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 Tue, 17 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0100 Implementing global biodiversity targets in Germany – with support from research https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5085.html iDiv invited to a parliamentary evening in Berlin to discuss possible action iDiv invited to a parliamentary evening in Berlin to discuss possible action

Berlin. Implementation of the recently agreed UN nature conservation targets will only succeed if all stakeholders – from policy and practice, civil society, business and science - work together. Science provides the knowledge base for effective action, thus playing a key role in the implementation of these global objectives. This was the tenor of discussion at the parliamentary evening on 17 January in the State Representation of Saxony-Anhalt in Berlin, to which the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Saxony-Anhalt Ministry of Science, Energy, Climate Protection and the Environment had invited. The scientists call for a high-level national biodiversity council as an essential element in making the conservation of biological diversity a core political issue across all relevant ministries. 

It is about nothing less than the very foundations of life. Many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Many ecosystems are under pressure. With them, the services which biological diversity provides, and on which human well-being depends, are in danger of disappearing. To reverse the decline in global biodiversity loss, the 196 member states of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a new agreement on biodiversity, setting global targets up to 2030 at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montréal last December.

“We now have good, ambitious international biodiversity goals, which the German government has also helped to promote,” says iDiv Professor Aletta Bonn, head of the Department of Ecosystem Services at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena. However, experience shows that even the best and most ambitious global targets are pointless if they are not implemented at the national level with effective measures involving stakeholders from all areas of society. “We must now actively push ahead with the implementation of these global targets. This can only succeed if policy, business, civil society and research work together and invest ambitiously in our environment in order to safeguard our health, and our children and grandchildren’s future.”
At the parliamentary evening in the Saxony-Anhalt State Representation, the Secretary of State of the Federal Ministry for the Environment Bettina Hoffmann, the chair of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) Olaf Bandt as well as Andreas Jahn, CEO of the Bundesverband mittelständische Wirtschaft, discussed with members of the Bundestag and representatives from research, business and civil society, which actions need to be taken now by which groups in order for Germany to make its contribution to achieving the global targets.

With a letter signed by more than 500 scientists from all over Germany, the researchers call for setting up a politically high-ranking national biodiversity council, which will help make the conservation of biodiversity, our foundation of life, a core issue across all ministries together with young people.

“The best available scientific evidence can guide the identification of measures to reverse current negative biodiversity trends,” says iDiv speaker Prof Henrique Pereira from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. “Whether the measures adopted are then implemented, and have an effect, must be consistently evaluated. For this, we need systematic and effective biodiversity monitoring. We are happy that the federal government has established the National Monitoring Centre for Biodiversity (NMZB) in Leipzig right on our doorstep.”

Prof Christian Wirth, iDiv speaker from Leipzig University, also sees long-term, guaranteed funding of basic research as an essential prerequisite for enabling the achievement of global biodiversity goals. “Our planet is changing faster than we would like, and with that, its biological diversity. What is considered reliable knowledge today is already outdated tomorrow. It is the task of basic research to not only observe these changes, but to understand them in real-time so we remain capable of acting to save the planet, both now and in the future”.

Co-host of the parliamentary evening, Prof Armin Willingmann, Saxony-Anhalt Minister for Science, Energy, Climate Protection and the Environment, stated, “The conservation of biodiversity is one of the most urgent challenges worldwide. With iDiv, we established a beacon for biodiversity research in Central Germany. iDiv is now also at the international forefront of this research. Especially regarding the implementation of the agreement on biodiversity achieved in Montréal in December 2022, I strongly urge the federal government to join the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia, in order to secure the long-term funding of iDiv.”

“iDiv is an outstanding example of how cross-border synergies in research and its funding can be utilised,” says Prof Eva Inés Obergfell, rector of Leipzig University and vice chairperson of the iDiv Board of Trustees. “We would like to extend this formula for success beyond federal limits and involve other partners, such as Germany’s federal government, in research funding. The biodiversity crisis will keep us busy for a long time. iDiv's excellent research provides the basis for courses of action to rise to this challenge for humanity.” 

You can find the Federal Secretary of State’s speech at the event here

Background 
In the ten years since it was founded, iDiv has developed into an internationally renowned research institution. 350 employees from 40 nations, nine professors and four junior research groups create the scientific basis for a sustainable approach to biological diversity. ‘Biodiversity’ encompasses the entire variety of life – not only species diversity, but also genetic diversity, diversity of functions, interactions and ecosystems. As well as the employees at the core centre in Leipzig, there are over 150 members; researchers at the three participating universities – the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Leipzig University, as well as the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and seven other institutions - who work on integrative biodiversity research issues. Through their expertise, they significantly support iDiv’s scientific uniqueness.

