. As the researchers illustrate, the general administrative history of some of the areas studied also plays a role; regions that are, or were under the same political administrations have become floristically more similar.

Current examples include regions that are part of the same national territory, like various regions within the United States. By contrast, historical examples are the European colonial powers and their former colonies. “Between regions of the same territory and those with historical colonial connections, there was, or still is an active exchange in the form of cargo and passenger transport. This usually increases the exchange of plants across geographical boundaries - be it deliberately, as a commodity or crop, or unintentionally,” explains Qiang Yang. 

Effective action is required 

To sum up, non-native plants, if naturalised, drive the global homogenisation of regional plant communities, and humans make a significant contribution to this through the spread of these non-native plants. “These effects can be seen today even in the most remote areas of the world,“ reports Prof Dr Mark van Kleunen, Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biology at the University of Konstanz and senior author of the article. He concludes: “If in the future, there are no effective protective measures against the advancing dispersal and naturalisation of non-native plants, these will increasingly destroy the uniqueness of our habitats - and make the world a monotonous place.“

The study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Czech Science Foundation (GACR) and the Czech Academy of Sciences (AV ČR), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development Chile (FONDECYT).

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni bold)

Yang, Q., Weigelt, P., Fristoe, T. S. , Zhang, Z., Kreft, H., Stein, A., Seebens, H., Dawson, W., Essl, F., König, C., Lenzner, B., Pergl, J., Pouteau, R., Pyšek, P., Winter, M., Ebel, A. L., Fuentes, N., Giehl, E L. H,, Kartesz, J. ,Krestov, P., Kukk, T., Nishino, M., Nikolaevich, K. A., Villaseñor, J. L., Wieringa, J. J., Zedam, A., Zykova, E., van Kleunen, M. (2021): The global loss of floristic uniqueness, Nature Communications, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27603-y

 

Contact:

Dr Marten Winter
Head of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Research Sun, 12 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Enjoying nature conservation and doing something good for nature https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2296.html Cross-country study on the motivation of citizen scientists Cross-country study on the motivation of citizen scientists

Based on a media release by the Thünen Institute of Biodiversity

Braunschweig/Leipzig. The question “What drives citizen scientists to voluntarily participate in insect research and monitoring?” was recently addressed by an international research team led by Dr Anett Richter. Richter is alumna of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and now works at the Thünen Institute of Biodiversity in Braunschweig. The aim of the research was to gain more insights into the motivations of the participants to better integrate the motives of engagement in future international citizen science- lead monitoring programs.

Richter and her colleagues asked 181 citizen scientists in Germany, Denmark and Israel already involved in insect monitoring schemes about their motives for engagement and expectations towards project management. “The results show that in all three countries the main motives for participating were ‘having fun’ and ‘doing something (good) for nature’,” says the researcher from the Thünen Institute. In addition to these identified intrinsic motives, extrinsic motives such as ‘contributing to science’ and ‘contributing to nature conservation’ also played an important role. These results confirm previous studies on motivation and are important for planning future projects. 

The team of authors show that – contrary to previous studies – age and gender of the participants had no significant influence on their self-identified motives for participation. However, and this is a new finding in the field of science about citizen science, motives were linked to cultural backgrounds of the participants and to project measures. For example, in some countries the factor having fun during the activity was assessed as very important, while in other countries receiving a certificate for the participation was identified as very important. 

From an environmental psychological point of view, the results on the interrelationships between motives and the implementation of project measures, such as training offered to the participants or giving feedback, were particularly exciting. It became clear that the motives ‘to feel part of the community’ and ‘learning’ were positively connected to the project measure ‘training of volunteers to identify insects’. But also, negative interactions were identified. Environmental psychologist Dr Melissa Marselle, like Richter alumna of UFZ and iDiv, now working at the University of Surrey says: “We were surprised to find that monetary incentives, such as receiving a financial bonus for participation, can have a negative effect on motivation.” Co-author Dr Orr Comay, a community ecologist from the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv University and also alumnus of UFZ und iDiv adds: “This important result underlines the significance of communicating science back to the volunteers. Citizen Science is about the science and letting volunteers know that their contribution matters, not about status or compensation.”

From the results, Richter and her co-authors conclude that when setting up citizen science schemes it is of great importance to gain clarity at an early stage about the possible motives of the participants. An active exchange between researchers and volunteers before and during the project is essential in order to successfully implement citizen science-based monitoring programs. Competent communication and coordination of the projects are of particular importance. In international programs, it is also necessary to consider the different individual and cultural backgrounds of the participants. 

The research was a cooperation between the Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Jena Univ.), the School of Zoology and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History (Tel Aviv, Israel), the Natural History Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen, Denmark), the University of Leipzig, the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, USA) and the Environmental Psychology Research Group of the University of Surrey (Guildford, United Kingdom). One of the citizen science projects assessed in this study was funded by iDiv and run by the Ecosystem Services research group of Prof Aletta Bonn (UFZ, iDiv, Jena Univ.). The results are published open access in the journal Biological Conservation.

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumi bold)

Richter A., Comay, O., Svenningsen, C. S., Larsen, J. C., Hecker, S., Tøttrupe, A. P., Pe'er, G., Dunn, R. R., Bonn, A., Marselle, M. (2021). Motivation and support services in citizen science insect monitoring: A cross-country study. Biological Conservation 263: 109325. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109325

 

Contact:

Dr Anett Richter
Thünen Institute of Biodiversity
Phone: +49 531 596 2584
Email: anett.richter@thuenen.de
Web: https://www.thuenen.de/en/bd/staff/wissenschaftliches-personal/dr-anett-richter/?no_cache=1

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Ecosystem Services Media Release TOP NEWS Fri, 10 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Widespread plants displace rarer species across habitats https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2305.html New study shows: Europe's grasslands, forests and mountain summits are becoming increasingly... New study shows: Europe's grasslands, forests and mountain summits are becoming increasingly similar in species composition

Based on a press release by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)

Leipzig/Vienna. Widespread species are on the rise in several European ecosystems and are replacing rarer plant species. As a result, distinct habitats are becoming increasingly similar in species composition. An international team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) with the participation of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) has found supporting evidence for this development in mountain summits as well as in forests and lowland grasslands. A proposed reason for this species shift could be increased nutrient levels in soils caused by agriculture and air pollution. The results of the study have been published in the journal Ecology Letters

It is currently estimated that, worldwide, two out of five plant species are threatened with extinction. Whilst this trend is clearly identifiable at the global scale, there is debate as to whether species richness declines locally. The processes driving this phenomenon – the “biodiversity conservation paradox” as researchers call it, has remained largely unresolved until now. An international team of scientists led by iDiv and MLU has investigated these shifts in species composition in three distinct habitats; mountain summits, forest understories as well as species-rich lowland meadows and pastures.

Large-scale impact of human activity

The results show that widely distributed plant species with a preference for nutrient-rich habitats have increased in recent decades, whilst species with smaller ranges from nutrient-poorer soils are on the decline. On mountain summits, species numbers still increase, mainly due to the gains in generally more widespread species from lower elevations advancing upwards. “However, in the long term species displacement may be expected here too,” says first author Dr Ingmar Staude of iDiv and MLU.

“We are witnessing these dynamics unfolding in near-natural habitats, places we’d expect to provide safe havens for specialised species and those of high conservation value,” says the ecologist. “This suggests that the Anthropocene is not stopping at the doors of the few remaining wild areas that we consider protected.”
“The results of the study are not just be seen as an ‘early warning signal’. Particularly concerning is that the species change has proceeded in the same direction across strongly differing ecosystems. We, therefore, expect that we are dealing here with a pervasive, large-scale phenomenon”, explains Prof Harald Pauli from the Institute of Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (ÖAW), and co-author of the study.

“Our study also provides an explanation for the ‘biodiversity conservation paradox’: global averages hide important heterogeneous patterns. We found a decline in local species richness in forests and grasslands, but an increase in mountain summits,” says co-author Prof Henrique Pereira, head of the Biodiversity Conservation research group at iDiv and MLU.

Integration of unique data sets

The basis for the data analysis was repeated surveys of species diversity in 141 study areas in 19 European countries. The oldest data sets go back to the 1940s and describe the temporal increases and decreases for a total of 1,827 plant species. “The fieldwork by the many vegetation scientists involved in this study provides a unique insight into the past, enabling research into changes in plant communities in recent decades,” says Ingmar Staude.

High nitrogen levels in soils displace species

What is causing this change? “The main drivers of this detrimental process are increased amounts of nutrients in the soils as a result of nitrogen input, primarily from agriculture but also from combustion processes in traffic and industry, as well as the warming of the soil due to climate change, especially on mountain summits,” explains Pauli. The plant species themselves are meaningful indicators of raised nutrient levels; “There are many species which can reliably indicate nitrogen, such as nettle.”

Increased amounts of nutrients have a double detrimental effect; they promote the growth of widely distributed, necrophilous species, and lead to increased shading, resulting in competitive exclusion of smaller-ranged, often low-stature specialist species. “Any lost species is an irretrievable loss; it impacts the ecosystem because the various plant species interact with insects and other living creatures, such as soil organisms,” says Harald Pauli.

Intensive agriculture is the primary cause of species extinction

In the past few decades, natural ecosystems have increasingly been converted into arable land and intensively managed grassland. These changes in land use are the main drivers of the biodiversity crisis. “However, it may come as a surprise that systematic biodiversity change is also taking place in the near-natural sites of our study, far away from the already heavily degraded intensive agricultural and urban areas,” says Henrique Pereira. “The ongoing replacement of species characteristic of unique ecosystems by widespread species may maintain the local biodiversity in many places, but, globally, it means that more and more species may be threatened with extinction.” 

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sREplot. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.


 
Original publication: 
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Ingmar R. Staude, Henrique M. Pereira, Gergana N. Daskalova, Markus Bernhardt-Römermann, Martin Diekmann, Harald Pauli, Hans Van Calster, Mark Vellend, Anne D. Bjorkman, Jörg Brunet, Pieter De Frenne, Radim Hédl, Ute Jandt, Jonathan Lenoir, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Kris Verheyen, Sonja Wipf, Monika Wulf, Christopher Andrews, Peter Barančok, Elena Barni, José-Luis Benito-Alonso, Jonathan Bennie, Imre Berki, Volker Blüml, Markéta Chudomelová, Guillaume Decocq, Jan Dick, Thomas Dirnböck, Tomasz Durak, Ove Eriksson, Brigitta Erschbamer, Bente Jessen Graae, Thilo Heinken, Fride Høistad Schei, Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Martin Kopecký, Thomas Kudernatsch, Martin Macek, Marek Malicki, František Máliš, Ottar Michelsen, Tobias Naaf, Thomas A. Nagel, Adrian C. Newton, Lena Nicklas, Ludovica Oddi, Adrienne Ortmann-Ajkai, Andrej Palaj, Alessandro Petraglia, Petr Petřík, Remigiusz Pielech, Francesco Porro, Mihai Puşcaş, Kamila Reczyńska, Christian Rixen, Wolfgang Schmidt, Tibor Standovár, Klaus Steinbauer, Krzysztof Świerkosz, Balázs Teleki, Jean-Paul Theurillat, Pavel Dan Turtureanu, Tudor-Mihai Ursu, Thomas Vanneste, Philippine Vergeer, Ondřej Vild, Luis Villar, Pascal Vittoz, Manuela Winkler & Lander Baeten (2021): Directional temporal turnover toward plant species with larger ranges across habitats, Ecology Letters, DOI: 10.1111/ele.13937

 

Contact:

Ingmar Staude
Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733136
Email: ingmar.staude@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/818.html

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Media Release Biodiversity Conservation Fri, 10 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Let tropical forests grow again https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2292.html Natural restoration of tropical forests provide large short-term benefits for climate change... Natural restoration of tropical forests provide large short-term benefits for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation

Based on a media release by Wageningen University

Wageningen/Leipzig. Tropical forests are vanishing at an alarming rate through deforestation, but also have the potential to regrow naturally on abandoned lands. A study published this week in Science shows that regrowing tropical forests recover surprisingly fast. After 20 years, characteristic attributes have recovered by an average of nearly 80% of old-growth forest values. This applies e.g. to soil fertility, soil carbon storage, tree diversity, plant functioning and forest structure. The study led by Wageningen University with support from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) concludes that natural regeneration is a low-cost, nature-based solution for climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem restoration.

The international team of tropical ecologists analysed how twelve attributes recover during the natural process of forest regeneration, and how their recovery is interrelated using 77 landscapes and more than 2200 forest plots across tropical America and West Africa.

Lead author Prof Lourens Poorter from Wageningen University says: “While it is essential to actively protect old-growth forests and stop further deforestation, tropical forests have the potential to regrow naturally in already deforested areas on abandoned lands. These regrowing forests cover vast areas and can contribute to local and global targets for ecosystem restoration. They provide global benefits for climate change mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity conservation, and many other services for local people, such as water, fuel, wood, and non-timber forest products”.

The researchers found that these secondary forests recover surprisingly fast, indicating that there are large short-term benefits of natural tropical forest restoration. Yet, the speed of recovery differs strongly across forest attributes: Recovery to 90% of old-growth forest values is fastest for soil fertility (less than 10 years) and for plant functioning (less than 25 years), intermediate for structure and species diversity (25-60 years), and slowest for aboveground biomass and species composition (more than 120 years).

Second author, Dr Dylan Craven, a former researcher at iDiv and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), now at Universidad Mayor in Chile, says: “We analysed how the recovery of different forest attributes was interrelated. We found that maximum tree size, variation in forest structure, and tree species richness are robust indicators of recovery of multiple forest attributes. These three indicators are relatively easy to measure and can be used to monitor forest restoration. You can now already monitor tree size and variation over large areas and time scales, using remote sensing.”

Secondary forests are forests that regrow naturally after nearly complete removal of forest cover for anthropogenic use (usually for shifting cultivation, conventional cropping or cattle ranching). In tropical Latin America, secondary forests cover as much as 28% of the land area.

”Given the local and global importance of secondary forests and their rapid recovery after 20 years, we encourage adoption of (assisted) natural regeneration as a low-cost, nature-based solution,” says co-author Dr Nadja Rüger from iDiv and Leipzig University. This could be a simple but efficient measure to meet the goals of the United Nations’ sustainable development, the UN decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2020-2030), UN framework on climate change mitigation (COP 26), and the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP 15).

Bruno Hérault, last author from CIRAD, Ivory Coast adds: “Yet, there is no silver bullet to restoration, and a mix of natural and active restoration may be needed. There is a whole gradient of solutions, ranging from natural regeneration, assisted natural regeneration, agroforestry, to plantations. The optimal solution depends on local site conditions, the local people, and their needs. By using such a mix of approaches we can create more natural, biodiverse, and resilient landscapes.”

This research was financed, amongst others, by the European Research Council Advanced Grant PANTROP and by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sUCCESS. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.

 

Original publication:
(Scientists and alumni with iDiv affiliation bold)

Lourens Poorter, Dylan Craven, Catarina C. Jakovac, Masha T. van der Sande, Lucy Amissah, Frans Bongers, Robin L. Chazdon, Caroline E. Farrior, Stephan Kambach, Jorge A. Meave, Rodrigo Muñoz, Natalia Norden, Nadja Rüger, Michiel van Breugel, Angélica María Almeyda Zambrano, Bienvenu Amani, José Luis Andrade, Pedro H. S. Brancalion, Eben N. Broadbent, Hubert de Foresta, Daisy H. Dent, Géraldine Derroire, Saara J. DeWalt, Juan M. Dupuy, Sandra M. Durán, Alfredo C. Fantini, Bryan Finegan, Alma Hernández-Jaramillo, José Luis Hernández-Stefanoni, Peter Hietz, André B. Junqueira, Justin Kassi N'dja, Susan G. Letcher, Madelon Lohbeck, René López-Camacho, Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Felipe P. L. Melo, Francisco Mora, Sandra C. Müller, Anny E. N'Guessan, Florian Oberleitner, Edgar Ortiz-Malavassi, Eduardo A. Pérez-García, Bruno X. Pinho, Daniel Piotto, Jennifer S. Powers, Susana Rodríguez-Buriticá, Danaë M. A. Rozendaal, Jorge Ruíz, Marcelo Tabarelli, Heitor Mancini Teixeira, Everardo Valadares de Sá Barretto Sampaio, Hans van der Wal, Pedro M. Villa, Geraldo W. Fernandes, Braulio A. Santos, José Aguilar-Cano, Jarcilene S. de Almeida-Cortez, Esteban Alvarez-Davila, Felipe Arreola-Villa, Patricia Balvanera, Justin M. Becknell, George A.L. Cabral, Carolina Castellanos-Castro, Ben H. J. de Jong, Jhon Edison Nieto, Mário M. Espírito-Santo, Maria C. Fandino, Hernando García, Daniel García-Villalobos, Jefferson S. Hall, Alvaro Idárraga, Jaider Jiménez-Montoya, Deborah Kennard, Erika Marín-Spiotta, Rita Mesquita, Yule R. F. Nunes, Susana Ochoa-Gaona, Marielos Peña-Claros, Nathalia Pérez-Cárdenas, Jorge Rodríguez-Velázquez, Lucía Sanaphre-Villanueva, Naomi B. Schwartz, Marc K. Steininger, Maria D.M. Veloso, Henricus F. M. Vester, Ima C. G. Vieira, G. Bruce Williamson, Kátia Zanini & Bruno Hérault (2021): Multi-dimensional tropical forest recovery, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abh3629

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Lourens Poorter
Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands
Phone: +31 317 486216
Email: Lourens.Poorter@wur.nl

 

Dr Nadja Rüger
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733168
Email: nadja.rueger@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Biodiversity Economics Media Release Thu, 09 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Climatic changes and overfishing depleted Baltic herring long before industrialisation https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2290.html Historical sources indicate that overfishing of the Baltic herring began over 500 years ago and... Historical sources indicate that overfishing of the Baltic herring began over 500 years ago and continues to have an impact today

Joint media release with Kiel University

Kiel/Leipzig. The collapse of the important herring fishery in the western Baltic Sea towards the end of the 16th century was the result of a combination of overfishing and climate change. The researchers see similarities in the current development of German fish stocks. A team of fisheries economists, historians and biologists from Kiel University (CAU), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University has reconstructed herring catch levels in the Baltic Sea between 1200 and 1650. The by far most important fishery for autumn spawning herring at that time collapsed within a very short period, without recovering until today. The study, for which they evaluated historical sources, was published in the journal Hansische Geschichtsblätter.

More than a third of the world's commercial fish stocks are considered overexploited or threatened by overfishing. Just this summer, scientists from the University of Hamburg, the Kiel University and the iDiv research centre reported that stocks of cod, one of the most widely consumed edible fish in Germany, have reached a tipping point in the western Baltic Sea, which if exceeded, will probably be irreversible. In the case of cod, climate change has been proven to play a decisive role, with rising temperatures, the cod's capacity to reproduce decreases. Stocks of herring in the western Baltic Sea have also become so depleted that, according to experts, continuing to fish there is neither lucrative nor sustainable.

In a new study, the researchers show - based on historical sources such as toll-books of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck - that a similar interaction between negative environmental effects and overfishing have decimated herring stocks in the western Baltic Sea as far back as the Middle Ages. A cold period in the mid-16th century lowered the average temperature by 0.85°C. As a result, the herring stock lost its productivity, as juvenile fish did not survive. The autumn-spawning herring, until that time the dominant herring subspecies in the western Baltic, almost completely disappeared – and along with it, herring fishing in the region.

Contrary to the widespread assumption that it was industrialisation, which made overfishing possible at all, the new study shows that fishing in the Baltic Sea was not sustainable even in the pre-industrial age. The catch potential of fishing fleets in early modern times was not appreciably inferior to those of today. For example, archaeological finds suggest that the medieval settlement of Falsterbo, a town in southern Sweden alone could have been home to around 45,000 fishermen.

For their study, the scientists had to use historical sources, which gave them indirect indications of fish stocks from 1200 to 1650. They analysed medieval literature to collect pertinent additional data, such as the production of salt used to preserve salted herring. With the aid of this information, they were able to draw conclusions about the catch levels at that time. “The collaboration across very different disciplines, in our case biology, economics, climate research, sociology and of course history, was a unique experience for me, and one with a fascinating result. This is real interdisciplinary research such as I have never seen before”, said an enthusiastic Oliver Lehmann, the lead historian behind the study. 

After its population collapse, the autumn-spawning herring was replaced by a different, spring-spawning herring subspecies. It is this fish that, to this day, primarily constitutes catches in the Baltic Sea. “Basically, our historical data on autumn-spawning herring shows a similar pattern we find in cod today and, more recently, for spring-spawning herring in the western Baltic Sea, too,” explained co-author Dr Rüdiger Voss, fisheries economist at Kiel University and iDiv, Leipzig University. “Overfishing meets climate change and puts an end to the fish population and the fishing associated with it. Analogous to cod stocks today, a tipping point seems to have been exceeded - unfortunately towards an unintentionally stable state of lower herring productivity.”

The study was carried out within the framework of the marEEshift project, “Marine ecological-economic systems in the Western Baltic Sea and beyond: Shifting the baseline to a regime of sustainability”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and coordinated at iDiv. In cooperation with the participants, institutions, measures and processes, which could promote an ecologically and economically sustainable system for the use of marine resources, are to be identified and initiated. “This could mean a regime change from the current situation of exploitation to a new, resilient sustainable development regime,” added Voss, who works in the field of food security at the Center for Ocean and Society, a platform of the priority research area Kiel Marine Science at Kiel University.

If the spring-spawning herring continues to be heavily exploited under current conditions, it could face a similar fate to that of its relative. “In times of warming climates, it will be important to know not only about tipping points and the ecological preferences of the fish species caught but also to take them into account,” says fisheries biologist and co-author Dr Jörn Schmidt from Kiel University. “The aim must be to have an ecosystem-based fisheries management structure that takes environmental changes into account. The clock is ticking for management adjustments. We shouldn't waste any time.” 
Sebastian Tilch and Bernardo Arroyo Garcia

 

Original publication:
(iDiv researchers in bold)

Lehmann, O., Schmidt, J. & Voss, R. (2021): “De vorbisteringhe deß heringheß uthe deme Sunde” - Indizien für eine vorindustrielle Überfischung des Ostseeherings. Hansische Geschichtsblätter. ISSN 0073-0327, ISBN 978-3-940677-09-9

 

Contact:

Dr Rüdiger Voss
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Center for Ocean and Society / Kiel Marine Science
Kiel University
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 431 880 5634
Email: ruediger.voss@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Biodiversity Economics Wed, 01 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
From ambition to biodiversity action: Time to hold actors accountable https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2288.html Scientists propose framework for national-level implementation of global biodiversity goals Scientists propose framework for national-level implementation of global biodiversity goals

Leipzig. To achieve global goals for biodiversity conservation, the national-level implementation must be significantly improved. National policy instruments need to precisely define effective actions and the actors responsible for implementation. Accountability needs to be ensured through systematic monitoring of progress. These recommendations are at the core of a 3-step framework proposed by an international team of scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), published in the journal Conservation Letters. The authors stress the need for urgency to avoid repeating failures of past international agreements and to move to effective implementation of agreed policy targets. One mistake, in particular, should be avoided.

Next spring, government envoys are convening at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Kunming, China, to negotiate new global biodiversity goals for the coming decades within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Looking back, the international community has repeatedly failed to reach most of its biodiversity targets. For instance, according to Eurostat, the populations of common farmland birds in Europe have declined by 17% since 2000. Continuous declines in biodiversity pose a major threat to human health and wellbeing.
 
A team of 55 scientists has now proposed a framework on how to effectively implement international biodiversity goals at the national and sub-national level. The framework consists of three interlinked steps:
 
Step one is to translate global targets into national targets and action plans, identifying clearly the sectors responsible for implementation; agriculture, infrastructure, trade, finance, and others. According to the authors, these action plans need to be co-designed by a wide range of actors from different sectors. This is to engender a strong, joint ownership of action plans and to overcome responsibility gaps. For instance, farmers’ associations should identify actions important for agro-biodiversity and for pollination services, or the financial sector should leverage investment decisions to foster social and environmental change.
 
Step two calls for implementing actions across sectors. This requires the full range of effective behavioural intervention tools to be employed – beyond simple awareness-raising. Here, a major challenge is the need to redesign existing regulatory frameworks, finance flows and network structures, which currently support actions harmful to biodiversity. This is the case for many subsidies, e.g., in agricultural policy. According to the scientists, effective finance mechanisms are needed to boost ecosystem restoration. Current CBD plans aim at placing 20% of degraded ecosystems under restoration by 2030. “We need to recover from past biodiversity loss and put ambitious restoration into action to bend the curve,” says Dr Andrea Perino, researcher at iDiv and first author of the publication. “Substantial investments by different sectors and comprehensive restoration plans will safeguard ecosystem health and human well-being into the future.” 

Step three is about assessing the progress made and holding actors accountable. To enable accountability, countries must implement national biodiversity monitoring systems, the authors write. These monitoring systems should be able to trace biodiversity change back to sectors and administrative units, including production and consumption impacts. “There is one mistake we must not repeat, this is not precisely defining concrete target outcomes and responsible actors,” says Prof Henrique Pereira, corresponding author and research group head at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. “A new framework that does not ensure accountability is doomed to failure. We need systematic and effective real-time monitoring: it is time to hold actors accountable.” 

The scientists emphasise that these three steps are interlinked and must be refined with each implementation cycle. They are convinced that adopting this framework will move national and subnational governments forward in safeguarding national and global biodiversity. “We need to act boldly, now, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss,” says Prof Aletta Bonn, senior author and research group head at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and iDiv. “Governments need to systematically translate the global biodiversity goals into concrete national action, and ensure responsible accountability across sectors. We urge fast and reliable investments into securing our life-support system – for the future of our children.”
Volker Hahn

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni bold)

Perino, A., Pereira, H. M., Felipe-Lucia, M., Kim, H., Kühl, H. S., Marselle, M. R., Meya, J. N., Meyer, C., Navarro, L. M., v. Klink, R., Albert, G., Barratt, C. D., Bruelheide, H., Cao, Y., Chamoin, A., Darbi, M., Dornelas, M., Eisenhauer, N., Essl, F., Farwig, N., Förster, J., Freyhof, J., Geschke, J., Gottschall, F., Guerra, C., Haase, P., Hickler, T., Jacob, U., Kastner, T., Korell, L., Kühn, I., Lehmann, G. U. C., Lenzner, B., Marques, A., Motivans Švara, E., Quintero, L. C., Pacheco, A., Popp, A., Rouet-Leduc, J., Schnabel, F., Siebert, J., Staude, I. R., Trogisch, S., Švara, V., Svenning, J. C., Pe'er, G., Raab, K., Rakosy, D., Vandewalle, M., Werner, A. S., Wirth, C., Xu, H., Yu, D., Zinngrebe, Y. & Bonn, A. (2021): Biodiversity post-2020: Closing the gap between global targets and national-level implementation. Conservation Letters, DOI: 10.1111/conl.12848

 

Contact:

Dr Andrea Perino
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733184
Email: andrea.perino@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/172.html

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/132.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Biodiversity Conservation iDiv iDiv Members Tue, 23 Nov 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2021 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2287.html Eight iDiv members named Highly Cited Researchers

Clarivate Analytics lists eight iDiv members in its 2021 selection of “Highly Cited Researchers”. According to Clarivate Analytics, these scientists have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers, during the last decade.

The following iDiv members can be found on the list (in alphabetical order):

• Prof Stanley Harpole (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Dr Jens Kattge (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Ingolf Kühn (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, iDiv)

• Prof Henrique Pereira (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Prof Markus Reichstein (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Josef Settele (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Prof Peter F. Stadler (Leipzig University, iDiv)

• Dr Marten Winter (iDiv)

 

In total, approximately 6,600 researchers have been selected.

See full list: https://recognition.webofscience.com/awards/highly-cited/2021/

 

Contact:

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TOP NEWS Tue, 16 Nov 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Where the wild bears are https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2284.html New software predicts the movements of large land animals New software predicts the movements of large land animals

Leipzig/Jena/Oxford. New software helps determine the movements of large wild animals thereby minimising conflicts with people. The software is simpler than measurements obtained using radio transmitters and can be used where conventional methods fail. An international team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Aarhus University and the University of Oxford has published a description of the new software in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Large land animals have a significant impact on the ecology and biodiversity of the areas they inhabit and traverse. If, for example, the routes and stopping places of cattle, horses, sheep, and also those of wolves or bears overlap with those of people, this often leads to conflicts. Knowing and being able to predict the movement patterns of animals is, therefore, of utmost relevance. This is not only necessary for nature and landscape protection, and to safeguard agriculture and forestry, but also for the safety of human travellers and the security of human infrastructures.

Example – the brown bear

The Abruzzo region of Italy, the location of the Sirente Velino Regional Park, is home to the endangered and therefore protected Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus). Recording the bears' patterns of movement in the 50,000 hectare, partly populated area is especially important for their own protection, but also for that of the people living there and the sensitive flora. Movement pattern maps can be used to determine the bears’ roaming routes and places of refuge more effectively. These can then be adequately protected and, if necessary, adjusted.

Traditional methods are expensive

Traditional maps of animal movements are mostly based on long-term surveys of so-called telemetry data; this comes from individuals fitted with radio transmitters. This type of map-making is often time consuming and expensive, and lack of radio contact in some areas means that no data can be collected at all. That was also the case in the vast and isolated Sirente Velino national park.

Researchers developed an alternative

Researchers from iDiv, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Aarhus University and the University of Oxford have developed software ­– named ‘enerscape’ – with which maps can be created easily and cost-effectively. Dr Emilio Berti is post-doctoral researcher with the Theory in Biodiversity Science research group at iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena. As first author of the study he stressed: “What’s special is that the software requires very little data as a basis.” The energy an animal needs to expend to travel a certain distance is calculated, based on the weight of that animal and its general movement behaviour. This energy expenditure is then integrated with the topographical information of an area. “From this information we can then create ‘energy landscape maps’ for individuals as well as for groups of animals. Our maps are calculated rather than measured and thus represent a cost-effective alternative to traditional maps. In particular applications, such as the conditions in the Italian national park, our method makes the creation of movement pattern maps actually possible at all,” said Berti.

Software helps with the designation of protection zones

Using enerscape, the researchers found that bears choose paths that require less energy expenditure. These paths often lead through settlements, so that the bears encounter humans – which frequently ends fatally for the animals. The software also predicts, that bears wanting to save energy will tend to stay in valleys, far away from human settlements. Bear conflict as well as protection zones can now be identified using enerscape. Its maps can also be used to check whether landscape elements are still well-connected enough to enable the animals to move around the area sufficiently.

enerscape is freely available and adaptable

The researchers' software enerscape is based on the widely used and openly accessible programming language ‘R’. It has a modular structure and can therefore process animal movement and topographical data from a wide variety of ecosystem types. “This makes it possible for both researchers and wildlife managers to adapt the software to a wide variety of landscapes and animals,” said Prof Fritz Vollrath from the Zoology Department of the University of Oxford and senior author of the study, emphasising the special nature of enerscape. “This means that the number of maps of animal movement in landscapes will increase in just a short time. With significantly more cartographical data, the understanding of the behavioural ecology of a species in a certain habitat will also fundamentally change. This will primarily benefit nature conservation and, in particular, rewilding measures – the reintroduction of wild animals,” said Vollrath.

The development of enerscape was supported by iDiv which is funded by the German Research Foundation. In addition, enerscape is part of the VILLUM Investigator project ‘Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World’, which is funded by the Danish VILLUM Foundation and its ‘Independent Research Fund Denmark | Natural Sciences Project MegaComplexity’.

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Berti, E., Davoli, M., Buitenwerf, R., Dyer, A., Hansen, O., Hirt, M., Svenning, S., Terlau, J., Brose, U., Vollrath, F. (2021): The R package enerscape: a general energy landscape framework for terrestrial movement ecology. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13734

 

Contact:

Dr Emilio Berti
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733240
Email: emilio.berti@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1306.html

 

Prof Ulrich Brose
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Friedrich Schiller University
Head of the research group Theory in Biodiversity Science
Phone: +49 341 9733205
Email: ulrich.brose@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/99.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A.
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release Research TOP NEWS Theory in Biodiversity Science Wed, 03 Nov 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Decline of plant pollinators threatens biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2282.html Global estimate of the importance of pollinators for seed production in plants Global estimate of the importance of pollinators for seed production in plants

Joint media release with University of Konstanz, based on a media release by Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Stellenbosch, Konstanz, Leipzig. About 175 000 plant species – half of all flowering plants – mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and so to reproduce. This is the finding of a study conducted by a global research network with participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Konstanz, recently published in the journal Science Advances. Declines in pollinators could therefore cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity.

Dr James Rodger, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) and lead author, says, this is the first study to provide a global estimate of the importance of pollinators for plants in natural ecosystems.

The study, involving 21 scientists affiliated with 23 institutions from five continents, was led by Dr James Rodger and Prof Allan Ellis from Stellenbosch University (SU). It is a product of the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv) in the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Prof Tiffany Knight, senior co-author, says, recent global assessments of pollination have highlighted a knowledge gap in our understanding of how tremendously plants rely on animal pollinators: “Our synthetic research addresses this gap, and enables us to link trends in pollinator biodiversity and abundance to consequences for plants at a global level.” Knight heads the Spatial Interaction Ecology research group at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and iDiv.

While most plants are animal-pollinated, most of them also have a bit of auto-fertility. This means they can make at least some seeds without pollinators, for example by self-fertilisation. However, until this study, the question, “How important are pollinators for wild plants?” did not have a clear answer at the global level.

The researchers used the contribution of pollinators to seed production — measured by comparing seed production in the absence of pollinators to seed production with pollinators present — as an indicator of their importance to plants. Data on this existed but were spread out in hundreds of papers each focusing on pollination experiments on different plant species.