iDiv research findings create the basis for the conservation of biodiversity. They are relevant in a number of societal areas, including politics; internationally, for example, through contributions to the World Biodiversity Council IPBES, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and analyses of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. Also at the federal level, by, for example, helping to shape national biodiversity monitoring, and at the state level through policy consultation in the state parliaments. 
Sebastian Tilch 

 

Contact:

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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iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 17 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0100
Grassland ecosystems become more resilient with age https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5080.html Biodiversity–stability relationships strengthen over time in a long-term grassland experiment Biodiversity–stability relationships strengthen over time in a long-term grassland experiment

Based on a media release of the University of Zurich

Zurich/Leipzig. Recent experiments have shown that the loss of species from a plant community can reduce ecosystem functions and services such as productivity, carbon storage and soil health. With the loss of functioning the ecosystem may also become destabilized in its ability to maintain ecosystem functions and services in the long-term. However, assessing this is only possible if experiments can be maintained for a sufficient length of time.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Zurich and colleagues from Leipzig and Jena analyzed the stability of plant biomass production over two decades in one of the longest-running grassland biodiversity experiments in the world, the Jena Experiment in Germany. After more than a decade, plant species in more diverse experimental communities complemented each other in producing stable biomass at the community level. At low plant diversity, by contrast, this “compensatory” effect was not realized and community biomass varied much more from year to year. During the first decade of the experiment species-rich communities had not yet stabilized because of large fluctuations in species populations. This long-term research shows that biodiversity plays an increasingly important role in stabilizing ecosystem productivity over time as plant communities mature. Because ecosystem stability incurs resilience in the face of environmental perturbations, it follows that in a changing world, older, more diverse ecosystems should be particularly highly valued.

The first author, Dr. Cameron Wagg from the University of Zurich, says: “We now realize that the mechanisms by which diverse species communities maintain ecosystem functioning in the long-term are continually developing even two decades later. Such findings in this study highlight the importance of long-term research studies to fully appreciate the invaluable role of biodiversity for supporting ecosystem functions and services into the future.” The corresponding author, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid from the University of Zurich, adds: “These novel results fit with other recent findings of our research group, suggesting that over time evolutionary processes in diverse plant communities select the most “collaborative” plant genotypes among the different species, thus increasing division of labor, community productivity and ecosystem stability.” Prof. Dr. Nico Eisenhauer from iDiv and Leipzig University and speaker of the Jena Experiment, highlights: “Only such long-term studies can draw a realistic and comprehensive picture of the relevance of biodiversity for ecosystems and human well-being”.

 

Original Publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni are in bold)

Cameron Wagg, Christiane Roscher, Alexandra Weigelt, Anja Vogel, Anne Ebeling, Enrica de Luca, Anna Roeder, Clemens Kleinspehn, Vicky M. Temperton, Sebastian T. Meyer, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Nina Buchmann, Markus Fischer, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Nico Eisenhauer, Bernhard Schmid (2022). Biodiversity–stability relationships strengthen over time in a long-term grassland experiment. Nature Communications. Doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35189-2.

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Bernhard Schmid
Department of Geography
Remote Sensing Laboratories
University of Zürich
Email: bernhard.schmid@uzh.ch

 

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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Research Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology iDiv TOP NEWS Fri, 13 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0100
Fewer moths, more flies https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5067.html The complex relationships between plants and their pollinators have changed dramatically across the... The complex relationships between plants and their pollinators have changed dramatically across the last century.

In the far north of the planet, climate change is clearly noticeable. A new study in Finland now shows that in parallel there have been dramatic changes in pollinating insects. Researchers from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig (iDiv) have discovered that the network of plants and their pollinators there has changed considerably since the end of the 19th century. As the scientists warn in an article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, this could lead to plants being pollinated less effectively. This, in turn, would adversely affect their reproduction.

Their service is invaluable. The army of insects and other animals that pollinates the numerous plants of this earth has an essential function. Without these flower visitors, numerous wild plants could reproduce only poorly – or not at all. Ecosystems would thus no longer be able to function in their current form. More than three quarters of the most important crops depend on pollinators in order to be able to produce a high yield and good quality. A loss of pollinators would therefore also lead to economic losses amounting to billions.

It remains unclear whether the pollinators will still be able to provide their usual service. That’s because plants and their pollinators are intertwined in an elaborate network in which the distribution and abundance of the species involved as well as their seasonal occurrence, physiology, and behaviour are finely tuned. Even small changes could throw everything out of balance. Experts thus fear that human influences such as changes in climate and land use could lead to less effective pollination services.

However, because few studies have investigated the interaction between plants and different pollinator groups over longer periods of time, it is difficult to say whether and to what extent such developments are already under way. This makes the more than 120-year-old data from Finland on which the new study is based all the more exciting. Between 1895 and 1900, in the vicinity of Kittilä (a village that lies about 120 km north of the Arctic Circle), forester Frans Silén systematically recorded which insects visited which flowers and how often.

“I am passionate about working with historical datasets like this”, says senior author Prof. Tiffany Knight from iDiv and UFZ. “If you repeat the historic studies again today, it’s often the only way to learn about long-term ecological processes”. For her, such work also challenges the imagination. “I am trying to understand what motivated the people who collected the data in the past and what challenges they faced”, she explains. “This information can then be used to plan a comparable modern study”.

The scientists thus first looked around Kittilä for sites where Silén had also made observations – and where the 17 plant species he studied best still grow today. At these sites, the team repeated the pollinator census in 2018 and 2019. The area remains sparsely populated, and little has changed in terms of land use. However, it has not escaped the consequences of climate change. “We have noticed drastic changes in the networks of pollinators”, says first author Leana Zoller from MLU and iDiv. Only 7% of the flower visits observed involved the same species of insects and plants as back then. “That is surprisingly little”, says Zoller. 

For example, hoverflies and moths appear much less frequently on the flowers around the village today than they used to. This is probably not good news. That’s because these two groups have some particularly effective pollinators among them. These include the bumblebee hoverfly (Volucella bombylans) – a large, furry fly resembling a bumblebee. In Silén’s time, this species was the most frequent visitor to the Arctic raspberry (Rubus arcticus) and the woodland geranium (Geranium sylvaticum). The bumblebee hoverfly was likely able to effectively transfer the pollen of these species from one plant to the next. 

Also moths use a physical advantage during pollination: with their long proboscis, they can also reach the nectar from the base of tubular flowers. This is why they used to be the most frequent visitors of the fringed pink (Dianthus superbus) and bladder campion (Silene vulgaris), both of which have such flowers. 

Whilst these insects have become rarer, the flowers around Kittilä are now getting considerably more visits from bumblebees and certain flies. Whether these animals work as effectively as the earlier pollinators is not yet known. However, one trend in particular concerns the researchers. There are now considerably fewer insects that are specialists for certain flower shapes. These have been replaced by flies of the genus Thricops, which visit many different plants. Such generalists are often more robust when it comes to environmental changes; if one of their host plants is lacking, they can easily switch to others. But they also carry the pollen of various other plant species onto a flower, thereby potentially providing a less effective pollination service than the specialists. 

“So far, the pollinator network in our study area still seems to be working well”, says Zoller. “There is no evidence so far that the plants are getting too little pollen and are thus less capable of reproducing”. But according to the scientists, this can change in the future if changes in the insect communities continues. So far, the flies there seem to be coping with the rising temperatures. But further north in the high Arctic, one study has revealed a massive decrease in the number of flies. “If this also happens in our study area, it could become a problem”, says Zoller. Because at some point, the plants will no longer be able to compensate for the losses in their pollinator network.

 

Original Publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni are in bold)

Leana Zoller, Joanne Bennett, Tiffany M. Knight (2022): Plant-pollinator network change across a century in the subarctic. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01928-3

 

Contact:

Leana Zoller
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: leana.zoller@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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UFZ News Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 03 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0100
wildE: Restoring wild habitats in Europe against climate change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4861.html European project started to assess ecological restoration through rewilding European project started to assess ecological restoration through rewilding

Based on a media release by INRAE 

Cestas/Halle. Terrestrial ecosystems throughout Europe face the twin threats of climate change and the loss of biodiversity. “Rewilding” could be an important ecological restoration solution to mitigate both of these issues, but up to now, it is mostly restricted to local initiatives scattered across the continent focussing on biodiversity objectives alone. The wildE project aims to assess the synergies between climate change mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity and thus to improve the potential of climate-smart rewilding as a nature-based solution for ecological restoration in Europe. wildE is funded by the EU Horizon programme and coordinated by the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment INRAE with the participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

The rewilding approach proposes to “let nature (re)take care of itself”, often with temporary help at first, and benefit from natural processes to adapt ecosystems to climate change and support their biodiversity. This multidisciplinary research and innovation programme will address the link between climate and biodiversity in close association with the socio-economic dimension of large-scale restoration. It compares scenarios from various land uses, assesses associated risks and opportunities, and explores new approaches to make ecological restoration a socially and economically viable solution for local actors and communities.

wildE will provide scientific knowledge, methods and tools for different geographical, ecological and social contexts based on Europe-wide studies as well as individual case studies. Inter alia, a German case study in collaboration with Wageningen University and BSWR - Biologische Station Westliches Ruhrgebiet e.V. will focus on “urban rewilding” as a nature-based solution in the Ruhrgebiet area. Other case studies focus on large-scale remote areas such as the Tatra Mountains.

The project aims to help policymakers (the EU, national governments, regions, and local communities) and commercial companies to integrate ecological restoration through rewilding into their policy or management to achieve carbon neutrality, strengthen climate adaptation and reverse biodiversity loss. 