To address this problem, researchers at various institutions started to consolidate the information in databases: Dr Rodger developed the Stellenbosch Breeding System Database as a postdoctoral fellow in SU’s Department of Botany and Zoology; Prof Tiffany Knight, Prof Tia-Lynn Ashman and Dr Janette Steets led the sPLAT working group that produced the GloPL database; and Prof Mark van Kleunen and Dr Mialy Razanajatovo produced the Konstanz Breeding System Database. All three databases were combined in a new database for the current study. It includes data from 1 528 separate experiments, representing 1 392 plant populations and 1 174 species from 143 plant families and all continents except Antarctica.

The findings show that, without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Therefore, even though auto-fertility is common, it by no means fully compensates for reductions in pollination service in most plant species.

"Recent studies show that many pollinator species have gone down in numbers, with some even having gone extinct. Our finding that large numbers of wild plant species rely on pollinators shows that declines in pollinators could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems,” Rodger warns.

Prof Mark van Kleunen from the University of Konstanz and a co-author of the study, says it is not a case of all pollinators disappearing: “If there are fewer pollinators to go around, or even just a change in which pollinator species are most numerous, we can expect knock-on effects on plants, with affected plant species potentially declining, further harming animal species and human populations depending on those plants. Pollinators aren’t only important for crop production, but also for biodiversity." “It also means that plants that do not rely on pollinators, like many problematic weeds, might spread even more when pollinators continue to decline,” he adds.

Dr Joanne Bennet, iDiv and MLU alumna and co-author from the University of Canberra who curated the GloOL database, says another disconcerting factor is the positive feedback loop that develops if pollinator-depending plants decline or go extinct: “If auto-fertile plants come to dominate the landscape, then even more pollinators will be negatively affected, because auto-fertile plants tend to produce less nectar and pollen.”

All is not doom and gloom, though, according to James Rodger. Many plants are long-lived, opening a window of opportunity to restore pollinators before plant extinctions occur from lack of pollinators. “We lack high quality long-term monitoring data on pollinators in Africa for example, including South Africa, although some work has been started in this regard. We hope that our findings will stimulate more of this kind of research, so that we can detect pollinator declines and mitigate their impacts on biodiversity,” Rodger concludes.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni bold)

Rodger, J. G., Bennett, J. M., Razanjatovo, M., Knight, T. M., Ellis, A. G. et al. (2021) Widespread vulnerability of plant seed production to pollinator declines. Science Advances, Vol. 7, No. 42. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd3524

 

Contact:

Prof Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A.
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Thu, 14 Oct 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Geologically vibrant continents produce higher biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2278.html New computer model helps to better understand species diversity in rainforests New computer model helps to better understand species diversity in rainforests

Based on a media release from ETH Zurich

Leipzig, Zurich. Using a new mechanistic model of evolution on Earth, researchers at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and ETH Zurich can now better explain why the rainforests of Africa are home to fewer species than the tropical forests of South America and Southeast Asia. The key to high species diversity lies in how dynamically the continents have evolved over time.

Trop­ical rain­forests are the most biod­i­verse hab­it­ats on Earth. They are home to a huge num­ber of dif­fer­ent plants, an­im­als, fungi and other or­gan­isms. These forests are primar­ily spread over three con­tin­ents, con­cen­trated in the Amazon Basin in South Amer­ica, the Congo Basin in Cent­ral Africa, and the vast ar­chipelago of South­east Asia. One might as­sume that all trop­ical rain­forests are about equally di­verse due to their stable warm and hu­mid cli­mate and their geo­graph­ical loc­a­tion around the equator – but this is not the case. Com­pared to South Amer­ica and South­east Asia, the num­ber of spe­cies in Africa’s hu­mid trop­ical forests is sig­ni­fic­antly lower for many groups of or­gan­isms.

Palms with few spe­cies

A good il­lus­tra­tion of this un­even dis­tri­bu­tion – what re­search­ers refer to as the pan­trop­ical di­versity dis­par­ity (PDD) – is palm trees: ”Of the 2,500 spe­cies world­wide, 1,200 oc­cur in the South­east Asian re­gion and 800 in the trop­ical forests of South Amer­ica, but only 66 in African rain­forests. Why this is the case, is widely de­bated among biod­iversity re­search­ers”, explains co-author Dr Renske Onstein, Head of Junior Research Group Evolution and Adaptation at iDiv.

There is some evid­ence that the cur­rent cli­mate is the cause of the lower spe­cies di­versity in Africa’s trop­ical forests. The cli­mate in Africa’s trop­ical belt is drier and cooler than that in South­east Asia and South Amer­ica. Other evid­ence sug­gests that the dif­fer­ent en­vir­on­mental and tec­tonic his­tor­ies of the three trop­ical forest re­gions over tens of mil­lions of years had an im­pact on the dif­fer­ing levels of biod­iversity. Such en­vir­on­mental changes in­clude, for ex­ample, the form­a­tion of moun­tains, is­lands, or arid and desert areas. How­ever, it is dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between the two factors of cur­rent cli­mate and en­vir­on­mental his­tory.

Moun­tain build­ing brings up di­versity

Researchers from iDiv and ETH Zurich have now investigated this question with the help of a new computer model called “gen3sis”. “The model allows us to simulate the evolution and diversification of species over many millions of years,“ explains Dr Oskar Hagen, who developed the model as part of his doctoral thesis which was supervised by Prof. Loïc Pellissier, Professor of Landscape Ecology at ETH Zurich. 

The researchers con­clude that the cur­rent cli­mate is not the main reason why biod­iversity is lower in the rain­forests of Africa. Rather, biod­iversity has emerged from the dy­nam­ics of moun­tain build­ing and cli­mate change. The res­ults of the his­tor­ical sim­u­la­tions largely co­in­cide with the pat­terns of biod­iversity dis­tri­bu­tion ob­serv­able today.

One factor in par­tic­u­lar is cru­cial to high biod­iversity on a con­tin­ent: geo­lo­gical dy­nam­ics. Act­ive plate tec­ton­ics pro­mote both the form­a­tion of moun­tains, such as the Andes in South Amer­ica, and the emer­gence of ar­chipela­gos, as in South­east Asia. These two pro­cesses res­ult in many new eco­lo­gical niches, which in turn give rise to nu­mer­ous new spe­cies. Africa’s rain­forest belt, on the other hand, has had less tec­tonic activ­ity over the past 110 mil­lion years. It is also re­l­at­ively small be­cause it is bordered by dry­lands in the north and south, lim­it­ing its spread. “Spe­cies from hu­mid re­gions can hardly ad­apt to the dry con­di­tions of the sur­round­ing dry­lands,” Pel­lis­sier points out.

New mechanistic approaches in biodiversity research

The “gen3sis” model de­veloped by ETH re­search­ers was only re­cently presen­ted in the journal PLoS Bio­logy. It is a mech­an­istic model in which the primary con­straints such as geo­logy and cli­mate are rep­res­en­ted to­gether with bio­lo­gical mech­an­isms and from which biod­iversity pat­terns can ma­ter­i­al­ise. To sim­u­late the emer­gence of biod­iversity, the most im­port­ant pro­cesses to in­teg­rate into the model are eco­logy (i.e. each spe­cies has its own lim­ited eco­lo­gical niche), evol­u­tion, spe­ci­ation and dis­persal. The population dynamics of organisms can then be simulated against the background of shifting environmental conditions.

“With our model, we can show how complex geological, climatic and biological processes interact and how different biodiversity patterns emerge,” Hagen says. By build­ing their model on these ba­sic evol­u­tion­ary mech­an­isms, the re­search­ers can sim­u­late spe­cies di­versity without hav­ing to in­put (dis­tri­bu­tion) data for each in­di­vidual spe­cies.

How­ever, the model re­quires data on the geo­lo­gical dy­nam­ics of the con­tin­ents un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, as well as hu­mid­ity and tem­per­at­ures from cli­mate re­con­struc­tions. With further simulations, the researchers want to investigate how biodiversity arose in other species-rich regions and how it could develop further under different conditions in the future.

The re­search­ers are now re­fin­ing the model and run­ning sim­u­la­tions to un­der­stand the emer­gence of biod­iversity in other species-​rich re­gions and  how it might evolve under different conditions. The model’s code and the pa­laeoen­vir­on­mental re­con­struc­tions are open source. All in­ter­ested evol­u­tion­ary and biod­iversity re­search­ers can use it to study the form­a­tion of biod­iversity in dif­fer­ent re­gions of the world.

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Hagen, O., Skeels, A., Onstein, R., Jetz, W., Pellissier, L. (2021): Earth history events shaped the evolution of uneven biodiversity across tropical moist forests. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA October 5, 2021 118 (40) e2026347118; doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2026347118

Hagen, O., Flück, B., Fopp, F., Cabral, J. S., Hartig, F., Pontarp, M., et al. (2021): gen3sis: A general engine for eco-​evolutionary simulations of the processes that shape Earth’s biodiversity. PLoS Biol 19(7): e3001340. doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001340

 

Contact:

Dr Oskar Hagen (German, English)
Postdoc of the Junior Resarch Group Evolution und Adaptation at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig

Leipzig University
Email: oskar.hagen@idiv.de

 

Dr Renske Onstein
Head of the junior research group Evolution and Adaptation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733 -129
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/core_groups/evolution_and_adaptation.html

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A.
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Evolution and Adaptation Wed, 13 Oct 2021 00:00:00 +0200
iDiv researcher Alexander Zizka wins GBIF research prize https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2270.html Award for creating a web-based tool linking natural and political science Award for creating a web-based tool linking natural and political science

Based on a media release by GBIF

Copenhagen, Leipzig. Today, an international team led by Dr Alexander Zizka of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University (UL) has earned selection as first place in the Ebbe Nielsen Challenge of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF is an international network and data infrastructure funded by the world’s governments. Zizka and his team were awarded for developing Bio-Dem, an open-source web-app for exploring temporal and spatial relationships between the availability of biodiversity data and the dimensions of democracy. For its selection, Zizka and his team will receive 12,000 euros.

The premise for the first-prize winner project Bio-Dem is that, while georeferenced species occurrence data has become essential to ecological and biodiversity research, its availability depends on non-biological factors, including the political setting at the time and place of collection. The tool combines biodiversity data available from the GBIF network, the Varieties of Democracy's multidimensional dataset on the complex values of democratic systems, and information on colonial history from the Issue Correlates of War Project. This unique combination of sources enables users to investigate geographic and temporal relationships between socio-political variables and species occurrence records and generate hypotheses about the taxa and geographies in which they're interested.

“We know relatively little about socio-political biases in relation to biodiversity data sampling, and Bio-Dem provides an easy way of visualizing the complex empirical relationships between given country’s history, socioeconomic factors and political regimes and the availability of species occurrence records,” said Zizka. “We hope the app can help teachers to communicate the caveats of biodiversity data, biodiversity scientists to examine socio-political sources of data gaps and biases, and social scientists to explore how political systems affect scientific data collection and biodiversity conservation.”

“Several proposals ran very close, and all the jury members agreed that Bio-Dem was a unique and interesting application of GBIF-mediated data,” said this year’s jury chair Jurate de Prins of the Royal Belgian Society of Entomology (SRBE-KBVE). “But in the end, its inclusion of social and historical aspects of present-day societies in considering biodiversity data across space and time tipped the balance in Bio-Dem's selection as the winner.”

Zizka has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv’s Synthesis Centre sDiv since 2018. The biogeographer and botanist’s main interests are the evolution of tropical biodiversity and big data in biodiversity research. From February 2022, he’ll start a professorship for biodiversity of plants at the Philipps University Marburg.

The majority-female jury of the challenge reviewed a pool of ten qualified submissions to select the three winners of the Challenge, an annual incentive prize that honours the memory of Dr Ebbe Schmidt Nielsen, a Danish-Australian entomologist and an inspirational leader in the fields of biosystematics and biodiversity informatics who was one of the principal founders of GBIF. 

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Zizka, A., Rydén, O., Edler, D. et al. (2021): Bio-Dem, a tool to explore the relationship between biodiversity data availability and socio-political conditions in time and space. Journal of Biogeography. DOI:10.1111/jbi.14256.

Video with acknowledgement by Alexander Zizka

 

Contact:

Dr Alexander Zizka
Evolution and Adaptation
sDiv - Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733176
Email: alexander.zizka@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Evolution and Adaptation Tue, 05 Oct 2021 00:00:00 +0200
More and more roads but little knowledge about their impact on wildlife https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2274.html Traffic probably poses one of the greatest risks to animal populations. However, we currently know... Traffic probably poses one of the greatest risks to animal populations. However, we currently know very little about this issue.

Based on a media release by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM)

Madrid/Leipzig/Halle. In regions with a very dense road network like, for example, Germany, vehicles are probably one of the main threats to all types of wildlife. However, the extent to which this factor affects populations cannot be determined due to a lack of data. This has now been presented by a team of scientists led by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in the journal Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation. The analysis of relevant literature revealed that studies are too limited, involving only a few regions and species. By systematically recording roadkills, the scientists see great potential for assessing the risk of extinction to animal species.

In their meta-study, the Spanish scientists reviewed over a thousand studies on the effects of road networks on wildlife. They found that the existing data is limited to high-income countries and only a few species groups, while particularly species-rich regions such as Southeast Asia, South America and Central Africa are hardly covered at all. Also, the species spectrum is only fragmentarily represented here. 90 percent of the data cover large mammals, mainly bears, deer and antelopes, but also kangaroos, koalas and turtles. Only two percent of the species recorded were those considered threatened by traffic in the IUCN Red List.

The rapid expansion of road networks poses major challenges for wildlife: On the one hand, many animals die directly as a result of being struck by vehicles, and on the other hand, roads fragment the land. For many species, this creates impassable barriers that make successful reproduction difficult.

In order to be able to introduce protection measures, it is important to complete the hitherto incomplete picture. Unresearched species such as primates, bats and invertebrates, which are also known to be affected by road networks, must be given greater consideration in monitoring. The proportion of Red List species among those examined is still too low to understand the effect of road networks on threatened species. In addition, this infrastructure is developed to different extents in countries with different economic strengths. This makes it difficult to compare the studies internationally.

“In order to close the knowledge gaps, future research, instead of limiting itself only to the recording of wildlife-vehicle collisions, should examine how roadkill affects population dynamics,” suggests first author Dr Rafael Barrientos, postdoctoral researcher at UCM. “Moreover, more research needs to be done on whether lack of connectivity and mitigation measures, such as green bridges, affect population survival along roads.”

Last author Prof Dr Henrique Pereira, head of the research group “Biodiversity and Conservation” at iDiv and the MLU, also sees a strong need to catch up: “Until now the literature has been dominated by empirical studies looking at animal mortality hotspots on roads, but little attention has been given to systematically assessing how much roads contribute to high risk of species extinction. It is now time to go beyond those empirical studies and use population models to assess the impact of roads on the extinction risk of species so that mitigation measures can target the species most affected."

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Barrientos, R., Ascensão, F., D'Amico, M., Grilo, C., & Pereira, H. M. (2021): The Lost Road: Do transportation networks imperil wildlife population persistence? Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation, DOI: 10.1016/j.pecon.2021.07.004.

 

Contact:

Dr Rafael Barrientos
Evolution and conservation biology
Universidad Complutense Madrid
Phone: +34 91 394 4689
Email: rbarrientos@ucm.es
Web: https://www.ucm.es/bcveng//rafael-barrientos

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 05 Oct 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Functioning of terrestrial ecosystems is governed by three main factors https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2268.html Study helps to better assess the capacity of global ecosystems to adapt to climate and... Study helps to better assess the capacity of global ecosystems to adapt to climate and environmental change

Based on a media release by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI BGC) 

Jena. Ecosystems provide multiple services for humans. However, these services depend on basic ecosystem functions which are shaped by natural conditions like climate and species composition, and human interventions. A large international research team, led by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI BGC), and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), identified three key indicators that together summarise the integrative function of terrestrial ecosystems: The first is the capacity to maximise primary productivity, the second is the efficiency of using water, and the third is the efficiency of using carbon. The monitoring of these key indicators will allow a description of ecosystem function that shapes the ability to adapt, survive and thrive in response to climatic and environmental changes. The study was recently published in the journal Nature.

Ecosystems on Earth’s land surface support multiple functions and services that are critical for society, like biomass production, vegetation’s efficiency of using sunlight and water, water retention and climate regulation, and ultimately food security. Climate and environmental changes, as well as anthropogenic impacts, are continuously threatening the provision of these functions. To understand how terrestrial ecosystems will respond to this threat, it is crucial to know which functions are essential to obtain a good representation of the ecosystems’ overall well-being and functioning. This is particularly difficult since ecosystems are rather complex in terms of their structure and their responses to environmental changes. 

A large international network of researchers, led by Dr Mirco Migliavacca at MPI BGC and iDiv in Germany, tackled this question by combining multiple data streams and methods. The scientists used environmental data from global networks of ecosystem stations, combined with satellite observations, mathematical models, and statistical and causal discovery methods. The result is strikingly simple: “We were able to identify three key indicators that allow us to summarise how ecosystems function: the maximum realised productivity, the efficiency of using water, and the efficiency of using carbon” says the study’s first author Dr Migliavacca. The maximum productivity indicator reflects the capacity of the given ecosystem to uptake CO2. The water use indicator is a combination of metrics representing the ecosystem water use efficiency, which is the carbon taken up per quantity of water transpired by plants. The carbon use efficiency indicator reflects the use of carbon by an ecosystem, which represents the carbon respired versus carbon taken up. The surprising findings made the team reflect on how complex ecosystems are ultimately driven by a small set of major factors just like was found, for instance, for leaf photosynthesis based on a handful of leaf traits. 

“Using only these three major factors, we can explain almost 72 percent of the variability within ecosystem functions,” Migliavacca adds. “With water-use efficiency being the second major factor, our results emphasise the importance of water availability for ecosystems’ performance. This will be crucial for climate change impact considerations,” says last author Prof Dr Markus Reichstein, director of the department Biogeochemical Integration at MPI BGC and iDiv.

The researchers inspected the exchange rates of carbon dioxide, water vapour, and energy at 203 monitoring stations around the world that belong to the FLUXNET network, a collaborative network of multiple research teams and field sites that collect and share their data. The selected sites cover a large variety of climate zones and vegetation types. For each site, they calculated a set of the ecosystems’ functional properties, and further included calculations on average climate and soil water availability variables as well as vegetation characteristics and satellite data on vegetation biomass.

The three identified functional indicators critically depend on the structure of vegetation, that is vegetation greenness, nitrogen content of leaves, vegetation height, and biomass. This result underlines the importance of ecosystem structure, which can be shaped by disturbances and forest management in controlling ecosystem functions. At the same time, the water and carbon use efficiency also critically depend on climate and partly on aridity, which points at the critical role of climate change for future ecosystem functioning. “Our exploratory analysis serves as a crucial step towards developing indicators for ecosystem functioning and ecosystem health,” summarises Reichstein, “adding to a comprehensive assessment of the world’s ecosystems response to climate and environmental changes.”

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Migliavacca, M., ..., Mahecha, M., ..., Kattge, J., & Reichstein, M. (2021): The three major axes of terrestrial ecosystem function, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03939-9

 

Contact:

Dr Mirco Migliavacca
Department Biogeochemical Integration
Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry
now at:
European Commission
Joint Research Centre, Italy
Phone: +39 0332 789085
Email: mirco.migliavacca@ec.europa.eu

 

Prof Dr Markus Reichstein
Department Biogeochemical Integration
Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry
Phone: +49 3641 576200
Email: mreichstein@bgc-jena.mpg.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 22 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Species extinction seen also in literature https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2253.html An extensive analysis of literature suggests that people seem to be increasingly diconnected from... An extensive analysis of literature suggests that people seem to be increasingly disconnected from nature

Leipzig/Frankfurt a.M. Biodiversity has been steadily declining in western literature since the 1830s. This is the finding of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary study led by Leipzig researchers, who examined almost 16,000 works of Western fiction from between 1705 and 1969. The study has been published in the journal People and Nature. The researchers interpret the results as an indication of humanity’s increasing estrangement from nature. 

The planet's biodiversity is declining. In its latest report, the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) states that at least 680 species of vertebrates have been exterminated as a result of human activity since 1500. The rate of species extinction is increasing. An international team led by Leipzig researchers wanted to find out whether the biodiversity crisis in the real world is also reflected in the conceptual world. 

In order to do this, they investigated how distributions of biodiversity in literature have changed over the past 300 years. They used the literature collection of the Project Gutenberg for their work. With almost 60,000 works, it is the largest digital, publicly accessible collection of, primarily, English versions of Western works of fiction. Literature from the period 1705 to 1969 was selected from part of this collection, and 16,000 works by 4,000 authors, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edith Nesbit and Victor Hugo were then chosen. The texts were first searched for the common names of all kinds of living things from a list of 240,000 words such as horse, cockchafer and lavender. All texts by these authors were then checked for word occurrence, frequency and distribution. 

This large-scale study is unique

“This unusual project was only possible through the integration of literature, life science and computer science”, states first author Lars Langer from Leipzig University. “Such a large-scale study of literary communication on the subject of biodiversity is, to date, unique. By applying new computer-assisted analytical methods, we were able to systematically examine and evaluate the content of biological terms contained in within the literature.”

Biodiversity in literature decreases steadily

In their analysis, the researchers from Leipzig University (UL), Goethe University Frankfurt, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Institute (SBiK-F) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) saw a hump-shaped trend in the frequency, density and variety of labels for animals and plants in literature, increasing until the middle of the 19th century, but then decreasing steadily. After 1835, there was a tendency to use less specific terms, for example, the word tree was used rather than a more specific term such as oak. Not only did the use of synonyms such as paddock for toad decline, but also the common knowledge of the origin of such terms. However, living things with which humans have constant or frequent contact continued to be mentioned often; examples include domesticated animals like horse and dog and potential threats like bear and lion.

The researchers interpret the initial, apparent increase in biodiversity found in the literature as a result of the discovery and colonisation of a large part of the world by European civilisations. In the wake of these developments, new terms appeared; parrot, banana and panther are examples of this. Improvements in research and education during the Age of Enlightenment could have contributed to a further increase. The first indications of an increasing awareness of incipient biodiversity loss may have coincided with Romanticism. With industrialisation, urbanisation and the associated changes in land use, not only does the real loss of biodiversity begin, but possibly also the deprivation of nature-related thinking patterns.

Radical change in awarness necessary

“The real biodiversity crisis seems to be closely linked to a conceptual crisis,” says Prof Christian Wirth, senior author of the study and researcher at UL, iDiv and Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Fellow, assessing the results of the investigation. “We see that, starting with the dawn of industrialisation, both crises run in parallel, and we assume they are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. I think that we can only halt the loss of biodiversity by means of a radical change in awareness. Our methods can detect whether policy programmes, crises or positive examples make biodiversity more relevant to us and present in our thoughts. Today, in addition to books, social media could also be very enlightening.” “There is also the potential for transference to other cultures, cultural assets and time periods. A future investigation of current media would also enable current analyses and derived forecasts about the relationship between humans and nature,” adds Langer.


Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Langer, L., Burghardt, M., Borgards, R., Böhning-Gaese, K., Seppelt, R., & Wirth, C. (2021). The rise and fall of biodiversity in literature: A comprehensive quantification of historical changes in the use of vernacular labels for biological taxa in Western creative literature. People and Nature, 3(5). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10256

 

Contact:

Prof Christian Wirth
iDiv Speaker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Email: christian.wirth@idiv.de
Web: https://www.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/profile/mitarbeiter/prof-dr-christian-wirth/

 

Lars Langer
Universität Leipzig
Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität
Institutsgebäude
Johannisallee 21
04103 Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9738588
Email: lars.langer@uni-leipzig.de
Web: Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität Institutsgebäude Johannisallee 21 04103 Leipzig

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, M.A.
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS Research Media Release iDiv Fri, 17 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
New iDiv research centre building inaugurated https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2267.html Three Minister Presidents pay tribute to international biodiversity research “made in Central... Three Minister Presidents pay tribute to international biodiversity research “made in Central Germany”. German Chancellor sends her congratulations

Leipzig. Michael Kretschmer, Bodo Ramelow and Dr Reiner Haseloff – the Ministers President of Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt respectively – together with DFG Secretary General Heide Ahrens, officially opened the new research building of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) on Wednesday. The event, which took place under strict hygiene measures, was attended by more than 100 guests. They learned about the contribution iDiv is making to solving the global biodiversity crises and intends to make in the future. German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel sent a message congratulating the iDiv team. The new building at Leipzig’s Alte Messe has been designed as a place for scientists from all over the world to share ideas and conduct integrative research. From 2024 onwards, the three federal states involved intend to take over the financing of the research centre together with other sponsors.

Watch 2-minute video of the inauguration ceremony on iDiv’s YouTube channel.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release iDiv TOP NEWS Wed, 15 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Pioneering method of assessing rewilding progress applied for the first time https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2265.html Scientists have developed a new way of evaluating rewilding progress

Based on a media release by Rewilding Europe

Scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and Rewilding Europe have developed a new way of evaluating rewilding progress. Its ground-breaking application across seven of Rewilding Europe's operational areas has revealed both positive impact and challenges to upscaling. The practical tool can help to inform decision-making and drive rewilding onwards and upwards. The study was recently published in the scientific journal Ecography.

Over the last decade, rewilding has emerged as an immediate, pragmatic, scalable, and cost-effective way of restoring natural processes and enabling wildlife comeback across large-scale European landscapes, supported by trends in human demographics, associated changes in land use, and the ongoing recovery of key wildlife species. To ensure rewilding continues to grow - and to scale it up as quickly and effectively as possible - it is critical that the impact of rewilding can be easily, accurately, and comparably measured.

The application of a recently developed way of measuring rewilding progress is a huge step forward in this regard. The paper authored by the doctoral researcher Josiane Segar and colleagues at iDiv, MLU, and Rewilding Europe, together with other European institutions -  discusses the first time application of this methodology to seven of Rewilding Europe's operational areas. The results generated reveal that encouraging progress has been made at site level, but that challenges to upscaling also exist.

From theory to practice

The new paper builds on an article published in the journal Philosophical Transactions B in 2018, which first introduced a three-axis framework for monitoring rewilding. Co-researched and developed by Rewilding Europe, this framework condenses ecological recovery into three key components.
 
•       trophic complexity: a measure of the complexity of relationships in a food web
•       random natural disturbance: caused by natural events such as wildfire or flooding
•       dispersal: how easy is it for species to spread out across landscapes

In 2020, this three-axis framework was used as the basis for evaluating rewilding impact across seven of Rewilding Europe's operational areas. A total of 19 indicators (10 relating to human intervention and nine to ecological health) were selected to measure the ecological impact of rewilding interventions across each of the three framework components, plus an additional socio-ecological component. Baseline values for each of these indicators, which were set to the year that rewilding in each area began, were then compared with values as they stood in December 2020. Changes in these indicators were then used to generate an overall rewilding score for each area.

A scoring spectrum

The study reveals that the new approach to monitoring impact generated some interesting results. Five of the eight rewilding areas saw an increase in rewilding score over time, while two areas saw decreases (the Rhodope Mountains and Velebit Mountains). The five areas where the score had increased all reported decreases in interventions by humans in the landscape, while four of these areas also reported increases in ecological health.

The biggest improvement overtime was reported in the Central Apennines, with a relative increase of 47.1% from 2012 to 2020, and improvements in 14 of the 19 indicators. The Rhodope Mountains reported the largest decrease in rewilding score over time, with a change of -13% from 2011 to 2020.

Nuanced interpretation

It is important to note that a negative rewilding score for a landscape-scale rewilding area does not mean that rewilding interventions at specific, smaller-scale sites within that area are failing to have a positive impact. Nature also moves to its own rhythms and timescales, which means such interventions, may take decades to generate measurable impact.

“In applying the new methodology at the landscape scale, we wanted to look at the potential for upscaling rewilding,” explains Josiane Segar. “This bigger picture approach not only took into account the direct, site-specific interventions of Rewilding Europe's operational area teams but also changes happening outside pilot sites. Some or all of these changes may be outside the control of rewilding teams.”

The Rhodope Mountains rewilding area, for example, has been affected by a trend that has seen land abandonment beginning in the 1990s recently revert back towards agricultural intensification and encroachment as a result of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies. This has manifested itself in the ploughing of high-biodiversity value grasslands and mosaics into arable fields, as well as an increase in livestock and grazing intensity, both of which have negative implications for rewilding progress. In order to counterbalance this threat, rural policies may need to be better targeted to allow people to make better use of the socio-economic benefits that rewilding can provide.

Strengths and weaknesses

The new study also compiled key success and threat factors for rewilding progress, based on an assessment by rewilding area teams.

“This revealed that the major challenges to rewilding progress are related to policies that promote land-use intensification, such as the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the persecution of keystone species,” says Segar. “Conversely, the most important factors aiding progress related to the appeal of rewilding as a concept and effective communications about rewilding results. Creating new economic opportunities and establishing good working relationships with stakeholders were also judged to be important.”

Moving forward

Today, interest in rewilding is growing rapidly - among scientists, policymakers, businesses, and the public. Yet the application and upscaling of rewilding beyond pilot sites remain limited. This can be partly attributed to a lack of monitoring, with the long-term consequences of rewilding interactions still poorly understood.

“Until now there has been very little robust scientific assessment of whether rewilding actually works,” says Henrique Pereira, a researcher at MLU and iDiv and co-author of the new paper. “This new study, representing innovation at the intersection of rewilding science and practice, is therefore really important. I expect the methodology underpinning it to be picked up by many other researchers and rewilding practitioners, adapted and used. Beyond the numerical scores, this is a practical tool that can really help to inform decision making and drive rewilding onwards and upwards.”

Using the new methodology, the rewilding impact will now be measured across Rewilding Europe's rewilding areas every three to five years - this will allow sufficient time for ecological parameters to respond to rewilding interventions and ongoing area management. To complement and ease the task of expert-led assessment, Rewilding Europe's monitoring team are currently developing data-driven, remote sensing approaches to monitoring, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and several universities. This is particularly important in areas where ground-based measurements are likely to remain unfeasible due to resource restrictions.

Above all, the results of the new study show that the ability of rewilding to progress and scale-up is often constrained by pressures that are dictated by factors external to rewilding sites. As such, creating an environment more conducive to rewilding can often only come about through policy change at the national and EU level.

“It's clear that rewilding efforts are already beginning to have a positive impact at the local scale,” says Josiane Segar. “However, future efforts should be better complemented by policy and advocacy if rewilding is to become scalable across entire landscapes.”

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Josiane Segar, Henrique M. Pereira, Raquel Filgueiras, Alexandros A. Karamanlidis, Deli Saavedra & Néstor Fernández (2021): Expert-based assessment of rewilding indicates progress at site-level, yet challenges for upscaling, Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.05836

Original press release: https://rewildingeurope.com/news/pioneering-method-of-assessing-rewilding-progress-applied-for-the-first-time/

 

Contact:

Josiane Segar
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: josiane.segar@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Mon, 13 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Large herbivores can reduce fire risks https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2262.html Around the world, wildfires are posing major risks to people and nature. Domestic and wild animals... Around the world, wildfires are posing major risks to people and nature. Domestic and wild animals can help prevent them

Leipzig. The use of large herbivores can be an effective means to prevent and mitigate wildfires, especially in places facing land abandonment. They can replace much more costly solutions like firefighting or mechanical vegetation removal. This is the result of a systematic literature review carried out by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. They provide suggestions for fire and agricultural policies in Europe and globally

In many parts of the world, socio-economic drivers are causing large-scale land abandonment. Nomadic practices and pastoralism are decreasing worldwide as well. As a result, areas gradually grow over with bushes, and trees accumulate combustible plant material. Established firebreaks are lost. These processes lead to a higher risk and greater intensity of wildfires. Currently, one of the main responses to this risk is to invest in firefighting capacity. While this can be effective in fighting wildfires once they occur, more promising strategies involve avoiding intense wildfires in the first place.

Researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University, the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Wageningen University and CIBIO/InBIO (Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of University of Porto and University of Lisbon) found, that large herbivores – including domestic livestock, wild and semi-wild herbivores – can form a nature-based solution to reduce the risk of wildfires. The study was conducted as part of the project GrazeLIFE (LIFE-Preparatory project on request of and co-financed by the European Commission), coordinated by Rewilding Europe.

The international research team examined whether large herbivores can reduce the amount of fire-prone vegetation and in turn the impact of wildfires. To do this, they evaluated existing studies that investigated connections between herbivores, vegetation structure, fire risk, fire frequency and fire damage. They found that herbivores can mitigate wildfire damage. The effectiveness depends on a number of factors: herbivore population density, herbivore species and diet, but also the type of vegetation and environmental conditions.

“Not only domestic animals can do the job, but also reintroduced wild and semi-wild herbivores”, said Julia Rouet-Leduc, lead author of the study and doctoral researcher at iDiv and Leipzig University. “They can be effective in reducing wildfire risk, especially in remote and inaccessible areas where careful management with herbivores can combine wildfire prevention with nature conservation.” Dr Fons van der Plas, senior author of the study and an assistant professor at Wageningen University added: “Extensive forms of grazing will not lead to homogeneous short vegetation, but the presence of short, grazed patches can already be enough to avoid uncontrollable fire spread, acting as natural fire breaks.” Where needed, short-term intensive grazing (known as “targeted grazing”) can also be combined with other actions like mechanical clearing to further reduce fire risks.

Based on their findings, the researchers make recommendations for land managers and policymakers to mitigate wildfires. One is to maintain and promote extensive grazing by domestic or (semi-)wild herbivores in areas currently facing land abandonment. This will require integrating relevant agricultural, forestry and fire management policies, and providing financial support for fire prevention with animals. In Europe, for example, the Common Agricultural Policy should support farmers and land owners in using extensive grazing for fire management. “Allowing animals to do the work is an exceptionally cost-efficient way to manage the land, while at the same time restoring missing ecosystem functions; and it can benefit local people,” said Dr Guy Pe’er, researcher at iDiv and UFZ and also lead author of the study.

“At the same time, we have to accept that fires are natural processes and important to many ecosystems, and we have to learn to live with them to a certain extent,” said Rouet-Leduc. “With climate change, wildfires are likely to become increasingly severe in many parts of the world,” said Pe’er. “Current policies can, and should, take much better account of nature-based solutions, like allowing herbivores to do their job.”


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Rouet-Leduc, J., Pe'er, G., Moreira, F., Bonn, A., Helmer, W., Shahsavan Zadeh, S. A. A., Zizka, A., & van der Plas, F. (2021). Effects of large herbivores on fire regimes and wildfire mitigation. Journal of Applied Ecology, 00, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13972

Further information:

 

Contact:

Julia Rout-Leduc (Englisch, Französisch, Schwedisch)
Julia Rouet-Leduc
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Research Group Ecosystem Services
Universität Leipzig
Doctoral Researcher
Phone: +46 760 76 81 62
Email: julia.rouet-leduc@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/de/profile/1112.html

 

Dr Guy Pe’er (Hebräisch, Englisch, Deutsch)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49 341 97 33182
Email: guy.peer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/643.html

 

Dr Fons van der Plas (Niederländisch, Englisch, Deutsch)
Wageningen Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation Group
Assistant professor
Phone: +31 618234434
Email: fons.vanderplas@wur.nl
Web: https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Fons-dr.-ALD-Fons-van-der-Plas.htm

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, MA (Deutsch, Englisch)
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Ecosystem Services Mon, 06 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
To understand future habitat needs for chimpanzees, look to the past https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2256.html New models highlight the important role of glacial refugia for the evolution of chimpanzees New models highlight the important role of glacial refugia for the evolution of chimpanzees

Based on a media release by the Wildlife Conservation Society

Leipzig. A new study provides insight into where chimpanzees avoided climate instability during glacial and interglacial periods in Africa over the past 120,000 years. Using bioclimatic variables and other data, the international research team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and Leipzig University (UL) identified previously unknown swaths of habitat, where chimps rode out the changes seen since the last interglacial period. The findings, published in the American Journal of Primatology, help to increase the understanding of how climate change impacts biodiversity, and how to mitigate against predicted biodiversity loss in the future. 

For their analysis, the authors compiled over 130,000 occurrence records of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) stored in the A.P.E.S. database of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC), as well as data from the Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf) at the MPI-EVA and iDiv.

The researchers quantified chimpanzee habitat suitability using species distribution models based on chimpanzee occurrences, climate and human density data, and then projected these models onto temporal snapshots of climate reconstructions at up to 1000 year intervals, dating back to the Last Interglacial period (120,000 years ago). For the first time, they were able to build a dynamic model of habitat suitability over time, permitting long-term stability (i.e. glacial refugia) to be calculated. 

Results show that glacial refugia across Africa may have been underestimated for chimpanzees, with potentially up to 60,000 additional square kilometres (23,166 square miles) in the Upper and Lower Guinea Forests in West and Central Africa, and the Albertine Rift in East Africa. In addition, results provide explicit insights into chimpanzee habitat and how it may have shifted throughout time, enabling hypotheses of how global change has affected genetic and behavioural diversity to be tested in the future.

“By integrating past climate and human density estimates, as well as species richness of keystone tropical plants like figs and palms, this study provides strong evidence of glacial refugia for chimpanzees being geographically larger than previously thought, says the lead author of the study Dr Chris Barratt, a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv, MPI-EVA and UL. “It may well be that some of these refugia deserve greater levels of protection than they currently receive as they are important for the persistence of populations and species during periods of global change.”

The results provide a new resource for understanding patterns of genetic and behavioural diversity in chimpanzees. Chimpanzees exhibit highly differentiated genetic diversity, for example, lower in West Africa and higher in East and Central Africa, as well as high levels of behavioural differentiation based on the environmental variability they are exposed to, including Pleistocene forest refugia.

“We are only beginning to understand how past environmental changes have influenced the diversity in great apes we find today”, says the senior author of the study Dr Hjalmar Kühl, head of the Junior Research Group ‘Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology’ at iDiv and MPI-EVA. “A better understanding of these processes will tell us when variable environments serve as engines of diversification and when not. In the end, these insights into great apes will also offer insights into our own evolution.”

“To effectively conserve chimpanzees (and other species) over the centuries to come, it is essential to understand the past,” says Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a co-author of the study. “Humans are changing the planet’s climate and its habitats ever more rapidly. Approaches such as those used in this study are vital for predicting how these changes will affect future wildlife abundance and distribution, and to ensure space and safety for a multitude of species.”

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Barratt, C. D., …, Onstein, R. E., Junker J., …, Sop, T., …, Arandjelovic, M. & Kühl, H. (2021): Quantitative estimates of glacial refugia for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) since the Last Interglacial (120,000 BP), American Journal of Primatology, DOI: 10.1002/ajp.23320

 

Contact:

Dr Christopher Barratt
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Phone: +49 341 9733113
Email: christopher_david.barratt@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/969.html

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members Media Release Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology Evolution and Adaptation TOP NEWS Tue, 31 Aug 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Survival strategy of starving spruces trees: the critical role of reserves https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2250.html Spruces even digest parts of themselves during periods of starvation to ensure long-term survival Spruces even digest parts of themselves during periods of starvation to ensure long-term survival

Based on a media release from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

Young spruce trees build up nutrient reserves even during long periods of famine. This is what scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (BGC), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (FSU) and other institutions have discovered. They manage to do this even when the energy supply through photosynthesis is paralysed in the long term, as in the case of climate extremes, for example by stopping their growth and even obtaining energy through self-digestion. Until now, it was assumed that this was only possible if enough photosynthesis products were available and growth processes were covered. The study has now been published in the journal PNAS. The knowledge can be used to improve models that predict the fate of forests against the background of climate change.

Trees and entire forests worldwide are threatened by increasing climate extremes and ensuing insect infestations. As sessile organisms, trees cannot escape threatening environmental conditions and must adapt their metabolic processes to confront the threats. Crucially important for plants is the production of energy-rich sugar molecules (carbohydrates) by photosynthesis. These compounds serve as both energy sources and basic building blocks for all metabolic processes. During climate extremes such as prolonged drought or heat, photosynthesis is impaired and trees produce fewer carbohydrates because CO2 uptake declines and water is scarce. The demand for energy-rich sugars is then not met and plants have to rely on stored reserves to maintain vital metabolic processes. When reserves become depleted, plants may starve to death or become vulnerable to disease and insect attacks as the defence system fails.

Despite their critical role, it was assumed until now that reserves like soluble sugars, starch or fats are only formed when photosynthetic conditions are favourable and their rate of production exceeds the demand from other functions such as growth. "From an evolutionary perspective that doesn't make sense. Trees have to survive for decades before they can reproduce, and a reliable source of quickly available reserves plays a crucial role in surviving frequent unfavourable periods" underlines Dr Henrik Hartmann, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (BGC) in Jena. “Why should a tree invest in growth instead of ensuring immediate and future survival by accumulating more reserves?” 

To investigate the importance of storage for tree survival, Dr Jianbei Huang, a postdoctoral researcher in the research group and first author of the recent study, subjected young spruce trees to a starvation treatment by growing them at very low CO2 concentrations for several weeks. This allowed him to simulate reduced photosynthetic rates that occur during climate extremes when studying the plants’ carbohydrates. Initially, readily available storage compounds decreased as expected, since they were used for metabolism and could not be replenished under reduced CO2 supply. Surprisingly, as CO2 starvation progressed, the storage compounds stabilized at a constant level and trees stopped growing. “When photosynthetic output became too low to adequately supply carbon to all functions, the trees reduced their growth and diverted available resources to storage,” Huang concludes. 

Three to five weeks after the onset of CO2 starvation, the researchers also examined the genetic activity of plant cells, in particular the expression of genes that encode enzymes involved in metabolic processes. “We found for the first time that after prolonged starvation the production of enzymes responsible for fast-access storage compounds was increased,” Huang says. In contrast, gene expression of enzymes involved in growth processes, such as cellulose and lignin production, was greatly reduced, thus confirming the trade-off between storage and growth at the molecular level. 
 
Even more surprising, metabolic pathways for alternative energy production were boosted, as found by increased production of enzymes responsible for the conversion of complex fat molecules into energy-rich carbohydrates. "It seems that plants prefer to sacrifice expendable structures and apparently even digest themselves, rather than to give up on storage formation,” says Hartmann. “So the strategy for energy production and storage, while shutting down unnecessary energy consumption for growth, is consistently implemented during CO2 starvation”.

How long trees may survive climate extremes using this strategy and whether apparently healthy-looking trees might already be in the emergency mode of self-digestion, are follow-up questions that research should urgently tackle. Altogether, the novel finding that carbon-starved spruce trees build up reserves gives hope that this adaptation allows forests to recover from climate stress.

Previous studies on storage strategies in plants were limited to short-lived herbaceous species like Arabidopsis, covering only hours to a few days. However, for long-lived plants that take decades to reproduce and that are continuously exposed to changing seasons and sporadic climate extremes, findings on Arabidopsis may be of little relevance. “Of course, trees must follow a storage strategy that allows them to survive longer than biennial herbs,” says Huang, “how else have they managed to persist on Earth for nearly 400 million years?” 

“Our collaborative findings, that even under extreme stress - carbon depletion - spruce trees still can store reserves, are novel and unexpected”, says Prof. Nicole van Dam, a co-author from iDiv and FSU. “They give hope that severely stressed forest trees may use these reserves to recover.”

Conifers, such as the spruce trees studied here, dominate many Northern Hemisphere ecosystems and have other very important ecological functions besides absorbing and storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Yet, many conifer species are not adapted to the warmer and drier conditions imposed by climate change and are thus particularly threatened. Their survival and overall forest development are simulated in vegetation models. However, these are based on the older ideas that photosynthesis supply directly drives growth, ignoring the allocation of energy-rich sugars into storage and reserves. “Building on our new findings, such models can now be designed more realistically,” Hartmann emphasizes, “and more reliable model outcomes are extremely important to predict the future of our forests, especially under advancing climate change.”

Original Publication: 
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Huang, J., Hammerbacher, A., Gershenzonm J., van Dam, N., Sala, A., McDowell, N. G., Chowdhury, S., Gleixner, G., Trumbore, S. & Hartmann, H. (2021): Storage of carbon reserves in spruce trees is prioritized over growth in the face of carbon limitation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023297118

Contact:

Dr Jianbei Huang
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena (BGC)
Department of Biogeochemical Processes
Postdoctoral researcher
Email: hjianbei@bgc-jena.mpg.de

Prof Dr Nicole van Dam
Head of research group Molecular Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller-University Jena (FSU)
Phone: +49 341 9733165
Email: nicole.vandam@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/van_dam_nicole.html

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

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Media Release iDiv Members Molecular Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Mon, 09 Aug 2021 21:00:00 +0200
Special honour for biodiversity researcher Josef Settele https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2247.html Taxonomists name a new butterfly genus Setteleia Taxonomists name a new butterfly genus Setteleia

New species in the animal and plant kingdoms are often named after public figures. Prof Dr Josef Settele has now received this special honour: A new genus was named after the biodiversity researcher and butterfly expert, who conducts research at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv): Setteleia. It consists of four moth species that belong to the subfamily of Arctiinae and occur in the Philippines. 

Original publication:

Anton V. Volynkin, Karel Černý (2021): Setteleia, a New Genus for Four New Species from the Philippines (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Arctiinae), Zoological Studies 60:27. DOI: 10.6620/ZS.2021.60-27

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 13 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Coastal Ecosystems Worldwide: Billion-dollar Carbon Reservoirs https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2239.html Climate and ecosystem change lead to a global redistribution of wealth Climate and ecosystem change lead to a global redistribution of wealth

Based on a media release by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel)

Kiel/Leipzig. Coastal ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, salt marshes and mangrove forests are valuable to humans in many ways. In particular, they store carbon - and do so with a much higher surface density than forests, for example. They thus make an important contribution to mitigating climate change. Australia's coastal ecosystems alone, which absorb a particularly large amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, save the rest of the world climate-related costs of around 23 billion US dollar a year. This is according to calculations just published in Nature Climate Change by researchers at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Universities of Kiel and Leipzig (UL) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

According to the study, Australia, Indonesia and the USA provide the largest carbon storage potential with their coastal ecosystems. The team also calculated which countries benefit most from the coastal CO2 uptake worldwide. The different ways in which countries are affected by climate change are quantified by using the so-called social costs of carbon.

“If we take into account the differences in marginal climate damages that occur in each country, we find that Australia and Indonesia are clearly the largest donors in terms of globally avoided climate damages originating from coastal CO2 uptake, as they themselves derive comparatively little benefit from the high storage potential of their coasts,” says Dr Wilfried Rickels, who heads the Global Commons and Climate Policy Research Center at the Kiel Institute. “The U.S., on the other hand, also store a lot of carbon in their coastal ecosystems, but at the same time benefit the most from natural sinks behind India and China. In monetary terms, the three countries realize annual welfare gains of about 26.4 billion US dollars (India), 16.6 billion US dollars (China) and 14.7 billion US dollars (U.S.) thanks to global coastal ecosystems and the resulting lower climate impact costs.”

The basis for the monetary calculations is the so-called social cost of carbon, which allow assessing the contribution of coastal carbon uptake in the “inclusive wealth” concept. ‘Inclusive wealth’ is defined as the totality of all-natural and man-made capital stocks, valued with so-called shadow prices, i.e. the contributions to social welfare. Among other factors, the absolute scarcity of resources plays an important role in shadow prices. Atmospheric CO2 has a negative impact on welfare primarily through climate change. However, countries are differently affected by climate change and accordingly country-specific shadow prices are used in the study.

The analysis does not include other carbon sinks or emissions from energy and industry. When carbon emissions from energy and industry are also considered, only Guinea-Bissau, Belize, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Guinea, Comoros, Samoa, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea make a net positive contribution through their coastal ecosystems since they store more CO2 in coastal ecosystems than they emit in total. 

The study also emphasizes that carbon storage is only a small part of the positive impacts of coastal ecosystems for humans. “Coastal ecosystems are an essential component of marine ecosystems and are therefore particularly important for marine biodiversity and for fisheries. At the same time, they contribute to flood and coastal protection and are therefore important for adaptation to climate change,” emphasizes Prof Martin Quaas, who heads the Biodiversity Economics research group at iDiv and UL.

In any case, there is currently still a very strong focus on afforestation on land when it comes to the challenges of achieving the Paris climate goals. “Marine CO2 uptake, as well as its enhancement, requires more attention in the debate on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and net-negative CO2 emissions targets,” Rickels points out. Especially a possible weakening of the marine carbon sinks would require even more significant mitigation and carbon dioxide removal efforts. “The coasts, with their numerous different user groups as well as possible conflicts of use, have a special role to play here.”  

The natural capital approach used in the study is suitable for assessing the redistribution resulting from CO2 emissions and CO2 sinks, which, unlike existing market-based assessments, is not influenced by the stringency of the underlying climate policy. The researchers plan to explore this question in further studies.

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication:

Bertram, C., Quaas, M., Reusch, T. B. H., Vafeidis, A. T., Wolff, C., Rickels, W. (2021): The blue carbon wealth of nations. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 41558-021-01089-4

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Martin Quaas
Head of research group Biodiversity Economics
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Leipzig University
Phone: Please contact the iDiv Media and Communications department
Email: martin.quaas@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

Dr Wilfried Rickels
Director Global Commons and Climate Policy Research Center
Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
Phone: +49 431 8814-408
Email: wilfried.rickels@ifw-kiel.de

 

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Biodiversity Economics Fri, 09 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Into the third funding phase with a boost for growth https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2235.html iDiv research centre to receive additional millions Central German research centre iDiv to receive additional millions

Bonn. The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig has succeeded in its application for further funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG). On Tuesday, the Joint Committee of the DFG approved support for iDiv in the third funding phase with around 11.5 million euros annually. This represents an increase of 26 percent over the second funding phase. Even after DFG funding ends, probably in 2024, backing for iDiv as a multipolar university centre for biodiversity research with Central German roots and global purview is to be continued by its host institutions and federal states, along with the support of other funders such as the state of Germany. 

The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig has been researching global biodiversity change since its establishment in 2012. Close to 300 people now work at the DFG research centre, many in the new building at the Alte Messe in Leipzig, completed in 2020. In addition, the more than 100 member groups of this scientific network conduct research at locations and facilities in Halle, Jena and Leipzig.

According to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), up to one million species are threatened with extinction. iDiv aims to assess this global crisis, research its consequences and show ways in which we can sustainably manage biodiversity. The tools of the biodiversity researchers range from satellites to smartphone apps, and from DNA sequencers and high-performance computers to construction cranes. In just the nine-year period since iDiv was founded, research platforms such as the Leipzig Canopy Crane, the iDiv Ecotron, and virtual data platforms have also been set up and networked with one another, mainly in Central Germany. This distinctive infrastructure supports the uniqueness of the centre: the integration of various disciplines and expertise to answer urgent societal questions. The research centre has, at the same time, earned an outstanding international reputation. This prominence is based on, among other things, sDiv; the iDiv Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences. So far, over 1000 scientists from 60 countries have travelled to Leipzig for a wide range of projects in order to answer scientific questions in new ways. Also contributing to the reputation of the research centre is its graduate school, with almost 80 doctoral researchers. This will be expanded to include a programme for postdoctoral researchers in the new funding phase. In March, international reviewers, on behalf of the DFG, recognised the high quality of iDiv’s work and made a recommendation for further funding. This was acknowledged by the DFG Joint Committee, with iDiv’s requested funding amount subsequently being made available without any reduction. With this, the DFG research centre is able to take advantage of a further boost in growth and moves with increased strength into the crucial third funding phase. Basic funding from the DFG will end in 2024 and a new funding model will come into operation. The Ministers of Science of the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony have already set the course for this with the policy statement they signed in July 2019.

The institutions contributing as partners to the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) are and will remain Leipzig University, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). In addition, several Leibniz and Max Planck Institutes are involved as cooperation partners.

Everyone involved in iDiv was delighted with the DFG’s decision. Here are a few of the reactions: 

Prof Dr Christian Wirth (iDiv Speaker, Research group head at Leipzig University, Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry)
“The DFG’s decision is an overwhelming vote of confidence. We’ll use the funds to further intensify our efforts. Our planet is becoming increasingly depleted, and species are irretrievably lost day after day, so we’re working under time pressure on strategies that will enable us to protect and sustainably manage biodiversity. We’re grateful that we have the full support of the DFG and that of our partners in the three Central German states for this important task.”

Prof Dr Tiffany M Knight (iDiv Speaker, Research group head at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ))
“The feedback we received from the reviewers acknowledges our efforts during the past years. We have created an environment where researchers with different expertise can interact and inspire each other. I enjoy not only having a great consortium of colleagues from the region, but also the ability to synthesize biodiversity knowledge with colleagues from all around the world. I am grateful that the DFG enables us to continue our work in the years to come.”

Prof Dr Walter Rosenthal (Chair of the iDiv Board of Trustees, President of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena)
“The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has turned Halle, Jena and Leipzig into shining spots on the map of research into globally crucial issues of the future. The three universities, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and other non-university partners are combining their expertise with great commitment in order to understand biodiversity in all its facets and thus combat the dramatic loss of biodiversity. An international panel of experts has once again confirmed the network’s internationally highly recognised cutting-edge research, which is the basis of the funding. The universities of Halle, Jena and Leipzig and the UFZ, which form the core of iDiv, have already decided, like the federal states, to ensure the continuation of the national centre of excellence for biodiversity after the end of the DFG funding beyond 2024.”

Prof Dr Armin Willingmann (Minister for Economic Affairs, Science and Digitalisation for the state of Saxony-Anhalt)
“Continued funding by the DFG is proof of the high quality of research at iDiv. The centre also has a strong impact on its participating universities and partner institutions. An interdisciplinary network for biodiversity research has grown at the University of Halle, and a corresponding master's programme will start there from the winter semester of 2021. Biodiversity research is increasingly becoming a scientific discipline in its own right. This is linked to an important message: Anyone who wants to solve Earth's environmental problems can do more than demonstrate 'for future' on Fridays; they can also study in Halle, Jena or Leipzig with world-leading scientists to help shape our future. To make this offer even more attractive, the state of Saxony-Anhalt is supporting the corresponding focus and profile development at the University of Halle during the third funding period with an additional total of four million euros.”

Wolfgang Tiefensee (Thuringian State Minister of Economy, Science and Digital Society)
“Even in the midst of the pandemic, we must not forget that there are other major challenges that we also have to address with intensive research. Species extinction is one such challenge. We are very proud that the cross-state research centre iDiv has developed so well and that, after a rigorous review, the DFG is also providing funding for a third period. Thuringia is committed to securing the structures which have been established for after this final DFG funding period ends. The Thuringian share for this has already been included in the state budget.”

Sebastian Gemkow (Saxon State Minister of Science, Culture and Tourism)
“The global change in biodiversity presents huge challenges to society, not only regionally but also worldwide. Since 2012, iDiv has developed into an internationally visible beacon of biodiversity research, whose scientists are working on solutions to these urgent problems. As the reviewers also highlighted as exemplary, I see iDiv’s success as confirmation that important contributions to the existential issue of achieving biodiversity can be made with successful prioritisation of focus, a strong consortium – of the three universities and non-university partners – and intelligent research policy interaction. The state of Saxony has invested a lot of money in the construction of the new research building and the research greenhouse at iDiv’s central location in Leipzig. The clear vote of the reviewers and today’s decision by the DFG to continue funding iDiv for a final phase as a DFG research centre, which I’m very happy about, are both confirmation and motivation for us to ensure iDiv’s permanency and to support its development.”

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Prof Christian Wirth
iDiv Speaker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Email: christian.wirth@idiv.de
Web: https://www.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/profile/mitarbeiter/prof-dr-christian-wirth/

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups-and-people/central-management/media-service.html

 

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Media Release iDiv TOP NEWS Wed, 07 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Alarming state of our streams and rivers https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2236.html BUND, UFZ and iDiv are starting a citizen science project on stream monitoring BUND, UFZ and iDiv are starting a citizen science project on stream monitoring

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Berlin/Leipzig. The Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig are launching comprehensive monitoring of German rivers. The scientists want to study the pollution of smaller streams through pesticides and to record the effects on aquatic insect communities. The project aims to investigate the condition of German small water bodies in the long term and to promote biodiversity on this basis. Citizen scientists contribute to this process.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS iDiv Members Wed, 07 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0200
The art of biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2237.html The new forecourt of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig... The new forecourt of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig invites us to discover, wonder and linger, and arouses interest in the research centre.

Leipzig. There is a new, public space in front of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig. Located in the entrance area to the Alte Messe old trade fair area, it was created as part of the art in public places Kunst am Bau competition organised by the Staatsbetrieb Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement (SIB) (Saxon State Land and Construction Management). The artist group nachbars garten and the landscape architecture firm Station C23 were awarded the contract for their joint concept named chorus. The space welcomes visitors with winding paths, flowering lawns and groups of rounded, fusiform figures. It invites you to discover, wonder and linger, and arouses interest in the research centre.

In front of the new iDiv research centre building on Puschstrasse in the Alte Messe area of Leipzig there is a group of peculiar, recumbent, fusiform figures made of concrete. Could these be seals, cells or seashells, or something completely different? You have to go down winding paths to get to them; paths with curves that look like bends in a river, but do they perhaps also resemble branches or roots? Between the paths there are grassy areas where flowers bloom red, yellow and blue. This new space is eye-catching and arouses curiosity - what is this interplay of shapes, colours and materials all about?

The key idea is diversity 

The artist group nachbars garten - Elisabeth Howey, Enne Haehnle and Kay Zimmermann, won the State of Saxony’s art in public places Kunst am Bau competition in collaboration with landscape architect Michael Rudolph from Station C23. Their design ideas for the new research centre forecourt have become reality in recent months. As nachbars garten say, “Our interplay of nature and art is a feast for the visitor’s senses. The figures can be experienced in many ways; you can sit on them, touch them and explore the surfaces and spaces.” Because of the many possibilities of experiencing this space, the artists have called it chorus. The individual design elements should have an effect similar to that of a choir: multiple, diverse voices that can work both alone and together. “We chose round, intertwined, diverse shapes, colours and materials for the landscape design of chorus. This brings the space to life and enables the creation of a variety of impressions and moods,” adds Rudolph. 

The space invites you to research

iDiv speakers Prof Henrique Pereira and Prof Nicole van Dam welcome the artists’ work; it is an opportunity to raise public awareness of the research centre’s work. Mr Pereira is a Research Group Leader at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, and Ms van Dam is a Research Group Leader at iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Both were part of the jury who decided on the submitted concepts. “The garden spaces use a mix of local native species which do not require irrigation. And the sculptures represent biodiversity of shapes, interactions and change in nature. Ultimately, this allows the visitor to guess what is happening in the building behind it and what issues the people in this building are dealing with,” says Pereira. Van Dam adds “I often see passers-by exploring the shapes. In this way, the forecourt to our building becomes an artistic invitation to the public to explore what we are doing.”

Nature and art in constant change

The recumbent groups of figures are made of self-compacting concrete. The surface of the concrete has pores and hollows resulting from the casting process where, in the coming years, lichen and moss will grow, and more plants will be able to establish themselves in the spaces between the sculptures. Over 40 native wild herbs were planted and sown in the grassy areas, and snowy mespilus and English oaks grow in between. These areas will also be allowed to develop naturally. 

“The individual elements of the space are open and permeable; at the same time, they overlap and pervade each other,” says artist Elisabeth Howey. “Nature is an integral part of the design – here, nature and art can change together, and grow together and intertwine; nature becomes part of art and vice versa.” Through this project, the forecourt of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) can become a symbol of how humans change nature with artificially created structures and how nature then changes these structures. Both changes need to be experienced and explored. 

Further information: 
The newly designed forecourt is located in front of the German Centre for Biodiversity Research (iDiv) on the grounds of the Alte Messe – the former Leipzig Trade Fair area, on the corner of Zwickauer Strasse and Puschstrasse, directly at the tram stop An den Tierkliniken. An information pillar with details about the artwork will be placed on the forecourt within the next few days.

 

Contact:

Artist group nachbars garten
c/o Elisabeth Howey
Lützner Straße 91, Haus E
04177 Leipzig
Email: post@elisabethhowey.de

 

Urs Moesenfechtel, MA
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: urs.moesenfechtel@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 07 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Vegetation of planet Earth: Researchers publish unique database as Open Access https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2231.html sPlotOpen contains vegetation data from 114 countries of all climate zones sPlotOpen contains vegetation data from 114 countries of all climate zones

Based on a media release by the University of Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Halle/Amiens. It's a treasure trove of data: the global geodatabase of vegetation plots “sPlotOpen” is now freely accessible. It contains data on vegetation from 114 countries and from all climate zones on Earth. The database was compiled by an international team of researchers led by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Researchers around the world finally have a balanced, representative dataset of the Earth's vegetation at their disposal, as the team reports in the journal Global Ecology & Biogeography.

Global issues and questions require global answers. “If we want to understand or predict how climate change will affect biodiversity in all regions on Earth, we have to consider them in their entirety. We need more than just data from a few well-studied regions,” explains Professor Helge Bruelheide, a geobotanist at MLU and a member of iDiv. Instead, a global geodatabase is required with information on vegetation from all continents and climate zones.

Now, with the launch of “sPlotOpen”, this database not only exists but can be accessed by anyone who is interested. Around 100,000 vegetation plots from 114 countries have been entered into the database which has been released as open access. Each data point contains information on all of the plant species co-occurring at that location, alongside geographical, temporal and methodological metadata. This enables researchers to see exactly when, where and by whom the data point was collected.

Most importantly, sPlotOpen provides information about the complete plant community that can be found at the respective location. This is one of the great advantages of the new database, explains Dr Francesco Maria Sabatini from MLU and iDiv, who is coordinating the project together with Dr Jonathan Lenoir from the CNRS. “There are already several databases that show the distribution of individual plant species worldwide. In reality, however, plant species rarely occur alone and in isolation,” says the researcher. With the aid of sPlotOpen, scientists could figure out whether the data was collected from a forest - with various tree and grass species - or a meadow. According to the biologist, this is important when selecting individual surveys for specific research projects that are meant to investigate, for instance, only forests or grasslands.

Another advantage is that the team has attempted to balance the data. "There is already an incredible wealth of data on vegetation in Europe, North America and Australia. But, for many different reasons, there is much less data on other regions," says Sabatini. If the data from all countries were compared without weighting it first, false conclusions could be drawn. Therefore, the team tried to establish certain comparability between the datasets from different regions. For example, not all data from Western Europe was included in the project - only a representative selection. The team already balanced the data for the benefit of future users. This should prevent a striking imbalance of data over regions that are less well documented, for example, warm or cold, dry or humid climates.

“Our database has the potential to be a gamechanger for research projects in the field of macroecology and beyond,” explains Sabatini. It could also be used in the field of geoscience, for example, to train algorithms for analysing satellite images. If you know where a certain community of plants exists, you can associate this plant community to a specific pattern in satellite images, namely a specific spectral community, and search other images for the same patterns.

In order to create this unique set of data, the team from Germany and France have relied on the support of 161 researchers from 57 countries who participated in the project by providing data. “Behind these individual datasets are countless colleagues and students, who went to the field collecting data in the first place. The sPlotOpen database could not exist without them,” says Sabatini. The data also comes from national projects, such as the German Vegetation Reference Database, which is managed at MLU by Helge Bruelheide’s research group.

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sPlot. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Sabatini F.M., ..., Dengler, Jürgen, ..., Jandt, Ute, ..., Kattge, J., ..., Kühl, H. S., ..., Wesche, K., Bruelheide, H. (2021): sPlotOpen - An environmentally-balanced, open-access, global dataset of vegetation plots. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Doi: 10.1111/geb.13346

 

Contact:

Dr Francesco Maria Sabatini
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 345 5526199
Email: francesco.sabatini@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/892.html

 

Prof Helge Bruelheide
Professor for Geobotany
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Co-Director of the
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-345 5526222
Email: helge.bruelheide@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: http://www.botanik.uni-halle.de/geobotanik/helge_bruelheide/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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sDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release MLU News Tue, 22 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Dragonflies: Species losses and gains in Germany https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2187.html Some dragonfly and damselfly species suffer from habitat loss and degradation, while many species... Some dragonfly and damselfly species suffer from habitat loss and degradation, while many species benefit from improved water quality and warmer climate

Leipzig/Jena. Over the past 35 years, there have been large shifts in the distributions of many dragonfly and damselfly species in Germany. Many species of standing water habitats have declined, probably due to loss of habitat. On the other hand, running-water species, living in rivers and creeks, and warm-adapted species have benefited from improved water quality and warmer temperatures. This was found by a team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The study, published in Diversity and Distributions, highlights the importance of citizen science and natural history societies for long-term data collection and nature conservation efforts for improving biodiversity.

Germany is a hotspot for dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) species in Europe, owing to the range of habitats and climates that it provides. While many recent and mostly small-scale studies suggest long-term declines of insect populations in different parts of Europe, studies of freshwater insects – including dragonflies and damselflies – suggest that some species have increased in occurrence. Researchers of iDiv, FSU and UFZ have now provided a nationwide analysis of the occurrence and distribution of dragonflies and damselflies in Germany between 1980 and 2016. For this, they analysed over 1 million occurrence records on 77 species from different regional databases, most of which were collected by citizen scientists and collated by the natural history society of German-speaking odonatologists (GdO).

Habitat loss threatens species of standing waterbodies

The researchers found both losses and gains, but are concerned about the decline of species using standing water habitats. Decreases were observed in 29% of species, mainly in cold-adapted species that prefer standing water habitats such as bogs and fens. Many of these species are already threatened with extinction. These species rely on small or shallow water bodies, which have been vulnerable to droughts and lower groundwater levels. “These species are suffering a lot from habitat loss and degradation. Here, we are still facing serious conservation challenges,” said first author Dr Diana Bowler from iDiv, FSU and UFZ.

Overall, the analysis suggests that cold-adapted habitat specialists of standing water habitats are likely to be most vulnerable to further environmental change, including climate change. 

Warm-adapted and running-water species on the rise

By contrast, the study results show increases in the occurrence of 45% of all species, in general, warm-adapted species. “Formerly rare species such as Crocothemis erythraea and Erythromma viridulum have become much more common across Germany,” said Diana Bowler. “These species prefer warmer temperatures and so their increase in Germany is most probably an outcome of long-term climate change.”

Among the winners were also running-water species, which signals the conservation success that can be achieved by better environmental management. “The increase of these species reflects a recovery from the impacts of past water pollution and the almost complete destruction of natural floodplains,” said Klaus-Jürgen Conze, chair GdO. In Germany, projects to improve freshwater quality and river restoration were initiated in the 1990s and the EU Water Framework Directive was adopted in 2000.

Great value of citizen science efforts

A large share of the data was collected by citizen scientists and natural history societies, such as the GdO. “Our study highlights the great value of these monitoring efforts for assessing changes in species’ occurrences. We found some signs of accelerating declines in the last decade, which highlights the need to support the efforts of these societies in the future,” said senior author Prof Aletta Bonn from UFZ, FSU and iDiv. 