These results will be widely communicated to a broad range of stakeholders (landowners, conservation managers, companies, society at large, etc.) to improve everyone's knowledge of these challenges and opportunities. This interactive sharing will be made possible in particular through a collaborative web platform, which will also function as a shared workspace for stakeholders. 

wildE is supported by a team of 22 academic and non-academic partners (NGOs, companies, etc.) from 12 European and coordinated at INRAE in France. 

“Climate mitigation by restoring ecosystems only works with large-scale measures. Rewilding can deliver the kind of upscaling that is needed for significant climate mitigation of European ecosystems,” says Prof Henrique Pereira, head of the Biodiversity Conservation Group at iDiv and leader of the wildE work package the conceptual framework on climate-smart rewilding. “This project will be the first to assess the potential of rewilding for climate mitigation in Europe. And to facilitate the implementation of climate-smart rewilding, we will identify priority areas.”

The Project is funded via the EU Horizon Europe programme with 8.5 Million Euros for four years.

Original media release by INRAE

 

Contact:

Dr Néstor Fernández (speaks English and Spanish)
Scientific Employee Biodiversity Conservation Group
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/profile/342.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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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Mon, 02 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0100
Identification of groundwater-dependent vegetation via satellites https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5045.html New framework to identify groundwater-dependent vegetation

Report by Léonard El-Hokayem (doctoral researcher at MLU and iDiv)

Halle. Groundwater in (semi)-arid regions plays a key role in sustaining important terrestrial ecosystems, providing drinking water and supporting agriculture. We developed a new multi-instrument framework to identify groundwater-dependent vegetation (GDV) in these regions. Therefore, a combination of satellite images and other environmental data got tested and validated in a Mediterranean study area in Southern Italy. The developed concept was recently published in Ecological Indicators. It allows for the identification and study of vegetation that relies on groundwater, and thus can help protect these biodiversity hotspots and the ecosystem services they provide.

Groundwater is an important resource for terrestrial vegetation. 50% of the vegetation in the semi-arid Mediterranean biome is known to use groundwater. As these ecosystems are threatened by climate change and pressure from land use, on-the-ground identification is necessary. 

Our final map of the study area shows that GDV is located more frequently in broadleaf and coniferous forests standing on low permeable rocks with surficial groundwater circulation. Data from a botanical field campaign in summer 2021 was used to further validate the results. By analysing vegetation surveys, we could show that significant differences between GDV and non-GDV detected from remote sensing were also visible in the field. In GDV, tree species that are known to use groundwater (phreatophytes) dominate. In non-GDV the most important plants are drought-adapted shrubs. In general, GDV indicated areas with better water supply during the annual dry period. We also saw that plant diversity is actually higher in ecosystems reliant on groundwater. Surprisingly, two oak species occurred in both groundwater-influenced areas and non-dependent ecosystems. We further analysed the vitality of both species in the field. Our results show that the oaks, which according to our map are more likely to be GDV, are also more vital on the ground. 

Methods to locate GDV using remote sensing and geodata have gained importance in recent years, as they allow covering larger areas at a relatively lower cost. However, a comprehensive combination of different indicators was still pending. Our mapping framework combines vegetation, topography, hydrogeology and climate for the first time. Furthermore, we introduced a new simple ecohydrological rule set (phreatophyte cover and mean moisture value of non-phreatophyte species) to classify vegetation in the field and optimise our final map.

From our results, we learned that while remote sensing can identify GDV, in situ validation data is still needed. Areas that were identified as GDV can contribute to the development of adapted water management methods and pinpoint systems worthy of conservation. Our framework can be understood as a step towards the creation of a harmonised GDV map for the whole Mediterranean biome.
Léonard El-Hokayem


Original publication:
(iDiv researchers bold)
El-Hokayem, L., De Vita, P. and Conrad, C. (2022) Local Identification of Groundwater Dependent Vegetation Using High-Resolution Sentinel-2 Data – A Mediterranean Case Study. Ecological Indicators, 146, 109784. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2022.109784

 

Contact:

Léonard El-Hokayem
Doctoral researcher
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: leonard.el-hokayem@geo.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1651.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/media

 

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iDiv Members TOP NEWS Thu, 15 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Humans and nature: The distance is growing https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5043.html Meta-analysis of scientific literature shows decline of interactions with nature due to growing... Meta-analysis of scientific literature shows decline of interactions with nature due to growing urbanisation, but systematic studies are rare

Joint media release by iDiv and Leipzig University

Leipzig/Moulis. Humans are living further and further away from nature, leading to a decline in the number of our interactions with nature. This is the finding of a meta-study conducted by a Franco-German research team at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University and the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station (SETE - CNRS). The researchers highlight that human experience of nature is crucial for developing pro-environmental behaviour and thus facing the global environmental crisis. The study has been published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The idea that humans are facing a global extinction of experience of nature is popular, but there is poor empirical evidence of its reality. To shed more light on this, the scientists measured how the average distance from an individual’s home to the nearest area with low human impact changed in the last decade. They found that humans currently live 9.7 km away from a natural area on average, which is 7% further away than in the year 2000. Europe and East Asia have the highest average distance to natural areas, such as 22 km in Germany and 16 km in France. “What is striking is that all other countries in the world are following a similar pattern,” explains first author Dr Victor Cazalis, a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and Leipzig University. 