This study was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”. sMon is an iDiv synthesis project with the aim of bringing together exemplary data sets on a variety of taxa and habitats in order to explore the possibilities for, and limitations of the analysis of changes in biodiversity. Based on this, prospects for future monitoring programmes in Germany are to be determined. sMon brings together government representatives from all federal states, scientists and members of various professional associations.
Kati Kietzmann


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)

Diana E. Bowler, David Eichenberg, Klaus-Jürgen Conze, Frank Suhling, Kathrin Baumann, Theodor Benken, André Bönsel, Torsten Bittner, Arne Drews, André Günther, Nick J.B. Isaac, Falk Petzold, Marcel Seyring, Torsten Spengler, Bernd Trockur, Christoph Willigalla, Helge Bruelheide, Florian Jansen, Aletta Bonn (2021). Winners and losers over 35 years of dragonfly and damselfly distributional change in Germany. Diversity and Distributions, DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13274

 

Contact:

Dr Diana Bowler
Postdoctoral researcher Ecosystem Services
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Phone: +49 341 9733199
Email: diana.bowler@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/975.html

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Research Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Ecosystem Services Fri, 18 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Leipzig's Botanical Garden is humming and buzzing again https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2217.html Exhibition offers insights into the world of plants and their pollinators. Exhibition offers insights into the world of plants and their pollinators.

Leipzig. From 12 June to 30 September, the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University hosts an exhibition that sheds light on the world of plants and their pollinators. The collaborative project of young researchers and artists from Leipzig shows that there is much more to it than the story of flowers and bees.

Flowering meadows, golden fields of canola and plants loaded with fruits and vegetables – these are some of the things that are typical for the warmer season in our part of the world. But what would summer be without the humming of bees and bumblebees and the diversity of other pollinating insects? The relationship between those insects and their host plants is in the center of an exhibition at Leipzig University’s Botanical Garden, which will open its doors on 12 June 2021. The exhibition is in German, but all posters come with an English version, which can be accessed via a QR code. 

The exhibition was planned and organised by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). „Last year, our exhibition was met with great interest, which is why we decided to build on our experiences and relaunch it this year. Visitors can look forward to an extended program with some novelties and elements of surprise,“ says Professor Tiffany Knight, head of the Spatial Interaction Ecology group at iDiv, MLU and UFZ.  

The exhibition focuses on the complex relationship of insects and plants that live in our gardens: how do these relationships evolve and what is their role in ecology? What are the effects of climate change and land use on the complex networks of pollinators and plants? A special highlight of the exhibition is a living colony of bumblebees as part of the indoor exhibition. „Almost everybody knows how honeybees are kept and what their colonies look like. But who has ever seen the inside of a bumblebee hive? Our visitors can have this experience and learn more about these pollinators,” says Dr Demetra Rakosy, researcher at iDiv and UFZ and one of the main organisers of the exhibition.

Examples of local initiatives and practical tips for how we can help protect our native flora and fauna round off the exhibition. For example, visitors of the outdoor area of the exhibition will find inspiration how to design their balcony or garden in a pollinator-friendly way.

The exhibition is hosted by the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University. Since 13 May, the outdoor area of the Botanical Garden has been open to the public again, the indoor areas including the popular butterfly house will follow on 12 June.

On the occasion of the Long Night of the Sciences Leipzig, which takes place online on 16 July from 6 pm, the exhibition will be turned into a virtual experience. The focus is obvious: nocturnal pollinators.

Kati Kietzmann


„Blütenbesucher: Beziehungsgeschichten aus der Natur“
(Flower seekers: the intertwined story of pollinators and plants)

Opening dates: 12 June to 30 September 2021 (depending on current local regulations)

Place: Botanical Garden Leipzig, Linnéstraße 1, 04103 Leipzig

www.idiv.de/bluetenbesucher

 

Related links

Botanischer Garten der Universität Leipzig
https://www.bota.uni-leipzig.de

Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften Leipzig
https://www.wissen-in-leipzig.de/

 

Contact:

Prof Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Dr Demetra Rakosy
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: demetra.rakosy@ufz.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Media Release Fri, 11 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Climate change, biodiversity loss and social justice – these challenges can only be overcome together https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2218.html New workshop report on climate and biodiversity offers guidelines for pioneering policies New workshop report on climate and biodiversity offers guidelines for pioneering policiesg principles for forward-looking policies

Based on a media release by Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Kiel/Leipzig. The fight against global warming and for sustainable development can only succeed if, from now on, humankind considers the issues of climate change, biodiversity loss and social justice together, and takes them into account equally in all political decisions – globally, nationally and regionally – as well as their interactions. According to the German co-authors, this is the most important takeaway from a new workshop report on biodiversity and climate change, the first to be jointly prepared by experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report to which scientists from AWI, UFZ, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and other institutions contributed, shows why especially phasing out fossil fuels is important for limiting global warming and for conserving nature. In addition, they demonstrate how healthy ecosystems can make long-term contributions to climate. 

At the same time, the authors reveal the extent to which one-sided climate actions like large-scale cultivation of energy crops can harm the environment in both the short and long term, and reduce its ability to regulate the climate and provide sufficient food, drinking water and other services essential to our survival. 

“Our synthesis reveals the diverse ways in which the climate and the environments of the Earth influence one another. As such, we can’t look at them separately, since both aspects are essential for the sustainable, socially just development of human communities: We need as little global warming as possible, and a biodiverse, productive and resilient environment,” says Prof Hans-Otto Pörtner, a climate researcher and marine biologist at the AWI who jointly coordinated the workshop report with the South African conservation expert Prof Robert J. Scholes. 

These close ties pose tremendous challenges to political decision-makers. “If the international community wants to reach the goals it has set for climate mitigation, nature conservation and development, it will have no choice but to jointly consider the needs of the climate, the environment and local people. In other words, the tasks involved will become more complex because e.g. climate actions that sound promising in the first place can have far-reaching negative impacts on the environment and local people,” says co-author and biodiversity expert Prof Josef Settele from UFZ and iDiv. 

The challenge: consistently tapping the climate mitigation potential that the environment holds, while simultaneously keeping an eye on ecosystems’ limits

One striking example is the clearing of tropical rainforests to make way for planting energy crops like soy and oil palm. But in Central Europe, too, the growing competition for land raises the question of how agriculture, forestry or coastal use need to be pursued in order to strike a sustainable balance of interests between climate, environment and human beings – in other words: to preserve biodiversity, produce sufficient and nutritious food and minimise greenhouse-gas emissions, while also retaining as much of the carbon stored in forests and soils (including the seabed) as possible. “Climate-friendly land use is possible if in decision-making we take into account how much the respective environment is capable to deliver, and which forms of use allow as many people as possible to profit from it,” says Settele. 

When it comes to forests, political decision-makers are faced e.g. with the question of whether to intensively cultivate monocultures for raw materials and energy production or to promote the establishment of biodiverse ecosystems. “However, given how rapidly climate change is progressing, we can’t automatically assume that our native tree species will be suited to the future climate,” says Pörtner. There is growing evidence that local species won’t be robust enough. And this is equally true for tree species currently in the mid-latitudes and those in the tropical rainforests.

The wrong approach: Biodiversity conservation cannot justify continued emissions 

In light of these new findings, new policy strategies that offset greenhouse-gas emissions produced in energy-intensive sectors by ecosystem restoration and nature conservation measures would appear misleading and counterproductive. “In terms of climate policy, it makes no sense whatsoever to justify the continued emission of greenhouse gases with the argument that an existing forest isn’t cut down,” says Pörtner. “In the short term, the world needs to achieve drastic emissions reductions in order to stop the temperature rise, but at the same time, it needs to preserve and restore large, healthy ecosystems, which once emissions are down will allow us to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is released by human activities. We should view the environment’s services as an additional resource, one that should be expanded on in the long term.” 

This type of climate and nature conservation policy would have the best chances of success if, at the same time, there were major undertakings in the social context: “What we need to do is combat poverty worldwide and get rid of inequality. Due to their precarious social and financial circumstances, many people have no choice but to eke out a living with hunting, illegal fishing, gold mining or other activities that contribute to the wide-scale overexploitation of the environment. Freeing them from their plight would be an important contribution to sustainable climate and nature conservation,” Pörtner claims. 

Nature conservation and climate actions as a joint guiding principle for all political decisions

The participating researchers feel that the new workshop report offers an important basis for future political decision-making: “It brings together the climate crisis, biodiversity crisis and social crisis, and shows that these three crises can only be overcome through parallel, harmonised transformation processes,” Settele summarises. 

It would be conceivable e.g. to introduce a biodiversity law based on the model of Germany’s Federal Climate Change Act or combine the two. In this way, the authors claim, the topic of nature conservation could be liberated from its current political niche and a pioneering biodiversity protection approach could be established that transcended the boundaries between ministries. In the future, they conclude, all political decisions should be assessed on the basis of how well they achieve the best possible outcomes for climate, biodiversity and local communities. 

The IPBES-IPCC Workshop Report on Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change has been published today and can be downloaded at www.ipbes.net/BiodiversityClimateScience  

You can find a German translation of the report synopsis here: https://www.ufz.de/export/data/2/253961_Workshop-Bericht_FINAL.pdf

A total of 50 authors and a 12-member scientific steering committee were involved in the workshop report. The following nine scientists from German-speaking countries contributed to the workshop report:

  • Prof Almuth Arneth, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT); 
  • Prof Nico Eisenhauer, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; 
  • Prof Markus Fischer, Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern (Switzerland); 
  • Prof Thomas Hickler, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) and Goethe University Frankfurt; 
  • Dr Ute Jacob, Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) at the University of Oldenburg; 
  • Prof Wolfgang Kiessling, GeoZentrum Nordbayern; 
  • Dr Alexander Popp, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).  
  • Prof Hans-Otto Pörtner, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)
  • Prof Josef Settele, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

The IPBES-IPCC Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change gather the outcomes of a joint online workshop that brought together selected authors from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The workshop was held from 14 to 17 December 2020. Neither the Workshop Report nor the conclusions presented therein were subject to the official review procedures employed by the IPBES and IPCC. Further, the Report was not officially approved by the full assembly of either institution and as such is neither an official IPBES publication nor an official IPCC publication. Rather, the Workshop Report, which was reviewed by more than 20 external experts prior to publication, is to be considered an additional resource that the authors of both intergovernmental institutions may consult in connection with current and future reports. 

 

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Josef Settele
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)
Department Biozönoseforschung
Email: josef.settele@ufz.de
Web: http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=38572

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Experimental Interaction Ecology Thu, 10 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
How climate defines the traits of plant roots https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2201.html New study challenges the nature of ecological trade-offs New study challenges the nature of ecological trade-offs

Leipzig/Wyoming/Wageningen. The specific traits of a plant’s roots determine the climatic conditions under which this plant prevails. A new study led by the University of Wyoming (UW) together with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) published in Nature Ecology and Evolution sheds light on this relationship – and challenges the nature of ecological trade-offs.

Plant roots generally remain hidden belowground, but their role for the distribution of plants should not be underestimated: Roots are essential for water and nutrient uptake, yet little is known about the influence of root traits on species distributions. To investigate this relationship, an international team of researchers analysed the root trait database GRooT and the vegetation database sPlot, each being the largest database of its kind. The work was facilitated by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, which supports collaboration of scientists from different countries and disciplines.

Temperature and water supply define root traits

The researchers analysed several plant root traits: the specific root length and root diameter on the one hand, and the root tissue density and root nitrogen content on the other hand and compared them to the environmental conditions under which these plants occur. The researchers found that in forests, species with relatively thick fine roots and high root tissue density were more likely to occur in warm climates while species with more delicate and longer fine roots and low root tissue density were found more often in cold climates – a classical trade-off.

By contrast, forest species with large-diameter roots and high root tissue density were more commonly associated with dry climates, but species with the opposite trait values were not associated with wet climates. Instead, a diversity of root traits occurred in warm or wet climates. 

Root traits challenge the nature of ecological trade-offs

Ecological theory is built on trade-offs where trait differences among species evolved as adaptations to different environments, but you cannot have it all: an organism can be good in certain things at the cost of something else. For plants, this means that low trait values (e.g. low specific root length in this study) are associated with advantages under certain climate conditions, whereas high trait values (e.g. high specific root length) confer benefits under opposing conditions. 

However, certain root traits did not follow this general theory but were associated with unidirectional benefits: there is a benefit for high trait values in certain environmental conditions, but no benefit of low trait values in other conditions. “We were surprised at how common these unidirectional benefits were in roots compared to classical trade-offs,” says first author Daniel Laughlin, plant ecologist from the University of Wyoming. “This challenges our understanding of how traits drive species distributions, which we have been puzzled by as a scientific community,” adds last author Alexandra Weigelt, plant ecologist at Leipzig University and member of iDiv. 

This suggests that unidirectional benefits might be more widespread than previously thought. Unidirectional benefits were consistently associated with the more extreme cold and dry climates that are more resource-limited than warm and wet climates. By contrast, warm and wet climates were associated with a larger diversity of root traits. “We believe that our work helps to understand the trait combinations that are possible in certain climate zones. This is important knowledge for ecosystem restoration in a changing world,” says Liesje Mommer, plant ecologist at the University of Wageningen.

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sROOT. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.

Kati Kietzmann


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
Daniel C. Laughlin, Liesje Mommer, …, Francesco Maria Sabatini, Helge Bruelheide, …, Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ramírez, …, Jens Kattge, …, Fons van der Plas, …, Jürgen Dengler, …, Alexandra Weigelt (2021). Root traits explain plant species distributions along climatic gradients yet challenge the nature of ecological trade-offs. Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01471-7

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Alexandra Weigelt
Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
University of Leipzig
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-341-97-38594
Email: alexandra.weigelt@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release sDiv TOP NEWS iDiv Wed, 09 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Global change: a tight squeeze for African great apes https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2204.html Researchers predict massive decline in the range of African great apes over the next 30 years Researchers predict massive decline in the range of African great apes over the next 30 years

Based on a media release from the Wildlife Conservation Society

Liverpool/Leipzig/Halle. Climate change will drastically reduce the range of African great apes over the next 30 years. This was predicted by an international team of researchers with the participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). In various models, they calculated the effects of climate change, changing land use and human population growth on the future range of gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. The existing protected areas are not sufficient to preserve important populations in the long term, the researchers warn in the journal Diversity and Distributions

For their analysis, the authors compiled information on the occurrence of African great apes stored in the A.P.E.S. database of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). This database contains a remarkable amount of information on population status, threats and conservation measures for several hundred sites, collected over 20 years (http://apesportal.eva.mpg.de/).

The researchers quantified for the first time the joint effects of climate, land-use, and human population changes across African ape ranges for the year 2050 under best- and worst-case scenarios. “’Best case’ implies slowly declining carbon emissions and that appropriate mitigation measures will be put in place,” explains Jessica Junker, a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU and co-author of the publication. “’Worst case’ assumes that emissions continue to rise unchecked - in other words, business as usual.”

Under the best-case scenario, the authors predict that great apes will lose 85 per cent of their range, of which 50 per cent will be outside national parks and other areas protected by legislation. Under the worst-case scenario, they predict a 94 per cent loss, of which 61 per cent will be in areas that are not protected.

Existing protected areas are not enough

At present, higher altitudes are less attractive for some great ape species - mainly because of the reduced food supply. But climate change is changing that. Lowland areas are becoming warmer and drier, vegetation is shifting upwards. If great apes can physically move from the lowlands to the mountains, they may be able to survive and even increase their range - depending on the species and whether the best- and worst-case scenarios occur,” However, they may not be able to travel away from the lowlands in the time remaining between today and 2050.”

“By integrating future climate and land-use changes as well as human population scenarios, this study provides strong evidence for synergistic interactions among key global drivers constraining African ape distribution,” says lead author of the study Joana Carvalho, a postdoctoral researcher at Liverpool John Moores University's Faculty of Science. “The fact that the greatest range losses are expected to occur outside protected areas reflects the insufficiency of the current network of protected areas in Africa to preserve suitable habitats for great apes and effectively connect great ape populations.”

Habitats need to be connected

The results corroborate other recent studies showing that African ape populations and their habitats are declining dramatically. All African great apes are classified either as endangered (mountain gorillas, bonobos, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, eastern chimpanzees, and central chimpanzees) or critically endangered (Cross River gorillas, Grauer's gorillas, western lowland gorillas, and western chimpanzees) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The authors argue that effective conservation strategies need to be planned for each species, taking into account both existing and proposed protected areas. This is where habitat suitability models could help in the establishment and management of protected areas. In addition, maintaining and establishing linkages and corridors between habitats predicted to be suitable in the future will be critical for the survival of the African great apes. Land use planning and climate change mitigation measures urgently need to be integrated into government policies in those countries where great apes live.

Global consumption of natural resources too high

“The global consumption of natural resources extracted from great ape ranges is one of the main causes of great ape decline”, says last author Dr Hjalmar Kühl from iDiv and MPI EVA. “All nations that benefit from these resources have a responsibility to ensure a better future for great apes, their habitats as well as the people living in them by advancing a more sustainable economy.”

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Carvalho, J.S., … , Junker, J., … & Kühl, H.S. (2021): Predicting range shifts of African apes under global change scenarios. Diversity and Distributions, DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13358

 

Contact:

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Dr Jessica Junker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733123
Email: jessica.junker@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members Media Release Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology TOP NEWS Mon, 07 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Dimensions of invasion success https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2203.html Patterns and drivers of alien plant species invasiveness in Europe identified by an international... Patterns and drivers of alien plant species invasiveness in Europe identified by an international research team

Based on a media release of the University of Konstanz

Invasive alien plants are plant species that grow in an environment outside their native habitat. If they successfully establish self-sustaining populations in these new environments – an event called “naturalization” – they can have considerable negative impacts on local ecosystems, economies, and societies. But not all alien plant species are equally effective in invading new habitats. Therefore, an international team of scientists, including several iDiv members and headed by Konstanz-based biologist Professor Mark van Kleunen, investigated different types of “invasiveness” and possible factors that determine invasion success of alien plants in Europe.

The new study, published in PNAS, describes plant species invasiveness using three distinct dimensions: local abundance, geographic extent, and habitat breadth. In the current study, these dimensions were assessed at a continental scale for large proportions of the alien and native European floras. High values in the variables characterise the most successful invaders. Introduction histories play an important role in performance along the three dimensions, as do some biological traits: Early introduction to Europe, non-European origin, and rapid growth are characteristics common to many “super-invaders”. The findings of the study improve our general understanding of how plant species – invasive and native ones – distribute and may help to better predict and manage future plant invasions.

Key facts

  • Plant species invasiveness is described using three distinct dimensions: local abundance, geographic extent, and habitat breadth. “Super-invaders” are characterised by high values in all three variables.
  • Introduction date and geographic origin of an alien invasive plant play important roles in performance along the three dimensions, as do some biological traits that allow for rapid growth.
  • The three-dimensional framework of “invasiveness” improves our general understanding of plant distribution dynamics and may help anticipating and managing future invasion events.

View full article of the University of Konstanz here.


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Trevor S. Fristoe, ..., Jürgen Dengler, ..., Ute Jandt, ..., Mark van Kleunen. (2021). Dimensions of invasiveness: links between local abundance, geographic range size and habitat breadth in Europe’s alien and native floras, PNAS; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2021173118

 

Contact:

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Research iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 01 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Urban life is not to everyone's taste https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2196.html Researchers record adaptability of 158 butterfly species to urbanisation Researchers record adaptability of 158 butterfly species to urbanisation

Halle/Jena/Leipzig. Rapidly expanding urban habitats are likely to endanger a large number of butterfly species in the long term. This is reported by scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) in the scientific journal Global Change Biology. Generalists that tolerate large temperature fluctuations and feed on many different plants are most likely to benefit from human-modified habitats. In order to preserve biodiversity, urban and spatial planning should take the needs of specialised butterfly species into account, the authors recommend.

Habitat change, for example through urbanisation, is one of the most important causes of biodiversity decline. By 2050, settlements and cities across the globe are predicted to increase by two to three million square kilometres – about half the size of Greenland. Natural and semi-natural habitats will thus gradually be replaced by urban habitats.
How wildlife can adapt to such fundamental changes has mostly been studied for a few species groups, such as mammals and birds.

“In order to make predictions about the development of biodiversity as a whole and to combat current phenomena such as insect declines, robust knowledge is also needed for other species groups,” says first author Dr Corey Callaghan from iDiv and MLU. “However, the data basis for such groups is much poorer. Butterflies offer the advantage of being popular with many people who volunteer to record their occurrences, which creates a relatively good database.”

Majority of butterflies threatened by urbanisation

To find out how butterflies respond to increasing urbanisation and which species can adapt to it, the scientists analysed more than 900,000 records of 158 butterfly species in Europe taken from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This is the largest open-access portal for biodiversity data on all species, which also includes many volunteer-contributed data. The distribution data showed that the majority (79%) of butterfly species avoid cities. As many as 25 of the 158 species were more abundant in urban environments than in other habitats, led by the southern comma (Polygonia egea). The scarce fritillary (Euphydryas maturna) showed the least affinity to urban life. “It was surprising to find such clear patterns across the European continent,” says Callaghan. “The degree of urban affinity indicates which species are likely to be winners and losers from urbanisation in the future.”

Generalists are winners, specialists are losers of urbanisation

In addition, the researchers investigated which traits were typical for species with a greater affinity for cities. It turned out that generalists, in particular, are able to adapt well to the urban habitat, e.g. species that feed on many different plants and can withstand strong temperature variations. In addition, the winners generally showed relatively longer periods of flight activity during the year and reproduced several times a year. Specialised species, on the other hand, which depend heavily on a particular host plant or plant community and climatic conditions, are not coping as well in urban environments. 

“With our method, we were able to show that species traits such as temperature and habitat preferences can be used as general proxies to predict which species are most sensitive to human activities in order to prioritise them for conservation measures,” says co-author Dr Diana Bowler from iDiv and FSU.

The needs of specialists must be considered by urban planning

In order to halt the loss of biodiversity through urbanisation, the authors see the need for urban and regional planners to ensure the presence of food species and host plants, especially of specialised butterflies. “However, every garden owner can also help by choosing to plant native plants”, Callaghan recommends.

“Our work clearly illustrates the power of citizen science and biodiversity data networks such as GBIF,” says senior author Prof Dr Henrique Pereira from iDiv and MLU. “Most of the butterfly observations we used from the GBIF database were collected by volunteers across Europe. Everyone can contribute to increasing knowledge about the impact of our lifestyles on biodiversity. One easy way people can get involved and contribute data is by using smartphone apps like iNaturalist or naturgucker which feed directly into the GBIF network and hence provide data across the globe for researchers to better understand how biodiversity is doing in an increasingly modified planet.”

This research was financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original Publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation in bold)


Callaghan, C. T., Bowler, D. E., Pereira, H. M. (2021): Thermal flexibility and a generalist life history promote urban affinity in butterflies. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15670 

 

Contact:

Dr Corey Callaghan
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: corey.callaghan@idiv.de

 

Dr Diana Bowler
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Email: diana.bowler@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Mon, 31 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Palm Oil Plantations Change the Social Behaviour of Macaques https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2194.html Researchers spent months observing groups of southern pig-tailed macaques Researchers spent months observing groups of southern pig-tailed macaques

Based on a press release by the University of Leipzig

In many parts of Southeast Asia, the rainforest is being replaced by palm oil plantations. Due to the massive clearing of their habitat, some primates move to the plantations in search of food. This often leads to conflicts with farmers, even though the monkeys hardly harm them but, on the contrary, help to keep pests such as rats at low levels. The regular stay on the plantations, however, has a massive influence on the social behaviour of the macaques. This is shown in a new study by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), Leipzig University (UL), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). Living in a manmade environment could have a negative effect on the development of the offspring and thus endanger the survival of the macaque populations in the long run. The new findings, recently published in Scientific Reports, may help to develop appropriate measures for protecting the primate species, which is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and to promote peaceful coexistence between humans and wild animals.

It is well known that human-induced disturbances can affect the behaviour of various wildlife species, including primates. Previous studies have mainly focused on changes in the activity patterns or feeding behaviour of animals living in urban or tourist areas and fed by humans. “We, on the other hand, wanted to look at how different habitats, including anthropogenically highly modified habitats such as palm oil plantations, affect social behaviour in macaques,” said Anna Holzner, first author of the study, which was recently published in Scientific Reports. “For most primate species social interactions within the group are particularly essential for successfully surviving in large, complex social groups in their natural habitat.” 

Two groups of southern pig-tailed macaques observed over a period of months

To find out, the scientists spent several months observing 50 individuals of two social groups of southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) in Segari (Malaysia). Dr Nadine Ruppert (USM), head of the local research station, stressed: “This is the first population of this shy species to be habituated to scientific observers. Every day, the groups walk for about three hours from the rainforest to the neighbouring plantation.”

The researchers were interested in the differences in the animals’ social behaviour between the rainforest – whose dense vegetation provides protection for the macaques – and two habitats within the palm oil plantation, the interior of the plantation and its edge. These both have an abundance of food in the form of palm oil fruits and rats, and also an increased potential for conflict with humans, but only the plantation edge provides cover in the form of a safe avenue of retreat into the adjacent forest. The study focused on aggressive interactions, relationship-promoting behaviours such as grooming and juvenile social play, social networking within the group, and mother-infant relationships.

As expected, the macaques use the plantation mainly as an additional food source. Both inside the plantation and at its edge, they spent about two-thirds of the time foraging and eating. Aggressive behaviour in the macaques was significantly increased in the plantation interior compared to the other habitats – a well-known phenomenon, especially in connection with foraging. However, this was not only triggered by the monkeys’ increased feeding activity in the plantation but rather the plantation itself played a major role: according to the scientists, the interior of the plantation, unlike the rainforest and the edge of the plantation, offers little protection from potential attackers and puts the animals under stress, which may, in turn, trigger the increased rates of aggression.

Macaques strongly reduced bonding behaviour

Furthermore, the researchers expected strong impairments in the macaques’ positive social interactions. “In particular, bonding social interactions were observed to be greatly reduced in the plantation interior,” said Holzner. “Even during periods not used for feeding, the monkeys there showed almost no mutual grooming or play behaviour.” Unlike the forest, the area inside the plantation poses greater safety risks for the monkeys. The likelihood of encountering potential predators, especially humans or stray dogs, in the plantation was significantly increased compared to the forest. In order to be more vigilant against these threats, it may therefore be the case that macaques compromise on their social behaviour and move time-consuming social interactions into the forest, which offers greater protection.

The importance of the rainforest as a safe retreat was illustrated by the results at the edge of the plantation. Protected by the nearby forest, the macaques not only displayed social interaction but in some cases even increased it. “What surprised us was that the frequency of mutual grooming was almost three times higher at the plantation edge than in the forest,” said Professor Anja Widdig (UL/MPI-EVA/iDiv), lead author of the paper. “Other studies have shown that grooming can serve to reduce stress,” said Widdig. “We suspect that this was at least one of the reasons for the increased investment in social interactions at the plantation edge.

Especially before or shortly after visiting the stressful, competitive plantation environment, stress reduction would be of great importance for the animals. Also lower-ranking animals, in particular, could secure tolerance from their conspecifics in this way, and thus access to a share of the energy-rich food.” This is also indicated by changes in the groups’ network structures: “In contrast to the forest, it was not the higher-ranking animals that had the best social networks on the plantation, but subordinate individuals,” said Widdig.

As expected by the researchers, the plantation also had an effect on the smallest social units within the group: mother-infant pairs. Both inside and at the edge of the plantation, mothers maintained more body contact with their offspring. This could have a number of implications for offspring development. Holzner points out: “If offspring development is delayed, then mothers would have to invest more time and energy, which in turn could extend inter-birth intervals. It is precisely the survival of species whose populations are already threatened that could be jeopardised in the long term as a result.”   

Protecting the habitat of the vulnerable pig-tailed macaque

“The study demonstrates that human-induced habitat changes can severely alter social behaviour in groups and, furthermore, disrupt mother-infant relationships – even in the absence of regular direct contact with humans,” said Widdig. “The problem, in our opinion, is that these monkeys won't be able to sustain themselves permanently without the conservation of rainforest in and around anthropogenic habitats,” says Widdig. “The observed behavioural changes are likely to threaten population sizes in the long term. They definitely need the forest. It is essential to protect the remaining populations of southern pig-tailed macaques and their habitat and facilitate their coexistent with humans in anthropogenic landscapes.”

“Their protection will ultimately contribute to maintaining biodiversity and important ecosystem functions of tropical habitats,” said Ruppert. “Maintaining forest corridors is an important conservation tool to create viable interfaces between forests and agricultural landscapes. These can not only facilitate natural dispersal and link fragmented wildlife populations affected, but also enable animals to engage in essential social interactions that are essential for the long-term survival of primates and other species.”
Birgit Pfeiffer

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Holzner, A., Balasubramaniam, K.N., Weiß, B.M., Ruppert, N. & Widdig, A. (2021): Oil palm cultivation critically affects sociality in a threatened Malaysian primate. Scientific Reports 11, 10353. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-89783-3

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Anja Widdig
Head of Research Group Primate Behavioural Ecology
Institute of Biology, Leipzig University
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9736 707
Email: anja.widdig@eva.mpg.de

 

Anna Holzner
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
University of Leipzig
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Phone: +49 341 97-36872
Email: anna.holzner@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Wed, 19 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Protection of biological diversity via the Common Agricultural Policy is achievable https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2192.html Scientists have made proposals for how EU agriculture could turn the tide in favour of... Scientists have made proposals for how EU agriculture could turn the tide in favour of sustainability within the next six years

Leipzig/Braunschweig/Rostock. In coordination with the EU Commission, a European team of more than 300 scientists has developed recommendations on how the European Union’s future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can, within the scope of instruments that have already been adopted, provide a substantial impetus to halt biodiversity loss. The report, written by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Thünen Institute and the University of Rostock will be presented to the EU Commission in a public online symposium on 19 May. 

By the end of May, the European Union wants to clarify the conditions in which farmers are to receive future support under the CAP. The tough negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the EU Commission will be brought to a conclusion in a final “super trialogue”. After all, how to best spend 365 billion euros over the years 2021 to 2027 is a pretty significant issue. 
Central to the negotiations is the specific design of the future CAP “Green Architecture”. That is the EU's answer to its as yet failed target of improving the environmental performance of European agriculture; in particular, stopping biodiversity loss on agricultural land. In essence, it comprises three instruments:
 
(1) Enhanced Conditionality: Farmers must meet higher standards in order to receive CAP payments. For example, part of the farmed area would have to be taken out of production and left fallow for nature.
(2) The existing and well-established Agri-Environment-Climate Measures (AECM), 
(3) “Eco-schemes”, a new instrument that will be voluntary for farmers.

“Whether or not Green Architecture can effectively protect and promote biological diversity will strongly depend on the details - that is, how much of a punch the instruments actually have,” says Dr Guy Pe’er, a scientist at iDiv and UFZ. “With conditionality, for example, the decisive factor is what proportion of land, as a percentage, the non-productive area has to be, whether this figure refers to all land or just arable area, and what actions farmers will be allowed to take on these areas.”

Pe’er is first author of a current report in which over 300 scientists from 22 EU Member States made recommendations for the design of the new Green Architecture in the next CAP. For example, they provide guidelines on how the relevant instruments should best be defined, financially resourced and coordinated with one another in order to be effective. The report was developed in coordination with the EU Commission and is the result of 13 workshops and an online survey among experts. It is aimed primarily at policymakers, such as ministry officials from EU member states who will have much greater freedom within the new CAP, but also at officials at the EU itself. 

Special focus is placed on the new instrument, Eco-schemes. These will replace the so-called “greening” which was proven fairly ineffective in the previous CAP. Instead of being provided with a rigid set of measures by the EU, Member States will be able to decide for themselves what they want to promote and support. The measures will be voluntarily, namely, it’s for the farmers to decide if they want to participate and be paid for “going the extra mile”. How much influence the EU Commission will have in implementing these measures is part of the current negotiations.

Eco-schemes are intended to link part of the funds from the so-called first pillar of the CAP, which makes up 70% of the total budget, to additional environmental measures. "Eco-schemes can become a very effective instrument," says Guy Pe’er. “Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, the total budget for environmental measures could as much as double. But whether this would work out depends on whether the money will be spent on effective measures”. The European Parliament is currently calling for 30% of the first pillar for the eco-schemes while the Council of Ministers would like to limit it to 20%.

The question of which measures qualify as eco-schemes is still open. Nothing will be mandated by the EU. “It now depends on whether the Member States really want to promote nature conservation,” says co-author Prof Sebastian Lakner from the University of Rostock. “Some measures currently being discussed in the Member States have been evaluated critically by workshop-participants: For example, the measure “Precision Farming” achieves positive environmental effects, but is de facto technology support for large farms that are actually using this technology for economic reasons. This example shows that there is an urgent need to focus scarce CAP funds on effective measures that are worthy of support.”

The researchers emphasise the importance of the instruments complementing each other. They recommend:

  • setting high basic requirements for CAP funding through enhanced conditionality; to set aside at least 5% of the utilised agricultural area for non-productive elements and make it available for nature conservation
  • the inclusion of a no-backsliding clause; the ecological condition of habitats such as grasslands should not be allowed to deteriorate
  • giving high priority to agri-environmental programmes as demonstrably the most effective measures for the protection of biodiversity among CAP instruments
  • promoting as Eco-schemes only measures that have proven to be effective, and exclude those that are already being implemented by farmers
  • a points system to calculate and remunerate the value and effectiveness of measures
  • promoting the large-scale planning of measures and cooperation between farmers, as animals and plants do not see the boundaries of individual farms.

What these points mean in real terms for the individual Member States is very varied. “In our report, experts from various EU countries give specific, tried-and-tested recommendations on how the Common Agricultural Policy can be designed sustainably and efficiently by all parties involved,” says co-author Maren Birkenstock, a researcher at the Thünen Institute of Rural Studies. “It is desirable to see that knowledge is used and that the CAP follows scientific recommendations regarding best practice.”

“Our message is that a trend reversal from biodiversity loss to recovery in agricultural land is achievable, but only if these aspects mentioned are taken into account,” says Guy Pe’er. “Otherwise, the CAP will only continue to accompany a downward trend that is not only undesirable but also risking farming and production”.

On 19 May, the authors will present the EU Commission's report in a public online symposium.

The independent study was created within the framework of the iCAP-BES project and was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; FZT-118).
Sebastian Tilch 


Information about the online symposium: https://www.idiv.de/de/icap-bes/cap-post-2020.html

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Pe’er, G., Birkenstock, M., Lakner, S. & Röder, N. (2021): The Common Agricultural Policy post-2020: Views and recommendations from scientists to improve performance for biodiversity. DOI: 10.3220/WP1620647816000 

 

Contact:

Dr Guy Pe’er
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49 341 97 33182
Email: guy.peer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/643.html

 

Prof Dr Sebastian Lakner
University of Rostock
Phone: +49 381 498 3260
Email: sebastian.lakner@uni-rostock.de
Web: https://www.auf.uni-rostock.de/en/professorships/a-g/agricultural-economics/team/professor-dr-sebastian-lakner/

 

Maren Birkenstock
Thünen Institute of Rural Studies
Phone: +49 531 596 5240
Email: maren.birkenstock@thuenen.de
Web: https://www.thuenen.de/en/lr/staff/scientific-staff/m-sc-maren-birkenstock/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Ecosystem Services iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 18 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Observing biodiversity change from space https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2190.html How to measure biodiversity using satellites How to measure biodiversity using satellites

Based on a media release by the University of Twente

Enschede/Halle. As humans, we’re currently facing two big environmental crises: climate change and biodiversity loss. The first managed to gain a lot of public attention and funding, whereas the latter goes on more slowly in the background. One of the key problems the biodiversity crisis is facing is the few ways to monitor biodiversity. In his recent publication, an international team led by the University of Twente and with the participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, linked existing remote sensing products to so-called essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) to measure biodiversity using satellites. The paper has been published today in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

There are significant information gaps on the state of biodiversity in the world. A team of ecologists and remote sensing experts worked together to identify how to bridge these gaps.

“In our paper, we present an exhaustive analysis of the benefits and limitations of state-of-the-art remote sensing products for monitoring biodiversity change”, says co-author Dr Néstor Fernández, who is a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU.

“Important biodiversity attributes such as the distribution and abundance of animal and plant species can be monitored only through field studies and involve considerable sampling efforts,“ explains first author Andrew Skidmore, professor at the University of Twente. “On the other hand, ecosystems can be observed from satellites that cover the entire earth within a few hours or days. It’s relatively easy to measure land cover in an area by using remote sensing techniques such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites, and also how this changes over time,” says Skidmore. “But we cannot operationally measure species abundance from space“.

The scientists identified nearly 120 biodiversity products that provide critical information about biodiversity and can be measured from space. For example, changes in the function and structure of an ecosystem can be measured following forest fires. Furthermore, the information retrieved from satellites can also be used to monitor losses and gains of species habitats, to detect changes in the vegetation green-up as a consequence of climate change, or, in some cases, the biodiversity of plants.

 “The study will help us to measure Essential Biodiversity Variables for reporting the state of biodiversity from local to global scales,” says Fernández. The researchers also give recommendations for space agencies such as ESA and NASA to design sensors and satellites adequate for biodiversity studies.

This publication is partly a contribution of the H2020 Project e-shape with the participation of MLU and funded by the European Commission under grant agreement 820852.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Skidmore, A., …, Fernández, N., … & Wingate, V. (2021): Priority list of biodiversity metrics to observe from space, Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01451-x

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Andrew Skidmore
Department of Natural Resources
University of Twente
Email: a.k.skidmore@utwente.nl

 

Dr Néstor Fernández
Postdoctoral researcher
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 97 33229
Email: nestor.fernandez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/fernandez_nestor.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Thu, 13 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
How smartphones can help detect ecological change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2189.html Plant occurrence data collected with an app uncovers macroecological patterns in Germany Plant occurrence data collected with an app uncovers macroecological patterns in Germany

Leipzig/Jena/Ilmenau. Mobile apps like Flora Incognita that allow automated identification of wild plants cannot only identify plant species, but also uncover large-scale ecological patterns. These patterns are surprisingly similar to the ones derived from long-term inventory data of the German flora, even though they have been acquired over much shorter time periods and are influenced by user behaviour. This opens up new perspectives for rapid detection of biodiversity changes. These are the key results of a study led by a team of researchers from Central Germany, which has recently been published in Ecography.

With the help of Artificial Intelligence, plant species today can be classified with high accuracy. Smartphone applications leverage this technology to enable users to easily identify plant species in the field, giving laypersons access to biodiversity at their fingertips. Against the backdrop of climate change, habitat loss and land-use change, these applications may serve another use: by gathering information on the locations of identified plant species, valuable datasets are created, potentially providing researchers with information on changing environmental conditions.

But is this information reliable – as reliable as the information provided by data collected over long time periods? A team of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Remote Sensing Centre for Earth System Research (RSC4Earth) of Leipzig University (UL) and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) and Technical University Ilmenau wanted to find an answer to this question. The researchers analysed data collected with the mobile app Flora Incognita between 2018 and 2019 in Germany and compared it to the FlorKart database of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). This database contains long-term inventory data collected by over 5,000 floristic experts over a period of more than 70 years.

Mobile app uncovers macroecological patterns in Germany

The researchers report that the Flora Incognita data, collected over only two years, allowed them to uncover macroecological patterns in Germany similar to those derived from long-term inventory data of German flora. The data was therefore also a reflection of the effects of several environmental drivers on the distribution of different plant species.

However, directly comparing the two datasets revealed major differences between the Flora Incognita data and the long-term inventory data in regions with a low human population density. “Of course, how much data is collected in a region strongly depends on the number of smartphone users in that region,” said last author Dr. Jana Wäldchen from MPI-BGC, one of the developers of the mobile app. Deviations in the data were therefore more pronounced in rural areas, except for well-known tourist destinations such as the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, or Amrum, an island on the North Sea coast. 

User behaviour also influences which plant species are recorded by the mobile app. “The plant observations carried out with the app reflect what users see and what they are interested in,” said Jana Wäldchen. Common and conspicuous species were recorded more often than rare and inconspicuous species. Nonetheless, the large quantity of plant observations still allows a reconstruction of familiar biogeographical patterns. For their study, the researchers had access to more than 900,000 data entries created within the first two years after the app had been launched.

Automated species recognition bears great potential 

The study shows the potential of this kind of data collection for biodiversity and environmental research, which could soon be integrated in strategies for long-term inventories. “We are convinced that automated species recognition bears much greater potential than previously thought and that it can contribute to a rapid detection of biodiversity changes,” said first author Miguel Mahecha, professor at UL and iDiv Member. In the future, a growing number of users of apps like ‘Flora Incognita’ could help detect and analyse ecosystem changes worldwide in real time.

The Flora Incognita mobile app was developed jointly by the research groups of Dr. Jana Wäldchen at MPI-BGC and the group of Professor Patrick Mäder at TU Ilmenau. It is the first plant identification app in Germany using deep neural networks (deep learning) in this context. Fed by thousands of plant images, that have been identified by experts, it can already identify over 4,800 plant species. 

“When we developed Flora Incognita, we realized there was a huge potential and growing interest in improved technologies for the detection of biodiversity data. As computer scientists we are happy to see how our technologies make an important contribution to biodiversity research,“ said co-author Patrick Mäder, professor at TU Ilmenau.

This study was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgegemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118) as part of iDiv’s Flexpool funding mechanism. The Flora Incognita project is jointly funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Thuringian Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Nature Conservation. It spans a bridge between science, the general public and the government authorities.

Kati Kietzmann

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Miguel D. Mahecha, Michael Rzanny, Guido Kraemer, Patrick Mäder, Marco Seeland, Jana Wäldchen (2021). Crowd-sourced plant occurrence data provide a reliable description of macroecological gradients. Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.0549


Related links
https://floraincognita.com/

 

Contact:

Prof. Dr Miguel Mahecha
Remote Sensing Centre for Earth System Research
Leipzig University
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Email: miguel.mahecha@uni-leipzig.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Tue, 11 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Less precipitation means less plant diversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2180.html Climate change might lead to changes in plant diversity, especially in the world’s drylands Climate change might lead to changes in plant diversity, especially in the world’s drylands

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Leipzig/Halle. Water is a scarce resource in many of the Earth’s ecosystems. This scarcity is likely to increase in the course of climate change. This, in turn, might lead to a considerable decline in plant diversity. Using experimental data from all over the world, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have demonstrated for the first time that plant biodiversity in drylands is particularly sensitive to changes in precipitation. In an article published in Nature Communications, the team warns that this can also have consequences for the people living in the affected regions. 

How will climate change affect the Earth’s ecosystems? How will biodiversity in different regions change? Such important questions about the future are difficult to answer. In order to do so, it is important to know how the individual species and their communities will react to changing precipitation conditions, for example. But despite numerous scientific experiments worldwide, we do not have synthetic, global answers to these questions. For example, experiments differ greatly in their methodology, such as whether they add small or large amounts of water. “These studies use different methods and are located in different regions of the world”, says first author Dr Lotte Korell, a biologist at the UFZ and iDiv. “And these studies yield contradictory results in many cases”. Together with her colleagues, she has therefore set out to derive a general understanding from the data collected worldwide. The focus was on how an increase or decrease in precipitation affects the plant diversity of terrestrial ecosystems.

In their search, she and her team found 23 usable publications, which presented results from 72 field experiments. With this data, they calculated various statistical variables that provided information about the biodiversity at the individual sites and related them to the increasing or decreasing amounts of rainfall. 

”However, in such experiments, biodiversity depends on many factors”, says Prof Dr Tiffany Knight, last author of the study and ecologist at the UFZ, iDiv, and MLU. For example, the size of the experiment plays an important role. If you focus on only a single experimental plot, then you might see dramatic effects of treatments on biodiversity, as plots with less water have fewer plant individuals growing there, and thus fewer species. However, at least one individual of every species might be found on the larger scale, and thus a lower effect of the treatment on biodiversity. Indeed, the researchers found that increasing dryness has a greater effect when it is considered at small compared to larger spatial scales. “Thus, in order to draw the right conclusions from the data, you have to take into account both the local climate conditions and the spatial scale of the experiments”, says Knight. 

In this way, the researchers have identified a clear trend. In the drylands of the world, changes in precipitation levels have a much greater effect than in wetter regions. Dry ecosystems currently occupy about 40% of the Earth’s land surface. It is not easy to predict what awaits these areas against the backdrop of climate change. Although climate models do predict increasing rainfall in some dry regions, the water shortage is likely to worsen in most of them.

According to the study, plant diversity is expected to increase where it becomes wetter. This is probably because the seeds of the species found there may have a better chance of germinating and becoming established.
However, in light of the projected expansion of drylands, this effect is likely to benefit only relatively few regions. According to the authors, this would lead to a noticeable decline in plant diversity. “Although the plants there have adapted to the challenges of their habitats over long periods of time”, says Korell, “at some point, even the most resilient survivor reaches its limits”. And with every species that dries up and can no longer germinate, biodiversity is reduced. 

This could be bad news not only for the ecosystems but also for the inhabitants of the dry regions. After all, they account for about one-third of the world’s population. Many of these people struggle to make a living from the land under the most difficult conditions. If biodiversity declines along with the rainfall, this is likely to become an even greater challenge. For Korell and her colleagues, this is another pressing argument for slowing climate change. “It is also important to protect the drylands particularly well”, says the researcher. The more these sensitive ecosystems are put under pressure from overgrazing and other stress factors, the more climate change is likely to affect plant diversity. 

 

Original publication: 
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Korell, L., Auge, H., Chase, J. M., Harpole, W. S. & Knight, T. M. (2021): Responses of plant diversity to precipitation change are strongest at local spatial scales and in drylands. Nature Communications , DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22766-0

 

Contact:

Dr Lotte Korell
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle - Jena - Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733246
Email: lotte.korell@ufz.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/717.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Synthesis Spatial Interaction Ecology UFZ News Physiological Diversity TOP NEWS iDiv Members Mon, 03 May 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Limited value of tree plantations for biodiversity conservation https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2177.html Plantations are home to significantly less beetles than old-growth forests. Plantations are home to significantly less beetles than old-growth forests.

Leipzig/Jena/Halle. Tree plantations are supposed to help compensate the loss of pristine forest habitats. However, their contribution to biodiversity conservation is limited: For example, plantations host a significantly lower number of beetle species as well as individuals than old-growth forests. This was found by a global analysis published in Forest Ecology and Management and led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

In light of declining natural forests, tree plantations may seem like a good way to replace forest habitats. But what are the possible benefits of these plantations for biological diversity? A team of researchers led by iDiv, FSU and MLU investigated this question using the example of beetles. Beetles account for 27% of all insect species worldwide and are often used as indicators for the effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. In forest, they serve important functions – for example, they contribute to the decomposition of plant and animal biomass, making the nutrients stored inside of this biomass available to plants.

Tree plantations host significantly fewer beetle species

For their research, the scientists analysed 83 published studies on beetle diversity in tree plantations and old-growth forests. “Of course, the benefit of plantations always depends on the planted tree species,” said Dr. Silvia Gallegos from MLU, one of the lead authors of the paper. “Mixed cultures are better than monocultures and native species are better than exotic species.” In general, the global analysis showed significant differences in the beetle diversity of plantations and forests. In average, tree plantations were home to one third fewer species than old-growth forests and hosted about half as many individuals.

Furthermore, the researchers found major differences in the composition of beetle communities in plantations and forests. Even tree plantations with a similar number of beetle species and individuals as old-growth forests still displayed a significant difference in species composition. Beetle species that feed on dead organic substances were particularly affected, which might be due to less diverse food resources offered by plantations. Species that feed on other insects were also less common. “This indicates that plantations are home to fewer predators. Old-growth forests might, thus, be more resistant to herbivores and pests than artificial tree plantations,” said last author Dr. Stephan Kambach from MLU and iDiv.

Plantations cannot replace pristine forests

The most significant differences in the composition of beetle communities were found in tropical and subtropical regions. In these regions, differences in the number of species and individuals between plantations and forest were also largest. Thus, tree plantations cannot serve as a replacement for tropical primary forests.

With their study, the researchers show that tree plantations, in particular when planted in mixed cultures – might provide an important tool to minimize habitat loss of forest-adapted species. “However, tree plantations can neither sustain the diversity nor the composition of beetle communities of old-growth forests, limiting their value for forest conservation,” said first author Georg Albert from iDiv and FSU.

The study was inspired by an iDiv Summer School in 2017, including intensive training in meta-analysis and hands-on synthesis work on genuine research projects. The iDiv Summer School takes place every year with different foci and is attended by young scientists from all over the world.

This research was, amongst others, funded by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).


Kati Kietzmann

 

Original publication
(Scientists and alumni with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Georg Albert, Silvia C. Gallegos, Keri Alexandra Greig, Mario Hanisch, Daniela Limache de la Fuente, Stephanie Föst, Stephanie D. Maier, Chaya Sarathchandra, Helen R. P. Phillips, Stephan Kambach (2021). The conservation value of forests and tree plantations for beetle (Coleoptera) communities: A global meta-analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119201

 

Contact:

Georg Albert
International Research Training Group TreeDì
Theory in Biodiversity Science
German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Email: georg.albert@idiv.de

 

Dr Stephan Kambach
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: stephan.kambach@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 27 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Nadia Soudzilovskaia wins prestigous German research prize for international fungi research https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2174.html Award will give research collaboration with iDiv an extra boost. Award will give research collaboration with iDiv an extra boost.

Based on a media release of Universiteit Leiden.

Environmental scientist Nadia Soudzilovskaia has been awarded the prestigious, international Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. This German award is issued to outstanding foreign mid-career scientists that collaborate with German researchers. ‘The combination of different skills and approaches makes her research highly relevant and innovative!’

Soudzilovskaia, currently Associate Professor at Leiden University (The Netherlands) and Full Professor at Hasselt University (Belgium) from 1 May onwards, was nominated by her colleagues from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). ‘Together, we currently initiated an exciting research programme to study beneficial interactions between plants and soil fungi, called mycorrhiza. We focus on the impact of these interactions on soil carbon and nutrient cycles.’ Soudzilovskaia wants to use the personal award of €45,000 to give this research an extra boost.

An important collaboration between plants and fungi

In the special symbiosis between mycorrhizal fungi and plants, fungi provide the plants with nutrients, while plants provide the fungi with carbon. The interaction plays a vital role in among others fixing carbon in the soil and recycling nutrients like nitrogen. Hence it is important for stable and healthy ecosystems. Soudzilovskaia: ‘I am trying to understand the mechanisms that allow these fungi to store carbon in the soil. My colleagues and I have shown that distinct types of mycorrhizal fungi contribute to carbon storage through different mechanisms and that some work better than others. With the prize money, we will use these insights to further investigate how vegetation and fungi together control the soil carbon dynamics and create high-functioning ecosystems.’

Honoured by a prestigious prize

For Soudzilovskaia, the prize is a recognition of her scientific achievements. ‘This is globally one of the most prestigious prizes for mid-career scientists,’ she says. ‘iDiv is a great international research center working on the sustainable management of our planet’s biodiversity. It’s home to fantastic scientists and great research facilities. Collaborating with them is very inspirational for new research inquiries and the ways to realise them. It’s an honour they’ve nominated me.’

Why this award is well-deserved

‘Nadia is an outstanding scientist with a unique research profile,’ says Professor Nico Eisenhauer from iDiv. ‘She works at the interface between environmental sciences & ecology and combines experimental-based research with mathematical models. The combination of these skills and approaches makes her research highly relevant and innovative!’ Eisenhauer hopes together they will bridge the most important scientific gaps in their field. ‘In any case, I am very happy about the decision by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.’


The Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award (Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel-Forschungspreis) is a variation of the German-based Humboldt Research Award. This award honours researchers from outside of Germany for their outstanding research record. Nominations can only be made by established researchers employed at a German institution. The prize amounts 45,000 euros.

 

Contact:

Dr Nadia Soudzilovskaia
Professor Ecosystem Functioning
Hasselt University Belgium
Email: nadia.soudzilovskaia@uhasselt.be

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Mon, 12 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Transforming crop and timber production could reduce species extinction risk by 40% https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2172.html Ensuring sustainability of crop and timber production would mitigate the greatest drivers of...

Based on a media release of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Gland (Switzerland). Ensuring sustainability of crop and timber production would mitigate the greatest drivers of terrestrial wildlife decline, responsible for 40% of the overall extinction risk of amphibians, birds and mammals. This is one of the key results of a paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The work was led by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Post-2020 Taskforce, hosted by Newcastle University, in collaboration with scientists from 54 institutions in 21 countries around the world, including the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). The results were generated using a new metric which, for the first time, allows business, governments and civil society to assess their potential contributions to stemming global species loss.

The authors applied the new STAR (Species Threat Abatement and Restoration) metric to all species of amphibians, birds, and mammals – groups of terrestrial vertebrate species that are comprehensively assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. They found that removing threats to wildlife from crop production would reduce global extinction risk across these groups by 24%. Ending threats caused by unsustainable logging globally would reduce this by a further 16%, while removing threats associated with invasive alien species would bring a further 10% reduction, according to the paper. STAR can also be used to calculate the benefits of restoration: global extinction risk could potentially be reduced by 56% through comprehensive restoration of threatened species’ habitats, according to the paper.

Actions that benefit more species, and in particular the most threatened species, yield higher STAR scores. The results reveal that safeguarding “key biodiversity areas”, covering just 9% of land surface, could reduce global extinction risk by almost half (47%). While every country contributes to the global STAR score, conservation in five megadiverse countries could reduce global extinction risk by almost a third (31%), with Indonesia alone potentially contributing 7%. 

“We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and resources are limited, but our study shows that extinction risk is concentrated in relatively small areas with greater numbers of highly threatened species. The STAR methodology allows us to consistently measure where and how conservation and restoration could have the biggest impact,” said Dr Louise Mair of Newcastle University, lead author of the study. “At the same time, our analysis shows that threats to species are omnipresent, and that action to stem the loss of life on Earth must happen in all countries without exception.”

To show how the metric can be used by individual institutions, the authors applied STAR to an 88,000-hectare commercial rubber initiative in central Sumatra, Indonesia, where the major threats to biodiversity are crop production, logging and hunting. By abating these threats within its concession area, the company could report reducing overall extinction risk by 0.2% across Sumatra, 0.04% across Indonesia and 0.003% globally. These scores would be due in part to safeguarding the area’s populations of tigers (Panthera tigris; Endangered) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus; Endangered), as well as leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideros orbiculus; Vulnerable, and only found in the region). Measuring contributions to biodiversity targets and assessing biodiversity-related risk – both facilitated by STAR – can feed into companies’ Environmental, Social and Governance reporting. 

The STAR metric will be available in time to inform major international negotiations for nature in 2021. These include the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, in September, followed by the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Kunming China.

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Louise Mair, …, Laetitia M. Navarro, … and Philip J. K. McGowan (2021), A metric for spatially explicit contributions to science-based species targets, Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01432-0 

 

Contact:

Dr Laetitia Navarro
Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733141
Email: laetitia.navarro@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Research Media Release Thu, 08 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0200
We don’t know how most mammals will respond to climate change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2170.html Even with well-studied species groups such as mammals, there are huge data gaps Even with well-studied species groups such as mammals, there are huge data gaps

Based on a press release by the British Ecological Society

Zurich/Leipzig. A new scientific review has found there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how mammal populations are responding to climate change, particularly in regions most sensitive to climate change. The study was initialised through sDiv, the synthesis centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), involving researchers from the University of Zurich, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and others. The findings are published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Nearly 25% of mammal species are threatened with extinction, with this risk exacerbated by climate change. But the ways climate change is impacting animals now and projected to in the future is known to be complex. Different environmental changes have multiple and potentially contrasting, effects on different aspects of animals’ lives, such as reproduction and survival (known as demographic rates). A new review by a global team of researchers from 15 different institutions has found that most studies on terrestrial mammals only looked at one of these demographic rates at a time, potentially not showing the full picture of climate change impacts.

Initialised through iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, the researchers performed a literature review, using the species names of 5,728 terrestrial mammals. The aim was to search databases of scientific papers for studies that quantified the relationship between demographic rates and climate variables, such as rainfall and temperature. They found only 106 studies that looked at both survival and reproduction at the same time. This covered 87 species and constitutes less than 1% of all terrestrial mammals.

“Researchers often publish results on the effects of climate on survival or reproduction – and not both. But only in rare cases does a climatic variable (say, temperature) consistently negatively or positively affect all studied rates of survival and reproduction,” said lead author Dr Maria Paniw, who conducted the study at the University of Zurich. Today she works in Spain. For example, higher temperatures could decrease the number of offspring, but if the offspring have a better chance of survival because of less competition, the population size won’t necessarily be affected. On the other hand, if higher temperatures decrease both reproduction and survival, a study of only one of these could underestimate the effects on a population.

“Accordingly, we need more research on mammal populations that account for multiple demographic responses across entire lifecycles,” said co-author Prof Tiffany Knight from MLU, UFZ and iDiv. “To inform evidence-based conservation, it’s essential to prioritise more holistic approaches in data collection and integration to understand the mechanisms that drive population persistence.” 

The review also found a mismatch in the regions where studies on climate change impacts on mammals were taking place and regions recognised as being the most vulnerable to climate change. For example, hardly any data could be obtained from higher elevations. The researchers also raise concerns that there are even bigger data gaps for animal groups that are less well studied than terrestrial mammals, such as insects and amphibians. This data is urgently needed to inform which species are most vulnerable to climate-driven extinction. 

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sAPROPOS. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.


Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Paniw, M, James, T. D., Archer, C. R., Römer, G., Levin, S., Compagnoni, A., Che-Castaldo, J., Bennett, J. M., Mooney, A., Childs, D. Z., Ozgul, A., Jones, O. R., Burns, J. H., Beckerman, A. P., Patwary, A., Sanchez-Gassen, N., Knight, T. M., Salguero-Gómez, R. (2021): The myriad of complex demographic responses of terrestrial mammals to climate change and gaps of knowledge: A global
Analysis, Journal of Animal Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13467

 

Contact:

Dr Maria Paniw
Formerly University of Zurich
Now: Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) in Sevilla/Spain
Phone: +34671246338
Email: maria.paniw@ebd.csic.es

 

Prof Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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sDiv Media Release iDiv Members Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Wed, 07 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Biodiversity is positively related to mental health https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1923.html Study on species diversity and human health in Germany shows positive relation on mental health,... Study on species diversity and human health in Germany shows positive relation on mental health, but no links to physical health.

Leipzig/Frankfurt/Kiel. The higher the number of plant and bird species in a region, the healthier the people who live there. This was found by a new study published in Landscape and Urban Planning and led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F) and the Christian Albrechts University (CAU) in Kiel. The researchers found that, in particular, mental health and higher species diversity are positively related, whereas a similar relationship between plant or bird species and physical health could not be proven.

The study led by researchers from iDiv, SBiK-F and CAU provides an analysis of the relationship between biodiversity and human health in Germany. The scientists used data on mental and physical health provided by the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), including almost 15,000 households and about 30,000 persons. As indicators for species diversity, they used estimates on species richness of plants and birds as well as on bird abundance.

People are healthier in regions with more plant and bird species 

The results of the study show better mental health of the people living in regions with higher plant and bird diversity. “A person living in a region with many different plant and bird species is, in average, feeling mentally better than a person living in a region with lower species diversity,” said first author Joel Methorst, former doctoral researcher at iDiv, SBiK-F and Goethe University Frankfurt and now researcher at Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg. Furthermore, a positive relation of parks and green spaces in the neighbourhood and mental health was observed – the closer the park, the better.

Contrary to the researchers‘ expectation, there seems to be no relationship between bird abundance and mental health. „This could be due to the fact that many abundant bird species such as pigeons, seagulls and crows are oftentimes not very popular,” explained Joel Methorst. 

Indirect effects of biodiversity on human health

The researchers were not able to show a significant relationship between species diversity and physical health. Instead, the relationship could be more indirect: People who enjoy outdoor physical activity to experience plants and birds in their natural environment can improve their health with this activity.

However, positive effects are not only generated by the direct experience of biodiversity, for example a walk in the park or a visit to a garden. Environments with higher plant and bird species richness can also have indirect positive effects on human health as greater species diversity oftentimes correlates with better environmental conditions.

Nature conservation as a means to improve health

The researchers were not able to establish causal links between the number of species and mental or physical health. For this, data for different time periods would be required. To date, sufficient time series data on biodiversity in Germany is not available.

Nonetheless, valuable conclusions can be drawn from this study. “Our results show that nature conservation can, indeed, be understood as a means to promote human health,” said senior author Prof Katrin Rehdanz from CAU. “This is particularly relevant for urban planning and management of green spaces. Here, investing in biodiversity can promote the health of the urban population.”

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

Kati Kietzmann

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)

Methorst, J. Bonn, A., Marselle, M., Böhning-Gaese & K., Rehdanz, K. (2021). Species richness is positively related to mental health – A study for Germany. Landscape and Urban Planning, DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2021.104084

 

Contact:

Joel Methorst
Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg
Email: joel.methorst@hsu-hh.de

 

Prof. Dr. Katrin Rehdanz
Christian Albrechts University Kiel
Email: rehdanz@economics.uni-kiel.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv yDiv TOP NEWS Research Media Release Wed, 31 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0200
Short-lived plant species are more climate-sensitive https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2146.html Researchers investigate for the first time on a global scale how plant populations react to climate... Researchers investigate for the first time on a global scale how plant populations react to climate change

Plant species with short generation times are more sensitive to climate change than those with long generation times. This is one of the findings of a study by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The international team comprehensively compiled worldwide available data, mostly from Europe and North America, to address the question of how plant populations react to climate change. The study, published in Nature Communications, shows that plant characteristics such as generation time can predict how sensitive species are to changing climates. This has important implications for predicting which plant species need the most conservation attention regarding climate change.

Climate change is considered to be one of the greatest threats to plant species diversity. To set the right priorities in nature conservation policy, it is crucial to know which regions of the world and which types of species are particularly threatened by climate change. 

As part of the iDiv synthesis centre sDiv, which brings together international experts in workshops, a working group compiled all long-term studies on plants that quantify population growth rate. They assessed how the climate factors during those years of study, in particular precipitation and temperature, influenced population growth rate. Afterwards, they tested how features of the plant species, such as the length of a generation, influence how responsive the plant population growth rates were to climate variation in the past.

Precipitation quantity has a stronger effect than temperature change

"We were able to show that generation duration is a useful indicator value for a species' susceptibility to climate change," says first author Dr Aldo Compagnoni, a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU. For example, the scientists found that especially plants with short lifespans, such as those that only live a few years on average, suffered from climate extremes much worse than long-lived species. The analyses also showed that the main limiting factor of climate change is not the temperature increase itself. On average, precipitation had a three times greater impact on plant populations than temperature.

“This work helps us identify which species might be climate-vulnerable, even if we have limited information about those species,” says last author Prof Tiffany Knight from iDiv, MLU and UFZ. „For example, while we have long-term population data for a small subset of plant species on Earth, we can estimate the approximate generation duration for most plant species. This is an important first step towards determining species' vulnerability to climate change at a global scale.”

However, there are important data gaps that limit the ability to make general predictions on a global scale. The researchers found appropriate long-term datasets only for 62 of the 350,000 plant species on Earth, and the vast majority of these were species occurring in temperate zones of the USA and Western Europe. Apart from a few tree and shrub species, the data set included only grasses and herbs. To be able to make reliable predictions about the consequences of climate change for all regions of the world and all known species, new population ecology research is needed on woody plant species and on plants in the tropics, the researchers conclude.

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sAPROPOS. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.
Sebastian Tilch


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Compagnoni, A., Levin, S., Childs, D. Z., Harpole, S., Paniw, M., Römer, G., Burns, J. H., Che-Castaldo, J., Rüger, N., Kunstler, G., Bennett, J. M., Archer, C. R., Jones, O. R., Salguero-Gómez, R. & Knight, T. M. (2021): Herbaceous perennial plants with short generation time have stronger responses to climate anomalies than those with longer generation time. Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21977-9

 

Contact:

Dr Aldo Compagnoni
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9739143
Email: aldo.compagnoni@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/737.html

 

Prof Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Spatial Interaction Ecology sDiv iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 23 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
New method for genome assembly in barley provides excellent results https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2143.html New publication by iDiv member at IPK Leibniz Institute New publication by iDiv member at IPK Leibniz Institute

Based on a press release by IPK Leibniz Institute 

Gatersleben. Genomes differ between the individuals of one species and we can learn a lot about diversity in our crops by comparing genomes of different varieties. However, researchers that want to study many genomes need a fast and reliable method for sequence assembly. An international research team led by the IPK Leibniz Institute and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has now investigated a new DNA sequencing method. The results, which have now been published in the journal The Plant Cell, are very promising. The scientists now hope to be able to use the method for assembling other barley genomes in the future.

The genome encodes the entire genetic information of an organism. It is stored as a DNA nucleotide sequences in the nucleus of each cell of an organism. The DNA is organized into chromosomes, structures large enough to be visible under a microscope.

The genome of the crop plant barley consists of about five billion base pairs. Sequencing and assembling a genome means reading out all its nucleotides and arranging them into a computer-readable text. Genome assembly used to be very difficult. For example, it took over ten years to assemble the sequence of the barley reference genome. "Therefore, we wanted to know whether a new method of DNA sequencing with high accuracy and long read lengths could simplify genome assembly in resequencing, but also the initial sequencing of a reference genome," explains Dr. Martin Mascher, head of the Independent Working Group on Domestication Genomics at IPK and member of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

The international research team used PacBio HiFi sequencing. HiFi sequencing is a method to read long DNA sequence segments of up to 25,000 base pairs, so-called "reads", with high accuracy. The reads were assembled into sequences, which represent entire chromosomes. The scientists also made genome assemblies from other types of sequence reads generated with alternative methods such as short reads or long-reads with high error rates.

When they compared the different assemblies to each other, the HiFi provides the best quality genome sequences. The HiFi assembly approach contained more complete genes than the other assembly comparison methods. Even when the genes were present in multiple, nearly identical copies, HiFi succeeded in distinguishing and accurately assembling them. HiFi also managed to correctly reassemble almost all of the non-coding and highly repetitive sequence regions between the actual genes. "The most important thing for us, apart from the accuracy, is the speed. The HiFi sequencing works very fast, so we were able to complete highly accurate and complete genome assemblies within a few days", explains Dr Martin Mascher.

The results now open up new possibilities for the scientists. Genome assembly will remain a challenge in the future. However, the new HiFi approach and their many years of experience in sequencing and assembling cereal genomes will allow IPK researchers to reliably and quickly assemble the genomes of cultivated barley and related forms.

"We will use HiFi sequencing to assemble the genomes of further barley varieties. Our gene bank at the IPK Leibniz Institute in Gatersleben will provide us with further cultivars and related wild forms for this purpose. Our goal is to record the genetic diversity that exists worldwide", explained Dr. Martin Mascher and already describes the next challenges. "We will search for previously unknown genetic variation, such as resistance genes, in order to further enrich the genetic the genetic possibilities of the for cultivated barley and to be able to support new breeding."