The authors also showed that tree cover within cities has declined worldwide since 2000, particularly in Central Africa and South-East Asia. “This finding suggests that the possibility for the urban population to access green spaces is reducing as well,” concludes Dr Gladys Barragan-Jason, a researcher at the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station and co-author of the study. “Indeed, the study reveals that the destruction of natural areas combined with a strong increase in urban population is leading to a growing spatial distance between humans and nature, especially in Asia, Africa and South America.”

In the same study, the authors systematically searched for scientific publications assessing a trend in experiences of nature: from direct ones such as hiking in national parks, to vicarious experiences like natural settings in cultural products like cartoons, computer games or books. They found that the number of studies assessing these trends was very low (N=18), with a strong bias towards the US, Europe and Japan. This shows that any claim about the extinction of nature experience is based on poor evidence and that more studies should investigate this question, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
The 18 studies found by the authors show for instance a decline in visits to nature parks in the US and Japan, a decrease in camping activities in the US, and a decrease in the number of flower species observed by Japanese children. They also find signs of disconnection in the depletion of natural elements in novels, songs, children’s albums and animated movies, which are less and less imbued with natural imagery (as shown e.g. by a former iDiv study from 2021).

Despite these examples of decline, other interactions are stagnating or even increasing. Watching wildlife documentaries or interacting with wild animals in video games is, for example, more common than a few years ago. “New ways of digitally interacting with nature have certainly emerged or increased in recent decades,” says Gladys Barragan-Jason. “But several former studies show that these interactions have a lesser effect on our sense of connection with nature than direct interaction.”

“The knowledge about these human-nature interactions is crucial, as they are key in the construction of our relationship with nature and our behaviours,” says Victor Cazalis. We need to maintain a good connection with nature in order to enable the necessary societal transformations of the 21st century. Only then can humanity ‘live in harmony with nature by 2050’ as ambitioned by our governments through the Global Biodiversity Framework that is being discussed currently in the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.”

This research was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through its support of sDiv, the Synthesis Centre at iDiv (DFG; FZT-118).

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Cazalis, V., Loreau, M., Barragan-Jason, G. (2022). A global synthesis of trends in human experience of nature. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: XXX

 

Contact:

Dr Victor Cazalis
Postdoctoral researcher
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733224
Email: victor.cazalis@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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Macroecology and Society Media Release TOP NEWS sDiv Wed, 14 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0100
A novel and efficient method for monitoring Asian otters https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5041.html Report by Dr. Sandeep Sharma, Researcher of the Biodiversity Conservation research group at iDiv... Report by Dr. Sandeep Sharma, Researcher of the Biodiversity Conservation research group at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, and lead author of a new publication in Ecology and Evolution

South-east Asia is a melting pot of otters that are very difficult to monitor in the wild. We developed and tested a novel, accurate, and affordable DNA-based method to reliably identify three endemic Asian otter species in a paper published today in Ecology and Evolution. The protocol developed by our team of South Asian researchers from the Malaysian Nature Society, Sunway University, Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), Peninsular Malaysia, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) will help in monitoring and conservation of threatened otter species in Asia. We also highlight the importance and need of cost-effective and replicable techniques to advance biodiversity monitoring in highly biodiverse yet under-represented parts of the world.

Accurate and effective monitoring is critical to advance the scientific knowledge and status of biodiversity. South-East Asia, a global biodiversity hotspot, is also exposed to several human-induced threats that are pushing the species to peril. Four otter species co-occur in this part of the world, and not much is known about the distribution and population size of these species. They are threatened by habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, pollution and degradation of aquatic habitat, human-otter conflict, and climate change. The rapidly growing Asian economy and associated infrastructural development such as roads are becoming another cause of otter mortality. 

Otters, sentinels of freshwater ecosystems, are difficult to distinguish and monitor in wild due to their elusive nature and similarities in appearance among species. This calls for an advanced technique that is not only accurate and replicable, but also affordable to wildlife researchers of the region, who often work at shoestring research funding. With this objective, we developed a suite of PCR-RFLP analysis protocol that is also efficient in analysis of DNA sourced from non-invasive samples such as feces (spraints in case of otters). We tested this protocol on known reference samples, and further on spraint samples collected from otter habitat in Malaysia. Our technique has very high amplification success (97%) for reliable and efficient species identification of three Asian otter species. We anticipate that it helps in tracking the status of otter populations in South and South-East Asia.