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)


Martin Mascher, Thomas Wicker, Jerry Jenkins, Christopher Plott, Thomas Lux, Chu Shin Koh, Jennifer Ens, Heidrun Gundlach, Lori B Boston, Zuzana Tulpová, Samuel Holden, Inmaculada Hernández-Pinzón, Uwe Scholz, Klaus F X Mayer, Manuel Spannagl, Curtis J Pozniak, Andrew G Sharpe, Hana Šimková, Matthew J Moscou, Jane Grimwood, Jeremy Schmutz, Nils Stein (2021): Long-read sequence assembly: a technical evaluation in barley. The Plant Cell, Doi: 10.1093/plcell/koab077

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Mascher
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 39482 5243
Email: mascher@ipk-gatersleben.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Wed, 17 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Chimpanzees without borders https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2140.html A new large-scale study uncovers recent genetic connectivity between chimpanzee subspecies despite... A new large-scale study uncovers recent genetic connectivity between chimpanzee subspecies despite past isolation events

Based on a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) 

Chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies separated by geographic barriers like rivers. Previous studies attempting to understand chimpanzee population histories have drawn inconsistent pictures: some have shown clear separations between chimpanzee subspecies while others suggest a genetic gradient across the species as in humans. To resolve this dichotomy, a team of international researchers led by the Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) collected over 5000 faecal samples from 55 sites in 18 countries across the chimpanzee range over 8 years – the most complete sampling of the species to date. The analysis was published in Communications Biology.

Much like us, chimpanzees, occupy diverse habitats and exhibit extensive behavioural variation. Human genetic variation however changes along a gradient, with no races and some areas of local genetic adaptation. Previous studies attempting to understand chimpanzee population histories have been limited either by the poor geographic distribution of samples, samples of uncertain origin or different types of genetic markers – with correspondingly inconsistent results. The researchers' large-scale study should eliminate these uncertainties.

”This is by far the most complete sampling of the species to date, with a known location of origin for every sample, thus addressing the sampling limitations of previous studies," said Dr Mimi Arandjelovic from MPI-EVA, co-director of the PanAf and senior author of the study. “Collecting these samples was often a daunting task for our amazing field teams. The chimpanzees were almost all unhabituated to human presence, so it took a lot of patience, skill and luck to find chimpanzee dung at each of the sites.”

Jack Lester, a doctoral researcher at MPI-EVA and first author of the study, explained: “We used rapidly-evolving genetic markers that reflect the recent population history of species and, in combination with the dense sampling from across their range, we show that chimpanzee subspecies have been connected, or, more likely, reconnected, for extended periods during the most recent maximal expansion of African forests.”

Chimpanzee subspecies can exchange genetically

So, although chimpanzees were separated into different subspecies in their distant past, before the rise of recent anthropogenic disturbances, the proposed subspecies-specific geographic barriers were permeable to chimpanzee dispersal. Dr Paolo Gratton, co-author of the study and researcher at the Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” adds: “It is widely thought that chimpanzees persisted in forest refugia during glacial periods, which has likely been responsible for isolating groups of populations which we now recognize as subspecies. Our results from fast-evolving microsatellite DNA markers however indicate that genetic connectivity in the most recent millennia mainly mirrors geographic distance and local factors, masking the older subspecies subdivisions.”

Furthermore, “these results suggest that the great behavioural diversity observed in chimpanzees are therefore not due to local genetic adaptation but that they rely on behavioural flexibility, much like humans, to respond to changes in their environment,” noted Dr Hjalmar Kuehl, co-director of the PanAf and researcher at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

The team also observed signals of reductions in diversity at some sites that appeared to be associated with recent anthropogenic pressures. In fact, at some locations, PanAf teams visited no, or few, chimpanzees were detected despite recordings of their presence within the last decades. “Although not unforeseen, we were disheartened to already find the influence of human impacts at some field sites where genetic diversity was markedly lower than what we expected,” said Jack Lester.

These results highlight the importance of genetic connectivity for chimpanzees in their recent history. “Every effort should be made to re-establish and maintain dispersal corridors across their range, with perhaps special attention to trans-national protected areas,” noted Prof Christophe Boesch, co-director of the PanAf and director of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation at MPI-EVA. Chimpanzees are known to be adaptable to human disturbance and can survive in human-modified landscapes, however, habitat loss, zoonotic diseases, bushmeat and pet trades are all threats to chimpanzee survival. These results warn of future critical impacts on their genetic health and viability if habitat fragmentation and isolation continue unabated.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Jack D. Lester, ... , Christopher D. Barratt, ... , Jessica Junker, ... , Hjalmar S. Kühl & Mimi Arandjelovic (2021): Recent genetic connectivity and clinal variation in chimpanzees. Communications Biology, DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-01806-x

Press release by MPI-EVA: https://www.mpg.de/16538522/0303-evan-chimpanzees-without-borders-150495-x

 

Contact:

Jack Lester
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-262
Email: jack_lester@eva.mpg.de

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Species are our livelihoods https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2142.html Biodiversity doesn’t feature enough in large-scale assessments of ecosystem services Biodiversity doesn’t feature enough in large-scale assessments of ecosystem services

In future, assessments of ecosystems in terms of their contributions to people should take greater account of the importance of species diversity. This is what scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) are calling for in the scientific journal Ecosystem Services. Animal and plant species deliver a large share of natural services for human well-being but have been in continuous decline for decades. Large-scale assessments, however, only address some of these services, such as water filtration, carbon storage and erosion control. Ecosystem services that are directly linked to species, on the other hand, hardly play a role at all. The researchers point out that this wastes many opportunities for effective nature and species conservation.

Functioning ecosystems provide the basis for security, basic material needs, health, social interaction and individual liberty. This is how the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 described it, dividing ecosystem services into the following categories: The provisioning services; goods such as food, water, firewood and timber, the regulating services; pollination, water filtering function of the soil, flood and erosion protection, and the cultural services; recreation, places of inspiration, and education. Many of these services are indirectly and directly linked to the presence of species. For this reason, species conservation is often put forward as a measure for the conservation of vital natural services.

“However, most previous studies argue that areas important for ecosystem services do not necessarily correspond to those important for biodiversity conservation,” said senior author Prof Henrique Pereira from iDiv and MLU. “We were able to show that this is probably because these studies only look at a few ecosystem services, and species-linked services are rarely among them.”

In their new study, the researchers selected nine different species-linked ecosystem services for which data were available on the occurrence and distribution of the species providing them in Europe. These are wild food, medicinal plants, fodder, pest control, carcass removal, seed dispersal, wildlife watching, hunting, and existence value; this is the benefit we derive from knowing that rare and endangered species continue to exist. To find out which species provide these services, they searched databases for functional characteristics such as medicinal value, edibility, but also their importance for hunting and wildlife watching.
The researchers then created individual maps of how the providers of these services are distributed in Europe. They then did the same for nine typical biophysical ecosystem services that are not linked to species, such as agricultural production, livestock farming and carbon storage. They compared these maps in computer models and calculated where there is spatial overlap and how the different ecosystem services influence each other.

Ecosystem services depend more on species richness than previously expected

The results show that, especially on a larger spatial scale, biophysical and species-linked ecosystem services often occur simultaneously. This became more evident the more ecosystem services were considered. The regions where species conservation and ecosystem services play a role thus coincided more often than previously assumed. Negative correlations between the two approaches were found predominantly for agricultural production, which, among other things, limits regulating ecosystem services such as water purification and cultural services such as natural beauty.

“With our study, we show that there are strong connections between species diversity and ecosystem services,” said first author Dr Silvia Ceaușu, who conducted the study at iDiv and MLU. She recently joined the Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research at University College London. These connections need to be made more visible in assessments of nature’s contributions to human wellbeing in order to fully understand how to manage and protect these benefits to humans.” 

“We’re still lacking biodiversity data to truly map species-based ecosystem services at large scales,” said Henrique Pereira. “So we need more research on the question of how ecosystem services at the landscape and regional scale depend on the abundance and traits of the species present.” For Europe, the researchers are therefore currently establishing the EuropaBON project, which is intended to make this, and other such data available to stakeholders in the future.
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Ceaușu, S., Apaza-Quevedo, A., Schmid, M., Martín-López, B., Cortés-Avizanda, A., Maes, J., Brotons, L., Queiroz, C. & Pereira, H. M. (2021): Ecosystem service mapping needs to capture more effectively the biodiversity important for service supply, Ecosystem Services, 48, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101259

 

Contact:

Dr Silvia Ceaușu
formerly:
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
now:
Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research at University College London
Email: silvia.ceausu@mespom.eu

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Belowground biodiversity in motion https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2138.html Global change alters microbial life in soils - and thereby its ecological functions Global change alters microbial life in soils - and thereby its ecological functions

Based on a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

Global change is expected to increase the diversity of bacteria at the local level, while their composition will become more uniform at the global level. This is the finding of a team of researchers led by the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the University of Leipzig (UL) and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (MiS). The researchers have – for the first time – holistically assessed how climate and land-use changes affect bacterial communities in soil. The study, published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, can help make reliable predictions about changes in the global distribution of these belowground communities.

Soil microorganisms play a critical role in the survival of life-sustaining ecosystems and, consequently, human well-being. Global assessments continue to provide strong evidence that humans are causing unprecedented biodiversity losses. However, existing information is strongly biased towards selected groups of vertebrates and plants, while much less is known about potential shifts in belowground communities.

Soil microbial communities are largely an unseen majority, even though, according to first author Dr Carlos Guerra (iDiv, MLU), “they control a wide range of ecosystem functions that have implications for both human well-being and the sustainability of our ecosystems.” The published results provide evidence that climate change has a stronger influence on soil microbial communities than land-use change like deforestation and agricultural expansion.

The scientists focused especially on bacteria and fungi, which are the most diverse groups of soil-dwelling organisms across the globe. They studied a comprehensive database of soil microbial communities across six continents, whilst incorporating temperature, precipitation and vegetation cover data. Established climate and land-use projection datasets were used to compute various temporal change scenarios, based on a projection period from 1950 to 2090. To understand this complex system with multiple interdependent variables, four structural equation models were developed for bacterial richness, community dissimilarity, phosphate transport genes and ecological clusters. These models are particularly useful for distinguishing between the direct and indirect effects of external environmental variables (vegetation type, temperature, precipitation, etc.) on the aforementioned biodiversity variables.

Bacterial richness versus homogenisation

The authors were able to show that local bacterial richness will increase in all scenarios of climate and land-use change considered. Although this increase will be followed by a generalised community homogenisation process affecting more than 85% of terrestrial ecosystems. Scientists also expect changes in the relative abundance of functional genes to accompany increases in bacterial richness. These could affect soil phosphorus uptake, which in turn could limit plant and microbial production. The results of the ecological cluster analysis suggest that certain bacteria and fungi known to include important human pathogens, major producers of antibiotic resistance genes, or potential fungal-transmitted plant pathogens will become more abundant.

While increases in local microbial diversity might seem positive at first glance, they hide strong reductions in community complexity in the majority of terrestrial systems, with implications for ecosystem functioning. Future ecosystems are therefore expected to have a greater number of bacterial lineage communities at the local scale, making several bacterial species groups potentially more abundant in soil communities under global change scenarios. Assuming the links between functionality and taxonomy remain constant through time, this suggests that similar bacterial groups with similar functional capabilities will live in soils across the globe, reducing specialisation and potentially the adaptation capacity of ecosystems to new environmental realities.

The published results are at odds with current global projections of aboveground biodiversity declines but do not necessarily provide a more positive view of nature’s future. Major changes in microbial diversity driven by climate and land-use change have significant implications for ecosystem functioning. “The results also help to fill an important gap identified in current global assessments and agreements,” says group leader Prof Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, UL). They also lay the groundwork for incorporating soil organisms into future assessments of ecosystem response to global change drivers. According to mathematician Dr Eliana Duarte (MiS), “the application of mathematical and statistical methods to the study of the soil microbiome will play an increasingly important role as more data on soils becomes available”.          

This manuscript was developed from discussions within the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG FZT118).

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

C. A. Guerra, M. Delgado‐Baquerizo, E. Duarte, O. Marigliano, C. Görgen, F. T. Maestre & N. Eisenhauer (2021): Global projections of the soil microbiome in the Anthropocene. Global Ecology and Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/geb.13273

 

Contact:

Dr Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Dr Eliana Duarte
Otto-Von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg
Formerly Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (MiS)
Email: eliana.duarte@ovgu.de
Web: https://emduart2.github.io

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

Jana Gregor
Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
Press department
Email: presse@mis.mpg.de
Web: www.mis.mpg.de

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS iDiv Members Media Release Wed, 24 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Plant responses to climate are lagged https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2135.html Climate drivers outside of the growing season may have stronger effects on plants than previously... Climate drivers outside of the growing season may have stronger effects on plants than previously assumed.

Leipzig. Plant responses to climate drivers such as temperature and precipitation may become visible only years after the actual climate event. This is a key result of new research led by the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) published in Global Change Biology. The results indicate that climate drivers may have different effects on the survivorship, growth and reproduction of plant species than suggested by earlier studies.

Two in five of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction. In the face of climate change, understanding why certain plant species are vulnerable to extinction while others prevail is more urgent than ever before. Previous studies linking climate and plant vital rates have found relatively modest effects, sometimes leading to the conclusion that other threats, such as land use change, may still be more important than climate drivers. However, these conclusions could result from wrong assumptions about which times of the year (which “time window”) climate drivers such as temperature and precipitation influence plant species. “Most researchers assume that plant populations respond to the climate within twelve months and only use this time window in their models to analyse plant responses,“ says first author Sanne Evers from iDiv and MLU.

Climate conditions during dormant seasons often neglected

For their study, the team of researchers led by iDiv, MLU and UFZ analysed 76 studies performed on 104 plant species that link climate drivers with demographic responses. They found that 85% of all studies considered 1-year time windows, and often focus on the growing season (e.g. spring and/or summer). However: “There are many ways in which climate during the dormant season, or climate that occurred few years in the past, can influence the survivorship, growth, and reproduction of plants. For example, species can grow substantially during the cold season, at least where the cold season temperature does not fall below 5° Celsius. In addition, it might take multiple years for plants to die after physiological damage from drought has occurred,” says Aldo Compagnoni from iDiv and MLU and senior author of the paper.

To investigate which combination of climate drivers and temporal window have the best predictive ability, the researchers used four exceptionally long-term data sets: the montane plants Helianthella quinquenervis and Frasera speciosa and the arid plants Cylindropuntia imbricata and Cryptantha flava. “For these plant species, 15 to 47 years of data was available. And even though they are all perennials, they come from very different habitats with clearly marked seasons,” Sanne Evers explains.

Climate stress may become visible only years later

The results were clear: In many cases, it can take several years for plants to respond to climate. ”Plant responses to climate drivers that are lagged and/or outside of the growing season are the rule rather than the exception,” says co-author Tiffany Knight, professor at MLU and UFZ and head of a research group at iDiv. “This could be explained by the physiological features of some plants: For instance, in alpine environments, it may take up to four years until leaves and flowers of plants such as F. speciosa reach maturity.” Accordingly, the effects of an extreme climate event may only become visible in the number of leaves and flowers four years after that event influenced the formation of these structures.

While this study focuses on examining the effects of past climate on plants, there are important implications for understanding how plants will be affected by future climate change. This study highlights that plant responses to climate are more complex than was previously appreciated. We need to prioritize experiments and observations of terrestrial ecosystems in order to create robust scenarios for the plant species that are critical to human well-being. 

Kati Kietzmann


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Sanne M. Evers, Tiffany M. Knight, David W. Inouye, Tom E. X. Miller, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Amy M. Iler, Aldo Compagnoni (2021). Lagged and dormant-season climate better predict plant vital rates than climate during the growing season. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15519

 

Contact:

Sanne Evers
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733283
Email: sanne.evers@idiv.de

 

Dr Aldo Compagnoni
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9739143
Email: aldo.compagnoni@idiv.de

 

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Spatial Interaction Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 22 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Can species adapt to a hotter world? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2136.html Researchers show that species' ability to adapt to climate warming is not unlimited Researchers show that species' ability to adapt to climate warming is not unlimited

Based on a press release by Lancaster University, UK

Species evolve faster to adapt to the climate getting colder than to it getting hotter – and the rise in heat they can adapt to has limits. These are the main results of a study by an international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the University Rey Juan Carlos and University of Alcalá in Spain, involving researchers from Lancaster University and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The new study, published in Nature Communications, explores how evolution has prepared some species to withstand these temperatures and how fast different species evolve to changing temperatures.

Red honey ants endure temperatures above 50°C in the Australian desert, while some springtail species survives extreme cold of -30°C in the Antarctic. Physiological tolerance to heat and cold determines where on the planet an organism can survive yet we have limited understanding of how this tolerance evolves over time. This is an area of increasing interest as the climate heats up more quickly than ever before. The new research helps to fill this gap in our knowledge, showing that species evolve heat tolerance more slowly than cold tolerance. It also suggests that heat tolerance cannot keep evolving indefinitely, most likely because there are fundamental limits to how far membranes and proteins can withstand heat.

”It took me more than a year to collect data for more than 2000 diverse species, including multicellular algae, marine invertebrates, mammals, birds and plants. I had to synthesize scientific works published across multiple decades that used very diverse methodologies,“ said lead author Dr Joanne Bennett, who conducted the study as postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU, an who now is affiliated with the University of Canberra, Australia. The outcome was an unprecedented database on the ability of different species to tolerate heat extremes (GlobTherm database).

On this basis the authors tested whether past climate ”legacies“, current climatic extremes or physiological boundaries to evolution could best explain the enormous variation in thermal tolerance across species.
The study involved a group of renowned ecologists, physiologists and evolutionary biologists, including Dr Sally Keith, an ecologist from Lancaster University. They were gathered by Prof M.Á. Olalla-Tárraga from the University Rey Juan Carlos, Spain, and Prof I. Morales-Castilla from the University of Alcalá, Spain.

“Our work shows that the ability to adapt to cold has evolved up to twice as fast as the ability to adapt to heat,” comments Olalla-Tárraga. “The evolution of cold tolerance was fastest in endotherms [warm blooded species that can generate their own heat], perhaps reflecting their more recent evolution and expansion into cold climates,” adds Morales-Castilla.

Despite this varied evolutionary history, species appear best adapted to the extreme temperatures that they experience today, rather than to the temperatures that prevailed at the time, they first evolved. However, the authors also detected evolutionary “attractors”, which suggest there is an upper limit to how far physiological processes that increase heat tolerance can evolve.

“These attractors suggest that, although species appear to have adapted so far to warming climates, the process cannot continue indefinitely. The implication for species survival under ongoing climate change is of big concern if Earth’s temperatures exceed what appears to be a fundamental physiological boundary,” said Dr Sally Keith from Lancaster University.

This research was partly supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sWEEP. iDiv's synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where 10 to 20 national, international scientists and iDiv researchers work together on scientific issues.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Bennett, J.M., Sunday, J., Calosi, P., Villalobos, F., Martínez, B., Molina-Venegas, R., Araújo, M. B., Algar, A. C., Clusella-Trullas, S., Hawkins, B. A., Keith, S. A., Kühn, I., Rahbek, C., Rodríguez, L., Singer, A., Morales-Castilla, I. &  Olalla-Tárraga, M. A. (2021): The evolution of critical thermal limits of life on Earth. Nature Communication 12, 1198. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21263-8

 

Contact:

Dr Joanne M. Bennett
Formerly
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Now
University of Canberra, Australia
Email: Joanne.Bennett@canberra.edu.au

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Members sDiv TOP NEWS Mon, 22 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Complex river ecosystems protect freshwater fish from species loss https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2133.html Report by Dr Stefano Larsen, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy Trento/Leipzig/Seattle. The...

Report by Dr Stefano Larsen, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy

Trento/Leipzig/Seattle. The conservation and restoration of highly branched river courses can help to curb the extinction of fish species. This is the result of an international working group led by Edmund Mach Foundation and with participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU), supported by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv. The researchers found that temporal synchrony in the abundance of freshwater fish populations can be predicted directly from the branching complexity and connectivity of river networks. Synchronous fluctuations in the size of different populations of a species at different locations in a river significantly increase the probability of extinction. As species are lost from freshwaters faster than in any other ecosystems, knowledge of fundamental patterns in their spatial and temporal dynamics can inform conservation strategies both now and in the future. The study was recently published in Ecology Letters.

In order to reveal the causes, dynamics and consequences of synchrony in population fluctuations, an international working group of scientists from eleven Countries, gathered in Leipzig to collaborate and leverage the most comprehensive dataset on long-term stream fish time-series. River ecosystems are well recognised as being distinct from most other spatially structured habitats, because organismal movement is constrained by the dendritic network. This poses unique challenges that the working group tackled by combining simulation models and geo-statistical approaches.

Theoretical predictions of how fish population synchrony decays with distance across the river basin were derived from a metacommunity model reproducing the geometry of river networks. “The challenge was to tailor our model to simulate dispersal within a dendritic network while also taking into account the directionality of water flow”, says Dr Remo Ryser. The postdoctoral researcher, affiliated to iDiv and FSU, developed the model together with Dr Claire Jaquet from the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) and Prof Ulrich Brose, head of the research group Theory in Biodiversity Science at iDiv and FSU.

The team then compared theoretical expectations with the empirical data, including more than 34.000 pairs of fish populations representing 48 fish species across Europe. Lead author of the study Dr Stefano Larsen from the Edmund Mach Foundation says: “I was delighted to see how closely the empirical spatial patterns in population synchrony matched our theoretical expectations.”

Results indicate that synchrony is higher between fish populations connected by direct water flow, and decays faster with distance along the straight-line “as the crow flies” than the watercourse “as the fish swims” dimension. Moreover, as expected from network theory, synchrony decays faster with distance in the marginal headwaters compared to the more connected mainstem populations of the same river basin.

“Our work reveals that river network geometry and the direction of water flow are fundamental drivers of spatial patterns in fish population synchrony,” explains Julian Olden, professor of freshwater ecology at the University of Washington who – together with professor Lise Comte from Illinois State University – led the interdisciplinary working group. According to both empirical and theoretical findings, this study shows that temporal synchrony in the abundance of fish populations can be buffered as a direct consequence of network branching complexity.

”The challenge of studying the dynamics of populations in complex habitats such as river networks also offers great opportunities. Our study sheds light on the geography of population synchrony allowing the prediction of key patterns even in the absence of empirical populations time series,” Stefano Larsen further explains.
“These findings have implications for the persistence and management of species in river networks that support high biodiversity, but are among the most threatened ecosystems globally.”

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sYNGEO. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.

Stefano Larsen


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
 
Larsen, S., Comte, L., Filipe, A.F., Fortin, M-J, Jaquet, C., Ryser, R., Tedesco, P.A., Brose, U., Erős, T., Giam, X., Irving, K., Ruh,i A., Sharma, S., & Olden, J.D. (2021): The geography of metapopulation synchrony in dendritic river networks, Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.13699

 

Contact:

Dr Stefano Larsen
Research and Innovation Centre
Fondazione Edmund Mach
Email: stefano.larsen@fmach.it

 

Remo Ryser
Theory in Biodiversity Science research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Email: remo.ryser@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/561.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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sDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Theory in Biodiversity Science Mon, 15 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Why biological diversity is important for our health https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2132.html Biodiversity contributes to human health via four domains of pathways – both beneficial and harmful Biodiversity contributes to human health via four domains of pathways – both beneficial and harmful

Report by first author Dr Melissa Marselle, former post-doctoral researcher at UFZ/iDiv, and senior author Prof Aletta Bonn, head of ecosystem services lab at UFZ/iDiv/FSU.

Leipzig. Biodiversity has a major impact on human well-being - in four different ways: by reducing harm, restoring capacities, building capacities and causing harm. This is the result of a team of 26 international experts from various disciplines, led by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), as well as Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). The study was recently published in the journal Environment International.

We all know that biodiversity is essential for our health and wellbeing. But why and how is biodiversity important for our health? What are the different beneficial and harmful effects of biodiversity on health? Researchers identified four different pathways how biodiversity affects human health, both positively and negatively, by (i) reducing harm (e.g. provision of medicines, decreasing exposure to air and noise pollution); (ii) restoring capacities (e.g. attention restoration, stress reduction); (iii) building capacities (e.g. promoting physical activity, transcendent experiences); and (iv) causing harm (e.g. dangerous wildlife, infectious diseases, allergens).

Biodiversity crucially contributes to human health by reducing harm. It provides us with medicines, food, as well as climate and water regulation, biodiversity protects us from diseases and enhances health. Biodiversity can also foster human health and wellbeing by reducing harm from environmental stressors, such as air and noise pollution, or by reducing exposure to extreme heat.

Biodiversity also contributes to our mental health by restoring our capacities to deal with the demands of everyday life. Everyday life can stretch our ability to handle stress, focus our attention and solve problems, which puts us at risk of being stressed and mentally ill. Biodiverse environments can help us restore these depleted capacities. Studies have shown that greater plant species richness and bird abundances can reduce stress. Biodiversity may also help us restore the capacity to concentrate or focus our attention.

In addition, biodiversity also fosters human health by building our capacities for meeting everyday demands. For example, people may be more likely to take exercise in a biodiverse environment. Biodiverse environments may also facilitate transcendent experiences – such as experiencing awe and wonder or reflecting on one’s life goals. These transcendent experiences are important contributors to health and wellbeing. Viewing and listening to wildlife can also contribute to a sense of place attachment and place identity.

Biodiversity can, however, also affect human health by causing harm. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the negative impacts biodiversity can have on human health. Exposure to infectious zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, Ebola or Malaria, transmitted through animals can form significant health risks. Unsustainable management of biodiversity (e.g. through habitat loss or wildlife trade) can increase the risk of interactions with animals that carry these infectious diseases. Allergies and animal attacks are other examples of how contact with biodiversity may also be harmful to human health.  

Our findings further the understanding of the specific pathways of how biodiversity is important for our health. We hope this can underpin the urgency of why we need to protect nature for our own health and well-being. 

The study, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, forms the synthesis result of a 3-day symposium in September 2019 with an international panel of 26 experts from different disciplines, including biology, biomedical sciences, ecology, environmental epidemiology, environmental psychology, geography, medicine, modern literature, public health, and statistics, as well as experts from conservation agencies and health authorities. 

By synthesizing the evidence linking biodiversity to human health with interdisciplinary colleagues from health sciences, psychology and natural sciences as well as experts form policy and practice we could develop a holistic, conceptual biodiversity – health framework. Understanding these causal relationships will provide important pointers for future research as well as for practical implementations in urban planning and developing public health policies for investment into biodiversity as our life-support system.
Melissa Marselle

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Marselle, M.R., Hartig, T., Cox, D.T.C., de Bell, S., Knapp, S., Lindley, S., Triguero-Mas, M., Böhning-Gaese, K., Braubach, M., Cook, P.A., de Vries, S., Heintz-Buschart, A., Hofmann, M., Irvine, K.N., Kabisch, N., Kolek, F., Kraemer, R., Markevych, I., Martens, D., Müller, R., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Potts, J.M., Stadler, J., Walton, S., Warber, S.L. & Bonn, A. (2021) Pathways linking biodiversity to human health: A conceptual framework. Environment International, 150, 106420. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106420

 

Contact:

Dr Melissa Marselle
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Now: Institute for Psychological Sciences
De Montfort University Leicester, UK
United Kingdom
Phone: +49 341 9733151
Email: melissa.marselle@dmu.ac.uk
Web: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/academic-staff/health-and-life-sciences/melissa-marselle/melissa-marselle.aspx

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services iDiv Members Tue, 09 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Autumn and spring are closely linked https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2128.html Biologists study autumn phenology of herbaceous plants Biologists study autumn phenology of herbaceous plants

Based on a media release by Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena

The fact that plants are beginning to flower earlier and earlier as a result of climate change was reported some time ago by scientists in Jena, among others. But how do the climatic changes actually affect the other end of the growing season? To find answers to this question, biologists Dr Solveig Franziska Bucher of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Prof Christine Roemermann of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have intensively studied the so-called leaf senescence, i.e. the ageing process of plants, which can be observed, for example, through autumnal colouring or the shedding of leaves. They discovered that leaf senescence begins earlier at lower temperatures than at higher temperatures. The start of this process can differ from species to species, but the colder the environment, the faster it occurs. The study was published in the Journal of Ecology.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

S. F. Bucher and C. Römermann (2021): The timing of leaf senescence relates to flowering phenology and functional traits in 17 herbaceous species along elevational gradients, Journal of Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13577

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Avoid repeating old mistakes https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2130.html Researchers propose necessary corrections in global biodiversity policy Researchers propose necessary corrections in global biodiversity policy

Leipzig/Halle. In the future, global goals for biodiversity must apply to all member states of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also at national level. This is one of four recommendations for improving the global strategy for biodiversity made by a team of researchers led by the Nanjing Institute for Environmental Research in China, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and NatureServe. The global biodiversity strategy is currently being renegotiated under the auspices of the CBD. In addition, funding, knowledge base and methods for measuring the success of nature conservation should be improved. In the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the researchers analyse why the global goals for biodiversity have been largely missed so far and present concrete policy options.

Since the founding of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, member states have regularly agreed on global strategies to bring the increasingly rapid loss of biodiversity to a halt. In 2002, the heads of state adopted the so-called 2010 biodiversity targets. Eight years later, little progress had been made and 20 new, even more ambitious goals were set for the next ten years. Last year, it became clear that this target had been missed, too. The loss of biodiversity continues unabated.

This year, new targets are being negotiated again - this time for 2030. The decisions are to be made at the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Kunming, China. To ensure that the mistakes from previous years will not be repeated, Chinese researchers led by Prof Haigen Xu from the Nanjing Institute for Environmental Research in cooperation with Prof Henrique Pereira (iDiv, MLU) have presented an analysis of the causes of this failure, focusing primarily on implementation in the individual member states.

Their conclusion: the commitments at UN level were all too seldom transposed into national law.  Four of the 20 so-called Aichi Targets are not reflected in any of the implementation plans (NBSAPs) submitted by the governments, including the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies. The other targets were formulated strictly enough to meet the requirements of the CBD decisions in only 22 percent of the NBSAPs. In addition, the analysis revealed insufficient financial resources and major gaps in knowledge on how to record and effectively combat biodiversity loss. Implementation of the promised goals in member states was insufficiently monitored, as effective indicators and evaluation mechanisms were lacking in some cases.

“While the CBD has now presented a first post-2020 draft that contains many improvements compared to the last decade’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity,” says ecologist and last author Pereira, “the main problems remain: governments are not required to present a clear roadmap on how they will achieve and monitor the targets adopted under the CBD in their own countries.”

The authors suggest that the CBD targets should be formulated in such a way that they can be transposed into national law as a mandatory minimum requirement. Similar to the Paris Climate Agreement or the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the CBD targets should be legally binding. Financial resources to promote biodiversity should be significantly increased and new instruments such as payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity-related taxes should be introduced. In addition, interdisciplinary research on the status, trends and drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide should be strengthened and appropriately equipped in order to develop the necessary responses. Further, the CBD should establish a mechanism to verify the compliance of member states with their targets and, if necessary, hold them accountable.

“The impacts of biodiversity loss on human well-being have never been clearer. Awareness of failures of past efforts to effectively respond to the biodiversity crisis can inform future actions,” said Mike Gill, Director of Biodiversity Indicators Program at NatureServe co-author of the new study. “Our findings offer some realistic and tangible solutions that can realise a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

At iDiv, Pereira and several other colleagues are actively contributing to biodiversity-related policy processes at various levels, for example, within the framework of the United Nations in the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and the CBD, at EU level in the negotiations of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, as well as in national, regional and local contexts. These activities are supported by the research centre's good network of collaborators from different disciplines around the world.

Pereira is pleased about this collaboration with his Chinese co-authors as important players in nature conservation from one of the world’s most influential nations. “It’s inspiring to co-author such an ambitious proposal with colleagues from the host nation of COP15, where the final decisions will be made.”
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Haigen Xu, Yun Cao, Dandan Yu, Mingchang Cao, Yuxiao He, Michael Gill & Henrique M. Pereira (2021): Ensuring effective implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity targets, Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01375-y

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Biodiversity Conservation Tue, 26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Street trees close to the home may reduce the risk of depression https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2126.html Researchers show positive effect of urban nature on mental health Researchers show positive effect of urban nature on mental health

Leipzig. Daily contact with trees in the street may significantly reduce the risk of depression and the need for antidepressants. This is the result of a study by researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU), recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. Street tree planting in residential areas of cities can serve as a nature-based solution to reduce the risk of depression with added benefits of also addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. This should be taken into account by urban planners, health professionals, and conservationists.

Depression, especially in urban areas, is on the rise, now more than ever. Mental health outcomes are influenced by, among other things, the type of environment where one lives. Former studies show that urban greenspace has a positive benefit on people experiencing mental ill health, but most of these studies used self-reported measures, which makes it difficult to compare the results and generalise conclusions on the effects of urban greenspace on mental health.

An interdisciplinary research team of UFZ, iDiv, the UL, and FSU addressed this issue by choosing an objective health indicator: prescriptions of antidepressants. To find out whether a specific type of ‘everyday’ green space – street trees dotting the neighbourhood sidewalks – could positively influence mental health, they focused on the questions, how the number and type of street trees and their proximity close to home correlated to the number of antidepressants prescribed.

The researchers analysed data from almost 10,000 Leipzig inhabitants, a major city  in Germany, who took part in the LIFE-Adult health study running at the University of Leipzig Medical Faculty. Combining that with data on the number and species type of street trees throughout the city of Leipzig, the researchers were able to identify the association between antidepressants prescriptions and the number of street trees at different distances from people’s homes. Results were controlled for other factors known to be associated with depression, such as employment, gender, age, and body weight.

Street trees near the home may reduce the risk to suffer from depression

More trees immediately around the home (less than 100 meters) was associated with a reduced risk of being prescribed antidepressant medication. This association was especially strong for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. As these social groups are at the greatest risk for being prescribed antidepressants in Germany, street trees in cities can thereby serve as a nature-based solution for good mental health, the researchers write. At the same time, street trees may also help reduce the ‘gap’ in health inequality between economically different social groups. No association of tree types, however, and depression could be shown in this study.