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation are in bold)

Sandeep Sharma, Woo Chee-Yoong, Adrian Kannan, Suganiya Rama Rao, Pazil Abdul-Patah, Shyamala Ratnayeke (2022). Identification of three Asian otter species (Aonyx cinereus, Lutra sumatrana, and Lutrogale perspicillata) using a novel noninvasive PCR-RFLP analysis. Ecology and Evolution, https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9585

 

Contact:

Dr Sandeep Sharma
Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733136
Email: sandeep.sharma@idiv.de

 

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iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Biodiversity Conservation Mon, 12 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Valid Data from Citizen Science https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5040.html Study shows: citizen science can, indeed, be an option to assess the ecological state of smaller... Study shows: citizen science can, indeed, be an option to assess the ecological state of smaller streams

 

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

von Gönner, J., Bowler, D.E., Gröning, J., Klauer, A.-K., Liess, M., Neuer, L. & Bonn, A. (2023) Citizen science for assessing pesticide impacts in agricultural streams. Science of The Total Environment, 857, 159607. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159607

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Research UFZ News TOP NEWS Media Release Ecosystem Services Thu, 08 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Protect Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, before it’s too late https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5031.html Major review of the island’s biodiversity reveals urgent need for collaborative science-based... Based on a media release by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

London/Leipzig. 82% of Madagascar’s plants and 90% of vertebrates are found nowhere else on Earth. But its biodiversity is as unique as it is threatened. This is the main message of two new papers published today in Science. Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and partners from over 50 global organisations including the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University have undertaken a major review of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity. The authors highlight the urgent need for collaborative science-based conservation that integrates needs of local communities

Madagascar is one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots, with a unique assemblage of plants, animals, and fungi, the majority of which evolved on the island and occur nowhere else. And yet these papers highlight that there is still much to learn, particularly for groups such as fungi and invertebrates, where current scientific species descriptions represent a small fraction of the full diversity present. Despite species descriptions accelerating in recent years, there is much to do to describe the full range of Malagasy species and to understand their past, present and future.

Understanding the origins, evolution, current distribution, and uses of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity in this way is crucial to highlighting its global importance and guiding urgent conservation efforts. It is estimated that there are 11,516 described species of native Malagasy vascular plants, of which a staggering 82% are endemic. Among the 1,314 species of native terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, the figure is even higher - with 90% endemism overall.

This unique diversity is in grave danger. The research team compiled available IUCN assessment data on plants and vertebrates, and used machine learning to predict the extinction risks for plant species lacking assessments. Only a third of all Malagasy plant species (just under half of native species) have been formally assessed, and yet researchers found that Madagascar is home to a disproportionately high number of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species and that the number of threatened ferns and their relatives may have been underestimated. Their analyses showed that overexploitation (the direct hunting and harvesting of species) and unsustainable agricultural practices affect 62.1% and 56.8% of vertebrate species, respectively, and each affect nearly 90% of all plant species. They conclude the current knowledge on Madagascar’s biodiversity and its decline indicates an urgent need for action. 

“Nature is our biggest asset in the fight against climate change and food insecurity,” says last author Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “Yet, we’ve degraded every ecosystem on this planet to a fraction of their past extent, killing off large numbers of species and putting many more at risk. Madagascar is a point in case: its biodiversity is as unique as it is threatened. We wanted to showcase this global hotspot and outline the actions required to reset our relationship with nature and ensure its protection and sustainable use. The key solution is addressing the needs of people”. 

Currently, protected areas cover 10.4% of Madagascar and are relatively well-placed to capture the island nation’s biodiversity. The team found that the network provides good coverage of the major habitats, particularly mangroves, spiny forest, humid forest, and tapia, but that subhumid forest and grassland-woodland mosaic have very low areas under protection (5.7% and 1.8% respectively). Nevertheless, 79.6% of threatened plants and 97.7% of threatened vertebrates occur within at least one protected area. Complementary to this, ex situ collections hold 18% of vertebrate species and 23% of plant species. Maintaining and improving the quality of protection in these areas, along with effective ex situ conservation, such as seed banks and breeding and reintroduction programmes, and integrated community programmes, will be the key to success. 

Madagascar’s rich biodiversity, particularly its diverse flora, has provided many opportunities for human utilization and there are many more useful properties waiting to be unlocked. Of the 40,283 plant species documented to be used by humans worldwide, 1,916 (5%) are found on Madagascar. Of these, 1,596 are native and endemic to the island. The challenge is to find a balance between the local use of biodiversity and conserving the integrity of protected areas. The majority of Madagascar’s over 28 million inhabitants live outside of, but often very close to, protected areas. These communities face challenges connected to widespread poverty, which itself is related to the degradation of natural capital in the landscape, limited access to formal education, health care and regulatory issues including land tenure. 