“Our finding suggests that street trees – a small scale, publicly accessible form of urban greenspace – can help close the gap in health inequalities between economically different social groups,” says lead author of the study Dr Melissa Marselle. “This is good news because street trees are relatively easy to achieve and their number can be increased without much planning effort.” As an environmental psychologist, she conducted the research at UFZ and iDiv and is now based at the De Montford University of Leicester, UK. Marselle hopes that the research “should prompt local councils to plant street trees to urban areas as a way to improve mental health and reduce social inequalities. Street trees should be planted equally in residential areas to ensure those who are socially disadvantaged have equal access to receive its health benefits.” 

“Importantly, most planning guidance for urban greenspace is often based on purposeful visits for recreation”, adds Dr Diana Bowler (iDiv, FSU, UFZ), data analyst in the team. “Our study shows that everyday nature close to home – the biodiversity you see out of the window or when walking or driving to work, school or shopping – is important for mental health.” ”This finding is especially relevant now in times of the COVID-19 lock-downs,“ Bowler adds.

Urban tree planting can help to meet nature protection goals and social equality

“This scientific contribution can be a foundation for city planners to save and, possibly, improve the life quality for inhabitants, in particular, in densely populated areas and in central city areas,” adds Prof Toralf Kirsten from Leipzig University. “Therefore, this aspect should be taken into account when city areas are recreated and planned. A healthy life of all living being is key.”

And it’s not only human health which could benefit. “We propose that adding street trees in residential urban areas is a nature-based solution that may not only promote mental health, but can also contribute to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation,” says senior author Prof Aletta Bonn, who leads the department of ecosystem services at UFZ, iDiv and FSU. “To create these synergy effects, you don't even need large-scale expensive parks: more trees along the streets will do the trick. And street trees are a relatively inexpensive nature-based solution for climate and health promotion.”
Melissa Marselle

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Melissa R. Marselle, Diana Bowler, Jan Watzema, David Eichenberg, Toralf Kirsten & Aletta Bonn (2020): Urban street tree biodiversity and antidepressant prescriptions, Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-79924-5

 

Contact:

Dr Melissa Marselle
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Now: Institute for Psychological Sciences
De Montfort University Leicester, UK
United Kingdom
Phone: +49 341 9733151
Email: melissa.marselle@dmu.ac.uk
Web: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/academic-staff/health-and-life-sciences/melissa-marselle/melissa-marselle.aspx

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release iDiv Members Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Mon, 25 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Measuring the belowground world https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2124.html Researchers call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity and functions in international... Researchers call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity and functions in international conservation strategies

Leipzig/Halle/Fort Collins. A quarter of all known species live in the soil. Life above ground depends on the soil and its countless inhabitants. Yet, global strategies to protect biodiversity have so far paid little attention to this habitat. In the journal Science, an international team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Leipzig University (UL) and Colorado State University calls for greater consideration of soils in the renegotiation of international biodiversity strategies. Their relevance must be recognised far beyond agriculture. In order to make the status and performance of soils more visible, the researchers explain their plan for systematic recording based on common global standards.

If you asked people which group of animals is the most abundant on earth, hardly anyone would know the right answer. Ants? Fish? No, and not humans either. The answer is nematodes, also known as roundworms. Four out of five animals on earth belong to this group, and the reason hardly anyone is aware of the fact is that they live underground, invisible to us. Together with thousands of other soil organisms, they quietly, discreetly and constantly perform enormously important services for the world above them.

The soil is one of the most species-rich habitats in existence. Living under one square meter of healthy soil you can find up to 1.5 kilograms of organisms: among others, roundworms, earthworms, springtails, mites and insect larvae. There is also a multitude of microorganisms including bacteria, protists and fungi. They eat and transform living and dead animal and plant material into nutrients which become the basis for growth and new life. Without soil organisms, no plants would be able to grow and no humans could live.

It is therefore all the more astonishing that soils have so far hardly featured in international strategies for protecting biodiversity. The authors of the new article in Science see this as a big problem: “If we do not protect soils for the next generations, aboveground biodiversity and food production cannot be guaranteed either”. Their appeal goes out to the 196 nations who are currently negotiating a new strategy to protect biodiversity within the framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Healthy soils are becoming increasingly rare. They suffer the burden of intensive cultivation with heavy machinery, fertilisers and pesticides, are compacted, built over or are lost due to wind and water erosion. Global warming is putting them under additional pressure. According to the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, around 24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost worldwide every year. As a result, the soils’ wide variety of services such as water purification and protection against plant diseases gradually decline. In addition, soils are the most important carbon reservoir on earth and therefore help slow global climate warming.

Call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity in global biodiversity protection strategies

According to the researchers, these services are given far too little attention in the political debate. “Up to now, soil conservation has been mostly reduced to the impacts related to soil erosion and its importance for agriculture,” said first author Dr Carlos Guerra (iDiv, MLU). “It's about time that soil conservation policies consider the protection of soil organisms and ecosystem functions more than just for food production and other productive systems. Soil biodiversity monitoring and conservation can support the achievement and tracking of many sustainability goals, targeting areas such as climate, food and biodiversity protection.”

“Protection measures have so far mainly focused on life above ground, for example in the designation of protected areas”, said senior author Dr Diana Wall from Colorado State University. However, since these do not necessarily benefit underground biodiversity, the specific needs of the biotic communities in the soil have to be taken into account.

Establishing global monitoring network Soil BON 

In order to be able to decide which regions of the world are particularly in need of protection, and which protective measures are appropriate, sufficient information must be available on the status and trends of biodiversity in soils. Since this has not been the case so far, the researchers launched the Soil BON monitoring network. “We want to move biodiversity in soils into the focus of conservation efforts. To do this, we must provide policymakers with the necessary information to support decision-making,“ said senior author Prof Nico Eisenhauer, research group leader at iDiv and Leipzig University. “Soil BON will produce and support the production of the relevant data to achieve this goal.”

The purpose of Soil BON is to help gather equivalent soil data, comprehensively and over extended periods of time. What is required is an internationally recognised standard which sets out what is to be recorded and how. The researchers propose a holistic system for this: the so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). EBVs are key parameters for measuring biodiversity. The concept was developed by, among others, iDiv and includes criteria such as soil respiration, nutrient turnover and genetic diversity. Indicators are derived from the EBVs which then serve as a basis for soil status evaluation and subsequent decisions regarding the level and type of protection necessary for the soils.

According to the researchers, their proposed monitoring and indicator system will enable the worldwide condition of soils and their capacity to function to be recorded efficiently and monitored long term. They emphasise that it also serves as an important early warning system; with its help, it will be possible to identify, at an early stage, whether existing nature conservation goals can be achieved with current measures.

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Carlos A. Guerra, Richard D. Bardgett, Lucrezia Caon, Thomas W. Crowther, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Luca Montanarella, Laetitia M. Navarro, Alberto Orgiazzi, Brajesh K. Singh, Leho Tedersoo, Ronald Vargas-Rojas, Maria J. I. Briones, François Buscot, Erin K. Cameron, Simone Cesarz, Antonis Chatzinotas, Don A. Cowan, Ika Djukic, Johan van der Hoogen, Anika Lehmann, Fernando T. Maestre, César Marín, Thomas Reitz, Matthias C. Rillig, Linnea C. Smith, Franciska T. de Vries, Alexandra Weigelt, Diana H. Wall & Nico Eisenhauer (2020): Tracking, targeting, and conserving soil biodiversity - A monitoring and indicator system can inform policy, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abd7926

 

Video of the authors explaining facts of the publication

 

Contact:

Dr Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Prof Diana Wall
Colorado State University
Phone: +1 970215-3888
Email: Diana.Wall@colostate.edu
Web: https://walllab.colostate.edu/people/dr-diana-h-wall/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS GEO BON Media Release iDiv Members Thu, 14 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
"The Global Biodiversity Agenda and the European Biodiversity Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges for Central Germany" https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2122.html iDiv-Forum 2021 (video conference), Monday, 11 January, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. iDiv-Forum 2021 (video conference), Monday, 11 January, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

With the Ministers of the Environment of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony, Prof. Dr. Claudia Dalbert, Anja Siegesmund and Wolfram Günther, as well as the President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel and several iDiv scientists.

Programme (in German)

 

Contact:

Dr Andrea Perino
Science-Policy Coordination
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733184
Email: andrea.perino@idiv.de

 

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iDiv TOP NEWS Mon, 04 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Plant diversity in Germany on the decline https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2114.html Most comprehensive evaluation of the occurrence of vascular plants in Germany to date Most comprehensive evaluation of the occurrence of vascular plants in Germany to date

Bonn/Halle/Jena/Leipzig. Germany's plant diversity is on the decline: over the last 60 years, decreases have been observed across Germany in over 70 percent of the more than 2000 species examined. The species dropped by an average of 15 percent. These are the findings of the most comprehensive analysis of plant data from Germany ever conducted, recently published in Global Change Biology. 29 million pieces of data on the distribution of vascular plants were taken into account in the analyses carried out within the framework of the "sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany" project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The study involved researchers from iDiv, the universities of Jena, Halle and Rostock, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with the close involvement of the regional nature conservation agencies from all 16 federal states.

In an area covering the whole of Germany – in every grid field of approximately 5 by 5 kilometres – the decline in species diversity averages around two percent per decade. Especially vulnerable are the archaeophytes; species brought to Germany by humans before the discovery of America. Among others, these include a large proportion of accompanying field flora, such as the corn marigold and the large Venus’s looking glass, but also species such as the narrow-leaved rattle and the perennial goosefoot. On the other hand, many neophytes – those species that reached Germany after 1492, were also able to spread, such as the Himalayan balsam or the narrow-leaved ragwort. The results of this study make it clear that even this increase could not compensate for the loss in the number of species per unit of area.

Study shows gradual biodiversity decline in Germany

For this study, the necessarily large and heterogeneous data sets were brought together, for the first time in Germany, and reliably statistically evaluated. Distribution data from 2136 of the over 4300 plant species established in Germany were included in the calculations. Species with very low reporting frequencies were not included. The foundation for this was the FlorKart database, in which the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has collated data on the distribution of flora in Germany. This data is predominantly the result of intensive mapping work by volunteers; an endeavour which is indispensable for nature conservation. The data was supplemented by further data sets from universities and other scientific institutions, but also by information on the presence of plants from private individuals. Information gaps were filled by calculating the probability of plant occurrence.

BfN President Prof Dr Beate Jessel concludes: “This clearly shows, once again, that we have to rethink our approach to nature and landscape; after all, the population declines proven by the study extend over the whole of Germany. This leaves no doubt; we need a broad-based approach to agriculture and forestry, which together occupy 80 percent of the area of Germany. This demonstrates that there’s an urgent need for more nature-compatible forms of land use.”
 
Plant species brought in by humans (neophytes) are gaining ground

“The degree of clarity in these results really surprised us. They paint a very dismal picture of the state of plant diversity in Germany,” says first author Dr David Eichenberg of iDiv. “This study has confirmed that the declines are not limited to already rare or particularly endangered species, but that a gradual reduction of biodiversity in the majority of plant species in Germany has obviously been happening for a long time.” 

The authors consider it likely that the observed decline in plant diversity has a major impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Due to the often very complex relationships between, for example, food webs and the cascade effect, such losses can have very serious consequences. It is evident that the intricate interrelationships between insects are affected, leading to decreases in both insect diversity and abundance. 

However, the study also shows that data availability must continue to be improved in order to identify even subtle biodiversity losses as early as possible. In order to achieve this, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation is currently setting out the basis for monitoring semi-frequent plant species in Germany. In contrast to rare species, where populations and occurrence are often well surveyed, with current recording methods, declines in semi-frequent and common species are only noticed late, or not at all. 

This study was funded by, among others, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”. sMon is an iDiv synthesis project with the aim of bringing together exemplary data sets on a variety of taxa and habitats in order to explore the possibilities for, and limitations of the analysis of changes in biodiversity. Based on this, prospects for future monitoring programmes in Germany are to be determined. Its integrative aspect is unique; bringing together government representatives from all federal states, scientists and members of various professional associations in one project.

 

Original publication 
(Scientists with iDiv-Affiliation bold)
Eichenberg, D., Bowler, D.E., Bonn, A., Bruelheide, H., Grescho, V., Harter, D., Jandt, U., May, R., Winter, M., Jansen F. (2020): Widespread decline in Central European plant diversity across six decades. Global Change Biology,  DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15447

 

Contact:

Dr David Eichenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Email: david.eichenberg@idiv.de

 

Prof Florian Jansen
University of Rostock
Email: florian.jansen@uni-rostock.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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sDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Mon, 14 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Leipzig biodiversity researcher receives 2021 Leibniz Prize https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2120.html Most important German research award Most important German research award

Leipzig. Today, the Joint Committee of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) awarded the 2021 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to four female and six male researchers. One of them is Nico Eisenhauer, research group head at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Professor at Leipzig University since 2014 . The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each.

“The Leibniz Prize for Prof. Nico Eisenhauer honours his outstanding work on the effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions,” reads the DFG’s justification. At the age of 40, this year's youngest prizewinner is “already one of the leading scientists in his field”. The jury found that Eisenhauer’s research has yielded “significant advances in ecological theory and a fundamental understanding of the functional significance of biodiversity”. 

In 2014, Eisenhauer already received the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize and became professor at Leipzig University – in a joint appointment with iDiv. He is the Speaker of the Jena Experiment, one of the world’s oldest and best-known biodiversity experiments. In 2016, he was awarded a prestigious Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).

Eisenhauer shared his initial thoughts on the news this afternoon: “I can hardly believe it, this is amazing! I am very happy for my fantastic team, which I can now continue to employ and support. We want to further advance functional biodiversity research, including in our MyDiv experiment in Bad Lauchstädt. It is important to focus more on research into soil biodiversity.”

“An international star”

Professor Beate Schücking, Rector of Leipzig University, commented on the news: “Nico Eisenhauer is one of the best researchers Leipzig University has, one who has already made outstanding achievements at a young age. Leipzig is shaped by his research interests in how environmental and climate change affect biodiversity. I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart and I share his delight.”

Professor Christian Wirth, iDiv Speaker and head of the Special Botany and Functional Biodiversity department at Leipzig University, said: “I have known Nico Eisenhauer since his doctoral period in the Jena Experiment – he was an academic prodigy back then. Today he is an international star tackling the Herculean task of functional biodiversity research. He wants to know how the invisible yet bewilderingly vast biodiversity in soils keeps our ecosystems running – a question that concerns all of humanity. To this end, he masterfully employs the entire gamut of iDiv’s integrative concept, from large-scale experiments to global synthesis.”

About the prize

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. 

The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each. The prizewinners can use this money for their research work for up to seven years, following their own ideas and without bureaucratic red tape. The 2021 Leibniz Prizes will be awarded during an online event on 15 March.

 

Contact:

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology Thu, 10 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Does biodiversity evoke happiness? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2118.html Study shows: Happier people often congregate in environments with many bird species Study shows: Happier people often congregate in environments with many bird species

Based on a media release by Senckenberg.

Frankfurt, Leipzig, Kiel. A high biological diversity in our immediate vicinity is as important for life satisfaction as our income. These are the findings that scientists from Senckenberg, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and the University of Kiel recently published in the journal Ecological Economics. For the first time, the researchers were able to show that all across Europe, the individual enjoyment of life is correlated to the number of bird species in one’s surroundings. An additional ten percent of bird species in the vicinity therefore increases the life satisfaction of Europeans at least as much as a comparable increase in income. Nature conservation thus constitutes an investment in human well-being, according to the researchers.

Under the current pandemic conditions, activities out in nature are a popular pastime. The beneficial effects of a diverse nature on people’s mental health have already been documented by studies on a smaller scale. Scientists of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, the iDiv, and the University of Kiel now examined for the first time whether a diverse nature also increases human well-being on a Europe- wide scale. 

To this end, the researchers used the data from the “2012 European quality of Life Survey” to study the connection between the species diversity in their surroundings and the life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. Species diversity was measured based on the diversity of avian species, as documented in the European breeding bird atlas. 

“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” explains the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt. ”According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Birds are well-suited as indicators of biological diversity, since they are among the most visible elements of the animate nature – particularly in urban areas. Moreover, their song can often be heard even if the bird itself is not visible, and most birds are popular and people like to watch them. But there is also a second aspect that affects life satisfaction: the surroundings. A particularly high number of bird species can be found in areas with a high proportion of near-natural and diverse landscapes that hold numerous greenspaces and bodies of water. 

“We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income,” explains Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, and member of the iDiv. This result becomes particularly obvious when both values increase by ten percent. Fourteen additional bird species in the vicinity raise the level of life satisfaction at least as much as an extra 124 Euros per month in the household account, based on an average income of 1,237 Euro per month in Europe. 

According to the study, a diverse nature therefore plays an important role for human well-being across Europe – even beyond its material services. At the same time, the researchers draw attention to impending health-related problems. “The Global Assessment 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe clearly show that the biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all,” adds Methorst in conclusion. 

This research was, among others, supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

Methorst, J., Rehdanz, K., Mueller, T., Hansjürgens, B., Bonn, A., Böhning-Gaese, K. (2020): The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe. Ecological Economics, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106917

 

Contact:

Joel Methorst
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 75421872
Email: joel.methorst@senckenberg.de

 

Prof Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Phone: +49 (0)69 7542 1821
Email: katrin.boehning-gaese@senckenberg.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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yDiv Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Thu, 03 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Leipzig researchers compile world’s largest inventory of known plant species https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2112.html City could become a global reference for plant biodiversity researchers City could become a global reference for plant biodiversity researchers

Leipzig. Researchers at Leipzig University (UL) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have compiled the world’s most comprehensive list of known plant species. It contains 1,315,562 names of vascular plants, thus extending the number of recognised plant species and subspecies by some 70,000 – equivalent to about 20%. The researchers have also succeeded in clarifying 181,000 hitherto unclear species names. The data set has now been published in Scientific Data. This marks the culmination of more than ten years of intensive research work and could help to make Leipzig a leading international centre of plant biodiversity research.

Leipzig could mean for the future of plant taxonomy what Greenwich meant for world time until 1972: it could become the reference city for correct scientific plant names. In an outstanding feat of research, the curator of the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University, Dr Martin Freiberg, and colleagues from iDiv and UL have compiled what is now the largest and most complete list of scientific names of all known plant species in the world. The Leipzig Catalogue of Vascular Plants (LCVP) enormously updates and expands existing knowledge on the naming of plant species, and could replace The Plant List (TPL) – a catalogue created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London which until now has been the most important reference source for plant researchers.

“In my daily work at the Botanical Garden, I regularly come across species names that are not clear, where existing reference lists have gaps,” said Freiberg. “This always means additional research, which keeps you from doing your actual work and above all limits the reliability of research findings. I wanted to eliminate this obstacle as well as possible.”

World’s most comprehensive and reliable catalogue of plant names

With 1,315,562 scientific names, the LCVP is the largest of its kind in the world describing vascular plants. Freiberg compiled information from accessible relevant databases, harmonized it and standardised the names listed according to the best possible criteria. On the basis of 4500 other studies, he investigated further discrepancies such as different spellings and synonyms. He also added thousands of new species to the existing lists – species identified in recent years, mainly thanks to rapid advances in molecular genetic analysis techniques.

The LCVP now comprises 351,180 vascular plant species and 6160 natural hybrids across 13,460 genera, 564 families and 84 orders. It also lists all synonyms and provides further taxonomic details. This means that it contains over 70,000 more species and subspecies than the most important reference work to date, TPL. The latter has not been updated since 2013, making it an increasingly outdated tool for use in research, according to Freiberg.

“The catalogue will help considerably in ensuring that researchers all over the world refer to the same species when they use a name,” says Freiberg. Originally, he had intended his data set for internal use in Leipzig. “But then many colleagues from other botanical gardens in Germany urged me to make the work available to everyone.”

LCVP vastly expands global knowledge of plant diversity 

“Almost every field in plant research depends on reliably naming species,” says Dr Marten Winter of iDiv, adding: “Modern science often means combining data sets from different sources. We need to know exactly which species people refer to, so as not to compare apples and oranges or to erroneously lump different species.” Using the LCVP as a reference will now offer researchers a much higher degree of certainty and reduce confusion. And this will also increase the reliability of research results, adds Winter.

“Working alone, Martin Freiberg has achieved something truly incredible here,” says the director of the Botanical Garden and co-author Prof Christian Wirth (UL, iDiv). “This work has been a mammoth task, and with the LCVP he has rendered an invaluable service to plant research worldwide. I am also pleased that our colleagues from iDiv, with their expertise in biodiversity informatics, were able to make a significant contribution to this work.”

This research was in part supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Freiberg, M., Winter, M., Gentile, A., Zizka, A., Muellner-Riehl, A.N., Weigelt, A. & Wirth, C. (2020): LCVP, The Leipzig catalogue of vascular plants, a new taxonomic reference list for all known vascular plants. Scientific Data. DOI: 10.1038/s41597-020-00702-z

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Freiberg
Curator of the Botanical Garden of Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 36869
Email: freiberg@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut/ag/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/people/martin-freiberg/

 

Dr Marten Winter
Coordinator of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

Prof Alexandra Muellner-Riehl
Leipzig University
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +493419738581
Email: muellner-riehl@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Thu, 26 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
EuropaBON: MLU and iDiv lead new pan-European project for joint monitoring https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2115.html Information system on Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems for policy makers Information system on Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems for policy makers

Based on a media release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

A new research project aims at developing a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe. It is being coordinated by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. The results of the project are to inform the political decisions of the European Commission and other decision-makers. The EU is providing three million euros in funding for the project. A virtual kick-off meeting of the project partners will take place from 1 to 3 December.

In May of this year the European Commission presented the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy aims to restore threatened or already degraded ecosystems in Europe by the year 2030 and to halt biodiversity loss. “The problem is that we do not have a consistent picture of how biodiversity is changing across different species and taxonomic groups - for example mammals or amphibians – in the different regions of Europe,” says Professor Henrique Pereira, a researcher at MLU and iDiv. There are numerous studies and data on biodiversity in Europe; however, the collected data are often limited to time and place, and to individual species or taxonomic groups. Therefore, it is often difficult to compare the data. “A systematic, up-to-date information system that reflects the status of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems is needed in order to establish informed policy measures. It must also be geared to the needs of policymakers,” says Pereira.

This is where the European research alliance “EuropaBON” comes in, which Pereira will coordinate together with Dr Jessica Junker. One of its goals is to develop a new standard for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Another aim is to harmonise the data that have already been published on these issues. This includes data on biodiversity and other factors, such as water quality, as well as satellite data and data from government agencies, long-term trials, and other scientific sources. Often these data were collected with the intent of answering a specific research question and are difficult to compare.

Clarifying how this can nevertheless be achieved and the data be integrated is another goal of the project. Researchers and political decision-makers will collaborate on developing and tracking a range of so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables that will provide a coherent overall picture of Europe and form the basis for political decisions. “We want to synchronise the information requirements between politics and science,” says Pereira in summary.

For this broad-based project, the team from Halle and Leipzig is drawing on a network of 14 partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. “The data and the methods behind them are far too complex for one institution to handle alone. That’s why we are glad to have established this top-class scientific network,” says Pereira.

By the end of the project, various options for a European network will have been established for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Using concrete case studies, the team will examine the feasibility of the concepts - from data acquisition and management to reporting to the European Commission. In the future, the system should also make it possible to retrospectively assess the effect of individual nature conservation measures.

Further information about the project at http://europabon.org/

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Dr Jessica Junker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733123
Email: jessica.junker@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Thu, 26 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Rescue plan for the Leipzig floodplain forest https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2169.html Experts from research, authorities and NGOs develop a common vision and evaluate possible measures Experts from research, authorities and NGOs develop a common vision and evaluate possible measures

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 23 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2020 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2109.html 12 iDiv members named Highly Cited Researchers

Clarivate Analytics lists 12 iDiv members in its 2020 selection of “Highly Cited Researchers”. According to Clarivate Analytics, these scientists have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers, during the last decade.

The following iDiv members can be found on the list (in alphabetical order):

• Prof François Buscot (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Leipzig University)

• Prof Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, Leipzig University)

• Prof Jonathan Gershenzon (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, iDiv)

• Prof Stanley Harpole (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Dr Jens Kattge (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Ingolf Kühn (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, iDiv)

• Prof Markus Reichstein (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Matthias Rillig (Freie Universität Berlin, iDiv)

• Prof Josef Settele (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Prof Peter F. Stadler (Leipzig University, iDiv)

• Prof Susan Trumbore (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Dr Marten Winter (iDiv)

 

In total, approximately 6,400 researchers from 21 research fields have been selected.

See full list: https://recognition.webofscience.com/awards/highly-cited/2020/

 

Contact:

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/17.html

 

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TOP NEWS Thu, 19 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
More plant diversity, less pesticides https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2108.html Species-rich plant communities help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts. Species-rich plant communities help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts.

Leipzig/Jena/Minnesota. Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands. Species-rich plant communities support natural predators and simultaneously provide less valuable food for herbivores. This was found by a team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), who conducted two analogous experiments in Germany and the USA. Their results were published in Science Advances and show that increasing plant biodiversity could help reduce pesticide inputs in agricultural systems by enhancing natural biological control.

Biodiversity – the biological diversity of all species on Earth, their interactions and the diverse ecosystems they form – is crucial for providing and maintaining ecosystem functions and services in planted and natural grasslands. With an increasing demand to feed the world’s growing population by intensifying agriculture, these grasslands are put under pressure, too. Insect herbivores are causing an estimated 18-26% loss in global crop production, which has driven significant growth in the use of environmentally costly pesticides.  

To investigate whether and how increasing plant diversity can naturally reduce the impacts of herbivores on plants, an international team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) made use of two long-running grassland biodiversity experiments in Europe and North America: the Jena Experiment in Germany and the Cedar Creek Biodiversity Experiment in Minnesota (USA). Over the course of two years, the scientists collected data from these two analogous experiments, providing deep insight into the food web structure of monocultures and species-rich grasslands. “These two long-term experiments have generated invaluable insight, for both fundamental and applied research, that has brought to light the importance of maintaining biodiversity,” said senior author Nico Eisenhauer, professor at UL and head of a research group at iDiv as well as speaker of the Jena Experiment.

Species-rich plant communities less attractive to herbivores

The researchers found that plants in more diverse communities lose significantly less energy to herbivorous insects. In high-diversity mixtures, the feeding rate of herbivores per gram of plant biomass was 44% lower than in monocultures. Thus, for every gram of plant biomass produced, plants lose just under half as much energy to arthropod herbivores when planted in species-rich communities. “That ultimately means that where multiple species are planted together, this will yield more plant biomass per square meter, and each individual plant in diverse mixtures will receive lower damage from herbivores,” said first author and iDiv alumnus Andrew Barnes, now senior lecturer at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

In patches with higher plant diversity, arthropod herbivores have lower chances of encountering their preferred plant species – which makes it less likely that they will remain in these high-diversity patches. In addition, previous research had shown lower levels of tissue protein (nitrogen) in plant communities with high species richness, making these plants less nutritious for herbivores.

Predators benefit from increased plant diversity

Although the total biomass of herbivores and predators both increased in species-rich grasslands, predators benefited more strongly from diverse plant communities: Compared to monocultures, they increased notably in both their total biomass and feeding rates. A possible explanation could be that arthropod predators such as spiders, some beetles or wasps benefit significantly from the more complex habitat of high-diversity plant communities, which reduces their risk of being detected and eaten by vertebrate predators such as birds and mammals.

Increasing plant diversity, thus, has several positive side effects: Compared to monocultures, high-diversity plant communities produce more total biomass. In addition, both natural enemies and resource concentration act in concert to constrain the negative effects of herbivores on plant performance. Andrew Barnes said: “In other words, more diverse plant communities pose a double-edged problem for herbivores—that is, more predators and less preferred food—that could help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts.”

Plant biodiversity can limit herbivore pest outbreaks

By contrast, pest control that relies heavily on insecticides can lead to detrimental rebounds of herbivore pests as pesticide application may destabilise the communities of natural enemies. “Our experiments show that conserving plant diversity provides multiple benefits for controlling herbivore pests, which could play a key role in reducing inputs of agrochemicals and enhancing plant productivity,” said Andrew Barnes. Nico Eisenhauer added: “Ultimately, this study demonstrates that supporting biodiversity can leverage the sustainable management of ecosystems and the benefits to people.”

Kati Kietzmann

This research was, among others, supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
A. D. Barnes, C. Scherber, U. Brose, E. T. Borer, A. Ebeling, B. Gauzens, D. P. Giling, J. Hines, F. Isbell, C. Ristok, D. Tilman, W. W. Weisser, N. Eisenhauer (2020). 'Biodiversity enhances the multitrophic control of arthropod herbivory. Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6603

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Andrew Barnes
The University of Waikato
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Phone: +64 7 838 4460
Email: barnesa@waikato.ac.nz

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Theory in Biodiversity Science iDiv Experimental Interaction Ecology Research TOP NEWS Fri, 06 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
The seductive scent of sweet fruits https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2105.html New iDiv research group investigates communication between plants and animals New iDiv research group investigates communication between plants and animals

The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) adds a new research field to its portfolio. From November 2020, the biologist Dr Omer Nevo will head the new Junior Research Group 'Evolutionary Ecology' at iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). The 35-year-old scientist is particularly interested in chemical communication between plants and animals – in detail, how plants attract seed-dispersing animals by their fruit scent and how both sides have adapted to each other. This knowledge about the signalling effect of odours should also help to find new approaches in nature conservation. Nevo and his team will be funded for six years with about 1.3 million euros from the Emmy Noether Programme of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

The sweet scent of a fig is irresistible to the wild lemurs of Madagascar. But how did the fruits' smell become so appealing to the animals? This is the main question that Omer Nevo’s new research group plans to investigate at iDiv from November onwards.

To find answers, the researchers will combine chemical and genetic approaches. With the help of behavioural experiments with lemurs, the researchers plan to investigate how their sense of smell might have developed in response to this signal. “Seed dispersal and the ecological process behind it are the glue that holds many tropical systems together,” says Nevo. “A collapse in reliable animal-plant interactions would stop forest regeneration and, in the long run, drive a substantial decline in tropical biodiversity.” 


“Lion scent” as a tool in nature conservation

Nevo and his team also work on practical tools for nature conservation. A project in South Africa explores the chemical ecology of elephants and the results will help develop novel conservation tools. Crop raiding by elephants are a massive problem in their home ranges. It can lead to economic devastation of subsistence communities, and to conflicts that often culminate in the killing of elephants. Nevo and his colleagues try to identify chemicals that can act as safe and cost-effective repellents for elephants, thus mitigating the human-elephant conflicts.

At iDiv scientists from different backgrounds such as biology, computer science, psychology, social sciences etc. work together with the aim of conducting integrative research. “iDiv has become one of the most exciting global research institutions,” the biologist says. “It hosts a unique concentration of scientists and research groups doing cutting-edge ecology research. I believe this will strongly benefit our own research.” 

Best conditions for productive collaboration

Nevo’s field of expertise is a perfect fit for iDiv and its research portfolio and provides the basis for strong collaborations. “One of the most productive chemical ecology groups – the 'Molecular Interaction Ecology' group of Prof Nicole van Dam – works at iDiv,” says Nevo. “In addition, Dr Renske Onstein’s junior research group 'Evolution und Adaptation' is one of very few research groups in the world focusing on the evolution of fruit traits, a topic that is at the heart of my research.”

The DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme, which will fund Omer Nevo and his team for the coming six years, aims to support exceptionally qualified early-career researchers. By leading an independent junior research group, participants formally satisfy the prerequisites for appointment as a university professor. Nevo has recently worked at the Institute for Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics at Ulm University.

 

Interview with Dr Omer Nevo

 

Contact:

Dr Omer Nevo
Head of Junior Research Group Evolutionary Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Phone: +49 341 97 33279
Email: omer.nevo@evolutionary-ecology.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/evoeco

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Evolutionary Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Thu, 29 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Climate change drives plants to extinction in the Black Forest in Germany, study finds https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2103.html Due to rising temperatures and longer dry periods, two plant species have already gone extinct.

Based on a press release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Climate change is leaving its mark on the bog complexes of the German Black Forest. Due to rising temperatures and longer dry periods, two plant species have already gone extinct over the last 40 years. The populations of many others have decreased by one third. In the next couple of decades ten more species could become extinct, researchers from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) write in Diversity and Distributions.

There are only a few healthy ombrotrophic bogs, raised bogs and spring mires left in Germany. They used to cover large swathes of north-western Germany. Today they are still found in the foothills of the Alps and on low mountain ranges, for example in the Black Forest. They are very sensitive ecosystems that are highly dependent on certain climatic conditions. “These bogs and spring mires are seismographs of climate change. They react very sensitively to small changes in precipitation and temperature,” says professor Helge Bruelheide, a geobotanist at MLU and iDiv. Bog complexes also have a very high proportion of endangered plant and animal species.

Bruelheide joined forces with Thomas Sperle, a biologist and wetlands expert, to investigate the trends in biodiversity in bogs and spring mires in the southern region of the Black Forest. The two scientists drew on data from the 1970s about the vegetation of 124 complete bogs. Sperle completely re-surveyed nearly all of the areas over a period of four years. “It is really tricky to prove the extinction of a species for an entire bog. I had to carefully scan the whole area to ensure that specific individuals were not overlooked,” says Sperle. Bruelheide then used the data to analyse the 88 plant species. Two species have already become extinct. The population size of another 37 have decreased by about one third since the 1970s. This has disproportionately affected so-called specialist species that are adapted to specific climatic conditions and make up a large portion of the biodiversity in Germany. However, there were also 46 so-called generalist species that have coped better with the changes and whose numbers have increased over time.

The researchers also checked whether their observations could be explained by other factors, such as the size of the bogs, the distance from one bog to another and whether adjacent areas were used for agriculture. However, no factor could explain the data better than climate change. “Our analyses clearly show that species are declining and dying out in places where it is drier and warmer for longer periods of time in the summer. This is the first indication that climate change has already arrived in our latitudes,” concludes Bruelheide. “It is getting noticeably drier and hotter in the Black Forest, which is why this change is evident there. Presumably, the same thing will happen in other low mountain ranges such as the Harz. Our study can serve as an example for other regions in Germany, but also for other habitats and groups of species.”

In their study, the biologists predict that ten more specialist species will disappear by 2045 if conditions progress as expected. This is an alarming sign as there is no way to counteract this extinction in raised bogs and spring moors. “You cannot really replace missing rain in those bogs,” says Bruelheide. The new study is an outcome of the iDiv project "sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany". Reliable data on the development of biodiversity are compiled and analysed throughout Germany as part of this initiative. To this end, researchers team up with public institutions and numerous nature conservationists.

This study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118, 202548816) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, a synthesis project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, in cooperation with public authorities, specialist organisations and associations.

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

Sperle T., Bruelheide H. (2020): Climate change aggravates bog species extinctions in the Black Forest (Germany). Diversity and Distributions. Doi: 10.1111/ddi.13184

 

Contact:

Prof Helge Bruelheide
Professor for Geobotany
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Co-Director of the
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-345 5526222
Email: helge.bruelheide@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: http://www.botanik.uni-halle.de/geobotanik/helge_bruelheide/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members sDiv Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Biodiversity monitoring programmes need a culture of collaboration https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2101.html Integration of contributors promotes the quantity and quality of data Integration of contributors promotes the quantity and quality of data

Biodiversity loss is continuing relentlessly worldwide. In order to counteract this more effectively, monitoring programmes are needed which precisely map the circumstances of animal and plant species and the extent to which they are under threat. But too often, these are still inadequate – the range of species examined is not extensive enough, and there is too little coordination. A team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) describes, in an article for the scientific journal One Earth how different stakeholders can combine their data and expertise to improve monitoring and thus counteract further species loss.

Ecological monitoring is the recording of biological diversity and its spatial and temporal changes. The lack of monitoring programmes which cover a broad range of species often means that, in many countries, no clear assessments can be made about the status of biodiversity. As a result, factors which may lead to declines cannot be identified and remedied.

The necessary information, and the various stakeholders such as public authorities, scientists, specialist organisations, nature conservation associations and certain professional groups from the private sector would definitely be available in many places. However, they cannot always work in a coordinated way, as they often operate within very different institutional frameworks. Valuable knowledge and data are therefore not pooled, and gaps in the collection of data not filled. “This is why we have to create a culture of integration involving all those who are active in biodiversity monitoring,” says the first author of the study, Dr Hjalmar Kühl, ecologist at iDiv and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA).

Framework of trust

This can be achieved by bringing the various stakeholder groups together. “What’s needed is a framework within which decisions are not always made centrally, but in which the various groups network, trust each other and decide together what needs to be done,” says Kühl. “This self-organisation can increase the participants’ motivation and thus ensure greater acceptance on the part of the respective interest groups and anchor the topic of biodiversity more firmly in the public consciousness.”

To achieve this, workshops and symposia could bring relevant stakeholders together to collaborate in developing appropriate incentives and the necessary technical requirements for the exchange of data, results and analyses. “New approaches for the analysis of a wide range of monitoring data show how the information provided by a monitoring network can be interlinked with that from others,” says co-author Dr Diana Bowler, ecologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and iDiv. This allows the activities of various interest groups and individuals to be easily integrated.

In Europe, between 80 and 90 percent of biodiversity data is collected by volunteers

The assistance and involvement of volunteers, participants in Citizen Science programmes and species experts from professional associations is indispensable in many cases. For example, it was only through a study by the Krefeld Entomological Association which, in 2017, revealed the severe decline in flying insects that insect protection became a topic for the political agenda in Germany. Particularly, in the case of species groups such as beetles, hoverflies and cicadas, for whose identification the authorities rely on taxonomic expertise, volunteer participation is important for long-term surveys.

“There’s a long history of volunteer natural scientists who are fascinated by biological diversity and work for its preservation,” says last author Prof Aletta Bonn, research group leader at the UFZ, iDiv and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. “This citizen science data can be integrated with other monitoring data to identify trends and information gaps. A cultural change regarding cooperation in science is required - towards integrated monitoring for sustainable biodiversity protection.”

This study was funded by, among others, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118, 202548816) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, a synthesis project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, in cooperation with public authorities, specialist organisations and associations.

Benjamin Haerdle

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Kühl, H.S., Bowler, D.E., Bösch, L., Bruelheide, H., Dauber, J., Eichenberg, D., Eisenhauer, N., Fernandez, N., Guerra, C., Henle, K., Herbinger, I., Isaac, N.J.B., Jansen, F., Koenig-Ries, B., Kühn, I., Nilsen, E.B., Pe’er, G., Richter, A., Schulte, R., Settele, J., van Dam, N.M., Voigt, M., Wägele, J.W., Wirth, C., Bonn, A. (2020): Effective biodiversity monitoring needs a culture of integration, One Earth 3(4):462-474. DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2020.09.010

 

Contact:

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Ecosystem Services sDiv Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 27 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Land management in forest and grasslands: how much can we intensify? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2094.html A first assessment of the effects of land management on the linkages between biodiversity,... A first assessment of the effects of land management on the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services

Based on a media release by the University of Bern

Leipzig/Bern. High land-use intensity reduces the beneficial effects of biodiversity on ecosystem services. This is the main result of a study conducted by an international team led by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Bern. The study published in PNAS assessed, for the first time, the effects of land management on the links between three ecosystem attributes simultaniously: biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. It identified thresholds of management intensity, where these relationships change dramatically, which species groups were most important in driving services, and the ecosystem services that are at risk when management is intensified.

Ecosystem services are crucial for human well-being and they depend on a well-functioning ecosystem and complex interactions among many organisms. However, human activities are resulting in biodiversity loss and changes to ecosystems, which threatens the supply of key services. An international team of 32 scientists, from 22 institutions, led by Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia (UFZ, iDiv) and Prof Eric Allan (University of Bern) now present the very first assessment of the simultaneous effects of land-use intensity on biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services.

A new approach to investigate shifts in the ecosystem 

The researchers investigated how these interactions vary with land-use intensity. They analysed data from 300 German grasslands and forests, varying in land-use intensity, and borrowed approaches from network analysis to characterize the overall relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services. 

“We already knew that land use affects biodiversity and ecosystem functioning,” says the lead author of the paper Dr Felipe-Lucia, senior scientist at UFZ and iDiv. “But we knew very little about how land-use intensity simultaneously alters the relationships between diversities, functions and services. By understanding these relationships, we can anticipate how future changes in land use will affect ecosystems and human wellbeing.”

We cannot intensify without limits: varied landscapes are the key

The study demonstrates that low intensity farming and forestry can provide material benefits (fodder, timber), while preserving biodiversity. In contrast, high intensity practices increase material benefits but reduce biodiversity and the benefits people derive from it. 

“With increasing land-use intensity we are losing specialized relationships,” Felipe-Lucia concludes. “This is comparable to shopping either in a low-quality mega-store or in a specialized boutique.” Similar to specialized boutiques, where it is necessary to visit many different of them to get the best items, low land-use intensity grasslands and forests are specialized in a particular set of biodiversity, functions and associated services. High land-use intensity landscapes are comparable to mega-stores where all kinds of goods can be found at one place, but of lower quality.

“As in any city, it is ok to have a couple of mega-stores, but we cannot neglect the smaller high-quality boutiques either. In our landscapes, we need to maintain pockets of low land-use intensity to provide these specialized gifts,” explains Allan, senior author of the paper.

From ecosystem functioning to human-dependent landscapes

In healthy ecosystems, more species usually means higher levels of ecosystem services for people and therefore better human wellbeing. “Intensification tends to homogenize biodiversity-functioning-service relationships and lead to a less integrated system with fewer positive relations between services,” points out Allan. “Diverse low intensity systems can provide different sets of services and a varied landscape could therefore be the key to solve conflicting land uses and provide a wider range of services while preserving biodiversity.” 

“We also identified the level of management intensity that disrupts the normal functioning of the landscape, that is, when the ecosystem becomes more dependent on human inputs (such as fertilizer) for its functioning,” says Felipe-Lucia.

The new analyses can help to detect the loss of correlations between biodiversity and ecosystem services, which could be taken as an early warning signal of ecosystem change. “Our approach provides a new and comprehensive view of ecosystem functioning and can identify the key ecosystem attributes to monitor in order to prevent critical shifts in ecosystems,” says Allan. “It can also be applied to analyze the effects of other global changes such as climate change.”

 

The study was conducted in the framework of the Biodiversity Exploratories project, a priority program funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). 

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

M. R. Felipe-Lucia, S. Soliveres, C. Penone, M. Fischer, C. Ammer, S. Boch, R. Boeddinghaus, M. Bonkowski, F. Buscot, A.M. Fiore-Donno, K. Frank, K. Goldmann, M.M. Gossner, N. Hölzel, M. Jochum, E. Kandeler, V. H. Klaus, T. Kleinebecker, S. Leimer, P. Manning, Y. Oelmann, H. Saiz, P. Schall, M. Schloter, I. Schöning, M. Schrumpf, E.F. Solly, B. Stempfhuber, W.W. Weisser, W. Wilcke, T. Wubet, E. Allan (2020. Land-use intensity alters networks between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2016210117

 

Contact:

Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733183
Email: maria.felipe-lucia@idiv.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=45282

 

Prof Eric Allan
University of Bern, Switzerland
Institute of Plant Sciences
Phone: +41 31 631 49 92
Email: eric.allan@ips.unibe.ch
Web: https://www.ips.unibe.ch/aboutus/personen/commeco/prof_dr_allan_eric/index_eng.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Ecosystem Services Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Shifts in flowering phases of plants due to reduced insect density https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2100.html Research group of iDiv and Jena University uses novel research method to study effect of insect... Research group of iDiv and Jena University uses novel research method to study effect of insect decline on plant biodiversity

Based on a media release by the Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Leipzig/Jena. It still sounds unlikely today, but declines in insect numbers could well make it a frequent occurrence in the future: fields full of flowers, but not a bee in sight. A research group of the University of Jena and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has discovered that insects have a decisive influence on the biodiversity and flowering phases of plants. If there is a lack of insects where the plants are growing, their flowering behaviour changes. This can result in the lifecycles of the insects and the flowering periods of the plants no longer coinciding. If the insects seek nectar at the wrong time, some plants will no longer be pollinated.

Ecosystems are changing around the world, in particular due to global warming and altered land use. Insect species are dying out and the insect biomass is decreasing. Researchers have therefore studied how the biodiversity of plants is changing in the context of climate change. For this purpose, various climate scenarios have been simulated, using different temperatures and precipitation.

Innovative research method in iDiv Ecotron

In a new study reported in the specialist journal “Frontiers in Plant Science”, the research group Biodiversity of Plants of the University of Jena, led by iDiv member Prof. Christine Römermann, presents a different research approach. In cooperation with scientists from iDiv, led by Prof. Nico Eisenhauer, the researchers are focusing on the influence of invertebrates, such as insects, on the biodiversity and flowering behaviour of plants. 

“We know that the insect biomass is decreasing,” says Josephine Ulrich, a doctoral candidate from Römermann’s team, referring to a study from 2017 which detected that insects had declined by 75 per cent over the previous 30 years. 

The Jena research group has now studied in detail for the first time the extent to which decreasing insect density influences plant development. Whereas previous studies had only carried out field experiments, the research team used the Ecotron, an iDiv research facility where identical climatic situations can be simulated in artificial ecosystems and observed with cameras.

In their experiment, the researchers studied how plant composition and plant development change if the number of insects falls by three-quarters. 

Mismatch between plant and animal worlds

Ulrich and her colleagues discovered that the reduced insect biomass brings about a change in plant species. It is especially the dominant plant species, such as red clover, which become more prevalent. The development of the flowering period also changes as insect density declines. Some of the plants studied flowered earlier and others later. 

“These changes can lead to mismatches between plant and animal species, which lead to adverse consequences for the ecosystem,” says Ulrich, the lead author of the study. Examples are the food supply of insects and pollination success. This deterioration in the ecosystem function could entail further losses of insect and plant species. An additional consequence could be that plants become increasingly infested with pests. Due to the falling numbers of insects that feed on aphids, for example, these pests could spread unchecked. 

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Josephine Ulrich, Solveig Franziska Bucher, Nico Eisenhauer, Anja Schmidt, Manfred Türke, Alban Gebler, Kathryn Barry, Markus Lange and Christine Römermann (2020): Invertebrate Decline Leads to Shifts in Plant Species Abundance and Phenology, Frontiers in Plant Science, DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.542125

 

Contact:

Josephine Ulrich
Institute for Ecology and Evolution
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 3641 949267
Email: josephine.ulrich@uni-jena.de

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Research Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
We need a safety net for biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2097.html New publication in Science with iDiv contribution

Based on a media release by the National University of Córdoba and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)

Córdoba, Leipzig, Halle. A “safety net” made up of multiple interlinked and ambitious goals is needed to tackle nature’s alarming decline. No single goal can capture the broad range of characteristics that need to be sustained, concludes a large international team with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB). The study, published in the journal Science, outlines the scientific basis for redesigning the new set of biodiversity goals.

The scientific advice comes at a critical time: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently announced that none of its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 has been reached. Policymakers, scientists and country negotiators are now preparing for the next generation of biodiversity goals for 2030 and 2050, to be enshrined by their 15th Convention of the Parties in 2021. Countries, organisations and interest groups have put forward proposals for particular facets of nature, such as species, natural ecosystems or genetic diversity.

Led by Earth Commission scientists a group of more than 60 leading biodiversity experts from 26 countries assessed these draft goals and asked what scientific evidence supports them, how these goals reinforce or undermine each other, and whether one aspect of nature could serve as a shortcut for others. The result is an independent, scientifically grounded, unprecedentedly comprehensive assessment. 

 “We hope this is a useful tool in the CBD negotiations on a new strategy for nature and people,” said Professor Sandra Díaz, lead author of the paper. She is Professor at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. She co-leads the Earth Commission’s working group on biosphere interactions and has co-chaired the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

To reach the road to recovery, ecosystems, species, genetic diversity and nature’s contributions to people all need distinct goals, and these goals need to be woven together into a safety net and set at a high level of ambition.

According to the scientists three points are critical for nations to take into account when setting the new biodiversity goals: Firstly, a single goal for nature, based on a single facet, for example, focused only on species extinctions, or ecosystem area, similar to the ”below 2°C” target for climate, is risky. Multiple, distinct goals are needed for ecosystems, species, genes and nature’s contributions to people to make sure none of them falls through the gaps. Secondly, as the facets of nature are interlinked and affect each other for better or worse, the goals must be defined and delivered holistically, not in isolation. Thirdly, only the highest level of ambition for setting each goal, and implementing all goals in an integrated manner, will give a realistic chance of “bending” the curve of nature’s decline by 2050. 

The paper provides the scientific basis for distinguishing between low and high ambitions. Ambitious goals should include the strict “no net loss” and targeted restorations of ecosystems, both in natural and managed lands, minimal loss of species, 90 percent of genetic diversity conserved and a broad range of nature’s contributions to people secured. 

“Building a sufficiently ambitious safety net for nature will be a major global challenge,” said Díaz, “but unless we do it, we are leaving huge problems for every future generation.”

“Biodiversity change is a challenge even more complex than climate change. The biodiversity community has come up with an agenda to address this challenge that in some ways is more advanced than the current goals for climate, as it recognises we need to act for multiple goals in a synergistic way and also on different drivers,” added Professor Henrique Miguel Pereira, Head of Biodiversity Conservation at iDiv and MLU.

“A key factor is that biodiversity is a very multidimensional feature. The different dimensions need to be synergistically targeted to reach our goal of biodiversity conservation – we are bound to fail if we do not take this multidimensionality into account”, says Luc De Meester, director of IGB and Professor of Freshwater Science at the Freie Universität Berlin.

The authors have produced a checklist of key science-based points that negotiators could have handy during the upcoming negotiations of the final text of the new biodiversity goals.

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Sandra Díaz, Noelia Zafra-Calvo, Andy Purvis, Peter H. Verburg, David Obura, Paul Leadley, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Luc De Meester, Ehsan Dulloo, Berta Martín-López, M. Rebecca Shaw, Piero Visconti, Wendy Broadgate, Michael W. Bruford, Neil D. Burgess, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Fabrice DeClerck, José María Fernández-Palacios, Lucas A. Garibaldi, Samantha L. L. Hill, Forest Isbell, Colin K. Khoury, Cornelia B. Krug, Jianguo Liu, Martine Maron, Philip J. K. McGowan, Henrique M. Pereira, Victoria Reyes-García, Juan Rocha, Carlo Rondinini, Lynne Shannon, Yunne-Jai Shin, Paul V. R. Snelgrove, Eva M. Spehn, Bernardo Strassburg, Suneetha M. Subramanian, Joshua J. Tewksbury, James E. M. Watson, Amy E. Zanne (2020) Set ambitious goals for biodiversity and sustainability. Science 370:411. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abe1530

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/17.html

 

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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Conservation Media Release Fri, 23 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Academies demand rapid action to preserve biodiversity in the agricultural landscape https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2168.html Position paper with participation of iDiv scientists  

The full text is only available in German.

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 19 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Long-term consequences of global change difficult to predict https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2092.html Biodiversity experiment provides new insights into the relationship between plant traits and... Biodiversity experiment provides new insights into the relationship between plant traits and ecosystem functions

Based on a media release by Leipzig University

In a longitudinal study, an international research team led by Leipzig University (UL) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has investigated the consequences of changes in plant biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems. The scientists found that the relationships between plant traits and ecosystem functions change from year to year. This makes predicting the long-term consequences of biodiversity change extremely difficult, they write in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“We found that – over the longer term – the links between plant traits and ecosystem functions were indeed very weak, as we could only explain about 12 per cent of the variance in ecosystem functioning,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr Fons van der Plas from the Institute of Biology at UL. Together with colleagues from iDiv and other research institutions in Germany and abroad, he found different patterns than in previous studies – which had focused on short-term links between plant traits and ecosystem functions. These had previously assumed much stronger links between plant traits and ecosystem functioning.

“The main difference between our studies and earlier ones was that we carried out our work over a period of ten years, while most other studies were based on data measured in just one year,” said the biologist. The relationships between plant traits and ecosystem functions changed from year to year: some species become locally extinct, while others replace them.

Scientists often ask themselves how this change in biodiversity affects the way ecosystems function, for example in terms of biomass production, carbon sequestration and pollination. In predicting these consequences, they rely on the traits in which plants differ. For example, some plant species are pollinated by insects, and others by the wind. They hope that knowing which species will be more common in the future and what traits these species have will enable them to make more precise predictions.

The research team led by van der Plas has now discovered, for example, that plant biomass production was maximised in plant communities dominated by species with thick roots in some years and by completely different plant communities in others. In almost every year, a different plant trait was found to have been important for maximising biomass production. According to van der Plas, it is therefore extremely difficult to predict exactly how changes in plant communities affect the functioning of ecosystems over long periods of time.

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

van der Plas, F., Schröder-Georgi, T., Weigelt, A., Barry, K., Meyer, S., Alzate, A., Barnard, R. L., Buchmann, N., de Kroon, H., Ebeling, A., Eisenhauer, N., Engels, C., Fischer, M., Gleixner, G., Hildebrandt, A., Koller-France, E., Leimer, S., Milcu, A., Mommer, L., Niklaus, P.A., Oelmann, Y., Roscher, C., Scherber, C., Scherer-Lorenzen, M., Scheu, S., Schmid, B., Schulze, E. D., Temperton, V., Tscharntke, T., Voigt, W., Weisser, W., Wilcke W. & Wirth, C. (2020) Plant traits alone are poor predictors of ecosystem properties and long-term ecosystem functioning. Nature Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01316-9

 

Contact:

Dr Fons van der Plas
Institute for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
Leipzig University
Phone: +49-341-97-38587
Email: alfons.van_der_plas@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.lw.uni-leipzig.de/institut/ag/spezbot/mitarbeiterinnen/fons-van-der-plas/

 

Prof Christian Wirth
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig / Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Phone: +49-341-97-38591
Email: cwirth@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.biphaps.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut/ag/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/people/christian-wirth/

 

Prof Dr Alexandra Weigelt
Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
University of Leipzig
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-341-97-38594
Email: alexandra.weigelt@uni-leipzig.de

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS iDiv Members Media Release Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Efficient pollen identification https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2090.html New method developed at UFZ and iDiv combines image-based particle analysis with artificial... New method developed at UFZ and iDiv combines image-based particle analysis with artificial intelligence

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) 

From pollen forecasting, honey analysis and climate-related changes in plant-pollinator interactions, analysing pollen plays an important role in many areas of research. Microscopy is still the gold standard, but it is very time consuming and requires considerable expertise. In cooperation with Technische Universität (TU) Ilmenau, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now developed a method that allows them to efficiently automate the process of pollen analysis. Their study has been published in the specialist journal New Phytologist.

From pollen forecasting, honey analysis and climate-related changes in plant-pollinator interactions, analysing pollen plays an important role in many areas of research. Microscopy is still the gold standard, but it is very time consuming and requires considerable expertise. In cooperation with Technische Universität (TU) Ilmenau, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now developed a method that allows them to efficiently automate the process of pollen analysis. Their study has been published in the specialist journal New Phytologist.

Pollen is produced in a flower’s stamens and consists of a multitude of minute pollen grains, which contain the plant’s male genetic material necessary for its reproduction. The pollen grains get caught in the tiny hairs of nectar-feeding insects as they brush past and are thus transported from flower to flower. Once there, in the ideal scenario, a pollen grain will cling to the sticky stigma of the same plant species, which may then result in fertilisation.

“Although pollinating insects perform this pollen delivery service entirely incidentally, its value is immeasurably high, both ecologically and economically,” says Dr. Susanne Dunker, head of the working group on imaging flow cytometry at the Department for Physiological Diversity at UFZ and iDiv. “Against the background of climate change and the accelerating loss of species, it is particularly important for us to gain a better understanding of these interactions between plants and pollinators.” Pollen analysis is a critical tool in this regard. 

Each species of plant has pollen grains of a characteristic shape, surface structure and size. When it comes to identifying and counting pollen grains – measuring between 10 and 180 micrometres – in a sample, microscopy has long been considered the gold standard. However, working with a microscope requires a great deal of expertise and is very time-consuming. “Although various approaches have already been proposed for the automation of pollen analysis, these methods are either unable to differentiate between closely related species or do not deliver quantitative findings about the number of pollen grains contained in a sample,” continues biologist Dr. Dunker. Yet it is precisely this information that is critical to many research subjects, such as the interaction between plants and pollinators. 

In their latest study, Susanne Dunker and her team of researchers have developed a novel method for the automation of pollen analysis. To this end they combined the high throughput of imaging flow cytometry – a technique used for particle analysis – with a form of artificial intelligence (AI) known as deep learning to design a highly efficient analysis tool, which makes it possible to both accurately identify the species and quantify the pollen grains contained in a sample. Imaging flow cytometry is a process that is primarily used in the medical field to analyse blood cells but is now also being repurposed for pollen analysis.

“A pollen sample for examination is first added to a carrier liquid, which then flows through a channel that becomes increasingly narrow,” says Susanne Dunker, explaining the procedure. “The narrowing of the channel causes the pollen grains to separate and line up as if they are on a string of pearls, so that each one passes through the built-in microscope element on its own and images of up to 2,000 individual pollen grains can be captured per second.” Two normal microscopic images are taken plus ten fluorescence microscopic images per grain of pollen. When excited with light radiated at certain wavelengths by a laser, the pollen grains themselves emit light. “The area of the colour spectrum in which the pollen fluoresces – and at which precise location – is sometimes very specific. This information provides us with additional traits that can help identify the individual plant species,” reports Susanne Dunker.

In the deep learning process, an algorithm works in successive steps to abstract the original pixels of an image to a greater and greater degree in order to finally extract the species-specific characteristics. “Microscopic images, fluorescence characteristics and high throughput have never been used in combination for pollen analysis before – this really is an absolute first.” Where the analysis of a relatively straightforward sample takes, for example, four hours under the microscope, the new process takes just 20 minutes. UFZ has therefore applied for a patent for the novel high-throughput analysis method, with its inventor, Susanne Dunker, receiving the UFZ Technology Transfer Award in 2019.

The pollen samples examined in the study came from 35 species of meadow plants, including yarrow, sage, thyme and various species of clover such as white, mountain and red clover. In total, the researchers prepared around 430,000 images, which formed the basis for a data set. In cooperation with TU Ilmenau, this data set was then transferred using deep learning into a highly efficient tool for pollen identification. In subsequent analyses, the researchers tested the accuracy of their new method, comparing unknown pollen samples from the 35 plant species against the data set. “The result was more than satisfactory – the level of accuracy was 96 per cent,” says Susanne Dunker. Even species that are difficult to distinguish from one another, and indeed present experts with a challenge under the microscope, could be reliably identified. The new method is therefore not only extremely fast but also highly precise.

In the future, the new process for automated pollen analysis will play a key role in answering critical research questions about interactions between plants and pollinators. How important are certain pollinators like bees, flies and bumblebees for particular plant species? What would be the consequences of losing a species of pollinating insect or a plant? “We are now able to evaluate pollen samples on a large scale, both qualitatively and– at the same time – quantitatively. We are constantly expanding our pollen data set of insect-pollinated plants for that purpose,” comments Susanne Dunker. She aims to expand the data set to include at least those 500 plant species whose pollen is significant as a food source for honeybees.

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-Affiliation bold)

Susanne Dunker, Elena Motivans, Demetra Rakosy, David Boho, Patrick Mäder, Thomas Hornick, Tiffany M. Knight (2020): Pollen analysis using multispectral imaging flow cytometry and deep learning. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.16882

 

Contact:

Dr Susanne Dunker
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733170
Email: +49 341 9733170
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/131.html

 

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 06 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
'Cool' sampling sites more likely to show false trends in biodiversity change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2081.html Data collected at species-rich sites may lead to the wrong conclusions on overall trends Data collected at species-rich sites may lead to the wrong conclusions on overall trends

Leipzig/Halle. Data collected by citizen science initiatives, museums and national parks is an important basis for research on biodiversity change. However, scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) found that sampling sites are oftentimes not representative, which may lead to false conclusions about how biodiversity changes. Their research, published in Conservation Biology, calls for more objective site selection and better training for citizen scientists to prevent a site-selection bias.

To manage and conserve natural ecosystems, it is essential to know how biodiversity changes. As one of those questions, it is important to know whether we are we gaining or losing species. However, getting reliable measurements to study this is a complex task. Data can be collected by researchers during field trips, but a vast amount of data is also provided by different initiatives such as citizen science programs. However, to ensure measurements are reliable, samples need to be representative of the real world. If samples are not representative, they are biased.

In their study, scientists from iDiv, UL and MLU showed that a bias can dramatically change the measurements of biodiversity change. They focused on the so-called site-selection bias, where sampling sites are not selected representatively. For example, if a person wanted to find out how the number of butterfly species is changing in the area over the next ten years, this person will likely not choose a typical and average spot, such as a little meadow behind a supermarket. Instead, a place such as a clearing in the park may seem well suited. Thus, the sampling site is biased towards where many butterfly species can be found. This is the site-selection bias.

Site-selection bias may amplify or even revers trends

Using a computer simulation, the scientists showed that this bias can lead to false conclusions about how biodiversity changes. “If we measure biodiversity at places that have unusually many species, statistical principles suggest that we will more likely observe a drop in species numbers over time,” said first author Dr Andrea Mentges from iDiv. The biased choice of where to take samples may manipulate the collected data and even lead to wrong conclusions. “We found that site-selection bias can even make our measurements point into the wrong direction: while for example in reality we are gaining species, our measurements would falsely suggest that the number of species goes down. This makes clear how important it is to choose representative sampling sites.”

The scientists analysed how wide-spread such site-selection biases are, and found that they can potentially occur in many data sources, such as data collected by museums, national parks, citizen scientists and academic researchers. Whether the site-selection bias affects the measurements depends on the purpose of the collection. The data on the butterflies counted in the local park may still be informative, said Andrea Mentges: “Such data can be used to find out if a certain butterfly species can still be found in the area or if new species are immigrating. But if we use it to find out whether butterfly numbers are increasing or decreasing in the surrounding landscape, we might be wrong.”

Citizen scientists more likely to choose ‘cool’ spots

For their study, the scientists also looked at 44 citizen science initiatives. In many programmes, participants were allowed to choose sites themselves. This free site selection can potentially lead to a bias – depending strongly on the training participants received. Andrea Mentges said: “We assume that if people are not explicitly told that it is important to choose a ‘normal’ site they will always tend to choose a ‘cool’ spot. That’s why we think such programmes can potentially be problematic when there is no in-person training or instructions available online that also focus on site selection.”

In Germany, such training is not very common in citizen science initiatives. Although information material is available to interested participants this may not always prevent a site-selection bias – for example, when participants are encouraged to look for meadows and flower-rich wayside for their observations. “These are great initiatives that collect a lot of useful data,” said Andrea Mentges. “But it may not be suitable for some research questions – for example, whether the number of a certain butterfly species such as the small tortoiseshell is going up or down in general.” However, such site-selection biases can easily be prevented. Prof Dr Jonathan Chase, head of the Biodiversity Synthesis group at iDiv and professor at MLU, said: “The most objective way would be to use systematic, computer-based site-selection schemes, these are also applied more and more often. But it’s always a fine line between scientific accuracy and practical feasibility. And, of course, citizen science programmes owe their existence to the motivation of the many volunteers contributing with their data.”

This research was supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Andrea Mentges, Shane Blowes, Dorothee Hodapp, Helmut Hillebrand, Jonathan M. Chase. Effects of site-selection bias on estimates of biodiversity change. Conservation Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13610 

 

Contact:

Dr Andrea Mentges
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733262
Email: andrea.mentges@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of research group Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/35.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Biodiversity Synthesis iDiv Media Release Research TOP NEWS Tue, 29 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Artificial intelligence can help protect orchids and other species https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/2089.html New automated method quickly and accurately reveals which species are most threatened New automated method quickly and accurately reveals which species are most threatened

Leipzig/Halle. Orchids may be decorative, but many orchid species are also threatened by land conversion and illegal harvesting. However, only a fraction of those species is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because assessments require a lot of time, resources and expertise. A new approach, an automated assessment developed under the lead of biodiversity researchers from Central Germany, now shows that almost 30% of all orchid species are possibly threatened. The findings have been published in Conservation Biology and suggest that the new approach could speed up conservation assessments of all species on Earth.

Orchids are more than just decorative – they are also economically important in horticulture, in the pharmaceutical industry and even in the food industry. For example, vanilla orchids are grown commercially for their seed pods, and the economy on the northeast of Madagascar centers around the vanilla trade. But many of the approximately 29,000 orchid species face immediate threats by land conversion and illegal harvesting, resulting in an urgent need to identify the most endangered species and protect them from extinction. The global Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the most widely used scheme to evaluate species’ risk of extinction. The assessments are based on rigorous criteria and the best available scientific information, making them resource-intensive and, therefore, only available for a fraction of the species worldwide. To date, only about 1,400 of all orchid species have IUCN Red List assessments.

An international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) addressed this issue with the help of an automated assessment approach including the use of machine learning algorithms – also known as deep learning. The integration of machine learning into automated conservation assessments may bring them to a whole new level. “Deep neural networks are widely used in other fields such as image recognition, but they can also help with conservation assessments,” said Dr Alexander Zizka from iDiv and UL. “With our method, we can incorporate additional aspects such as climate, geographic region or traits related to the respective species – and we can do this very fast.”

Almost 30% of all orchids are possibly threatened

“Ideally, all orchid species would have IUCN Red List assessments – this way, the ones most urgently in need of conservation efforts are identified, which is the critical first step in conservation,” said Dr Pati Vitt of Northwestern University in Evanston (USA). Vitt, an expert in the field of orchids, came on sabbatical to iDiv in 2018 and worked with scientists with expertise in automated assessments. Bringing together their different skills and expertise, the researchers assessed the risk of extinction for almost 14,000 orchid species – the first large-scale assessment of the conservation status of orchids. 

The researchers found that out of the 14,000 orchid species more than 4300 are possibly threatened with extinction. They were also able to identify the places where conservation efforts are most urgently needed: Madagascar, East Africa, south-east Asia, and several oceanic islands are priority areas for orchid conservation. The automated assessments identified threatened species with an accuracy of 84.3%.

Speeding up conservation assessments of all species on Earth

The researchers also examined the cases in which the automated assessments classified species differently than the IUCN Red List. “This provides information on how we can best refine the automated assessments in the future to increase their accuracy even more,” said Prof Tiffany Knight from iDiv, MLU and UFZ. “For orchids, we would need to incorporate information on species trade and local land use.” 

The automated approach the researchers applied for the orchid family may be a model for other species. In particular, the approach could be valuable for the species-rich, but poorly studied, tropical regions. Here, even preliminary assessments will be useful for informing conservation. “A particular strength of our approach is that it can be trained for other taxonomic groups or regions,” said Zizka. “By doing so, it could speed up the conservation assessment of all species on Earth.”

Kati Kietzmann

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
Alexander Zizka, Daniele Silvestro, Pati Vitt, Tiffany M. Knight. Automated conservation assessment of the orchid family with deep learning. Conservation Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13616

 

Contact:

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Dr Alexander Zizka
Evolution and Adaptation
sDiv - Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733176
Email: alexander.zizka@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Spatial Interaction Ecology Evolution and Adaptation iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS sDiv Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200