“Madagascar has always been known as a biodiversity hotspot,” says first author Dr Hélène Ralimanana, Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre, Operations Team Leader. ”The results from the analysis in these papers are alarming as Madagascar’s biodiversity and landscape have changed dramatically over the last decades. It’s unthinkable that we will lose this richness if no urgent actions are taken. Malagasy people are currently feeling the effects of climate change, which impact household livelihoods. Saving Madagascar’s biodiversity is the responsibility of everyone including civil societies, policy makers and based communities, the time is now to take action.”

“Madagascar is one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world. Understanding the origin of its exceptional biodiversity requires monitoring and describing it, which is a challenge by itself,” says co-author Dr Renske Ostein, who joined the study as a researcher at iDiv and Leipzig University. Since September 2022, she is a researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands. “However, understanding the origin and evolution of its biodiversity is crucial to predict how it will respond to current and future threats, and to decide on effective conservation strategies, for example by prioritising certain species or areas for protection.”

Madagascar has made important progress towards achieving international climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development goals, providing a foundation on which to build in the coming decades. The researchers frame biodiversity as the greatest opportunity and most valuable asset for Madagascar’s future development - a key resource for the sustainable future and well-being of its citizens.

They propose five opportunities for action to further conservation in a just and equitable way: 

  1. Investment in conservation and restoration must be based on evidence and effectiveness, rather than simplistic area-based metrics and tailored to meet future challenges through inclusive solutions. 
  2. Expanded biodiversity monitoring, including increased dataset production and availability, is key to safeguarding Madagascar's most valuable natural assets. 
  3. Improving the effectiveness of existing protected areas, for example through community engagement, training, and income opportunities, is more important than creating new ones. 
  4. Conservation and restoration should not focus solely on the protected areas network but should also include the surrounding landscapes and communities. 
  5. Conservation actions must address the root causes of biodiversity loss, including poverty and food insecurity. 

This body of research and the evidence collated makes a clear case for Madagascar as one of the world’s foremost conservation priorities. The researchers have presented a clearer and more detailed understanding than ever before of past and present Malagasy diversity, its current distribution and the threats it faces. The underlying data is the product of decades of research from Malagasy and international biologists, and the authors argue that the gathering and analysis of data must continue and accelerate if we are to safeguard Madagascar’s unique biota. 

Original publications:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation or alumni bold)

  1. Alexandre Antonelli, Renske E. Onstein, Alexander Zizka & Hélène Ralimanana (2022): Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Evolution, distribution, and use, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abf0869
  2. Hélène Ralimanana, ..., Renske Onstein, ..., Alexander Zizka & Alexandre Antonelli (2022): Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Threats and opportunities, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.adf1466

Contact:

Dr Renske Onstein
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherland
Former head of the junior research group Evolution and Adaptation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +31 6 46583916 

Sebastian Tilch
Abteilung Medien und Kommunikation
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Tel.: +49 341 97 33197
E-Mail: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: www.idiv.de/media

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Media Release Evolution and Adaptation TOP NEWS Thu, 01 Dec 2022 20:00:00 +0100
Award for Prof. Walter Rosenthal https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5034.html Chair of iDiv’s Board of Trustees named University Manager of the Year Chair of iDiv’s Board of Trustees named University Manager of the Year

Jena. The President of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Prof. Walter Rosenthal, has been named "University Manager of the Year 2022". Rosenthal has been Chair of the iDiv Board of Trustees since 2018.

The full text is available on the website of the University of Jena:

https://www.uni-jena.de/en/221201-hochschulmanager22

 

Contact:

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TOP NEWS Thu, 01 Dec 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Biodiversity under climate extremes: Patient and Healer https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5027.html Researchers from Leipzig call for a joint research agenda linking research on climate extremes and... Researchers from Leipzig call for a joint research agenda linking research on climate extremes and biodiversity

Leipzig. The world is experiencing two megatrends: Climate extremes are increasing in magnitude and frequency while biodiversity is declining. Writing in Nature, researchers from Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) with collaborators across Europe, express concern that these two trends can mutually exacerbate each other. The researchers call for a new research agenda emphasizing the interconnecting risks of climate extremes and biodiversity decline.

To date, awareness is growing that global warming and biodiversity loss are interconnected, even if driven by different mechanisms. If we want to fully understand one of these trends, we should not neglect the other. Consequently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are calling for collaborative approaches to further investigate these interconnected topics.

One of the most salient features of climate changes is that extreme events will increase in intensity and frequency. Writing this week in Nature, a group of researchers from Leipzig University, iDiv and collaborating European institutions expressed particular concern that this specific process will interact with biodiversity decline. In particular, the researchers identified one question that has not yet been investigated at all when they ask whether “... more intense extremes, happening more frequently, accelerate the degradation and uniformization of ecosystems, which then, in turn, promote further climate extremes?” In other words: does the decline of biodiversity add to the magnitude of extremes? If this was true, and there is some evidence for this, a whole new research agenda would have to be developed.

Interdisciplinary approaches are needed

To address this question, interdisciplinary approaches are needed. “Ecologists and climate scientists need to establish a joint scientific vision and agenda, so we are properly forewarned not just of the risks of removing biodiversity buffers against climate extremes, but also of the risk of amplifying extreme events themselves”, the researchers conclude.

The good news is that the necessary methods and tools for data collection and analysis as well as novel measurement techniques provide unique insights into plant responses to stress. But this data must be turned into predictions – with the help of high-quality models, digital twins and artificial intelligence methods.

CBD COP 15 should highlight climate and biodiversity linkages

High-level policy is starting to acknowledge the interconnectedness of climate extremes and biodiversity loss, for example by the European Commission’s formal recognition of the multifunctional value of forests and their role in regulating atmospheric processes as well as our climate. A few days ago, new climate policies were adopted at the UNFCC COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh; starting on 7 December, politicians will discuss new biodiversity policies at the CBD COP 15 in Montreal. In their comment in Nature, the researchers stress the need for better linking the research informing policies that target both climate and biodiversity: “Ecologists, climate scientists, remote sensing experts, modellers and data scientists need to work more collaboratively to fill our critical gaps in understanding, in order to thoroughly quantify the risk that lies ahead.”

Kati Kietzmann


Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation are in bold)

Miguel D. Mahecha, Ana Bastos, Friedrich Bohn, Nico Eisenhauer, Hannes Feilhauer, Henrik Hartmann, Thomas Hickler, Heike Kalesse-Los, Mirco Migliavacca, Friederike E.L. Otto, Jian Peng, Johannes Quaas, Ina Tegen, Alexandra Weigelt, Manfred Wendisch, Christian Wirth (2022). Biodiversity loss and climate extremes - study the feedbacks, Nature, DOI: d41586-022-04152-y

 

Contact:

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

 

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/

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv TOP NEWS iDiv Members Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
New Senckenberg Institute to be established in Jena https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5030.html Jena Senckenberg Institute of Plant Form and Function strengthens collection-based biodiversity... Jena Senckenberg Institute of Plant Form and Function strengthens collection-based biodiversity research

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Sun, 27 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Increased grazing pressure threatens the most arid rangelands https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5025.html Positive effects of grazing can turn to negative under warmer climate Positive effects of grazing can turn to negative under warmer climate

Based on a media release of the University of Alicante

Grazing can have positive effects on ecosystem services, particularly in species-rich rangelands. However, these effects turn to negative under a warmer climate. This was found by a team of researchers led by the University of Alicante (UA) and with participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The study, which was published in Science, reports results from the first-ever global field assessment of the ecological impacts of grazing in drylands.

Grazing is an essential land use that sustains the livelihood of billions of people and is tightly linked to many UN Sustainable Development Goals. Grazing is particularly important in drylands, which cover about 41% of the Earth's land surface, host one in three humans inhabiting our planet and over 50% of all livestock existing in our planet. 

Despite the importance of grazing for humans and ecosystems, to date no previous study had attempted to characterize its impacts on the delivery of ecosystem services at the global scale using field data. For doing so, Prof Fernando T. Maestre, Distinguished Researcher at UA and former iDiv sabbatical, teamed up with more than 100 colleagues to carry out a unique global survey conducted in 326 drylands located in 25 countries from six continents. 

“We used standardized protocols to assess the impacts of increasing grazing pressure on the capacity of drylands to deliver nine essential ecosystem services, including soil fertility and erosion, forage/wood production and climate regulation. Doing so allowed us to characterize how the impacts of grazing depend on local climatic, soil and local biodiversity conditions, and to gain additional insights on the role of biodiversity on the provision of ecosystem services essential to sustain human livelihoods”, says first author Fernando T. Maestre.

The researchers found that the relationships between climate, soil conditions, biodiversity and the ecosystem services measured varied with grazing pressure. As climate became warmer, carbon stocks decreased and soil erosion increased under high grazing pressure, an effect that was not observed under low grazing pressure. These results suggest that the response of drylands to ongoing climate change may depend on how they are managed locally.

The impacts of increasing grazing pressure shifted from mostly positive in colder drylands with a lower rainfall seasonality and higher plant species richness to negative in hotter drylands with lower plant diversity and higher rainfall seasonality. Thus, the effects of grazing, particularly overgrazing, vary across the globe. 

The authors also observed that the diversity of both vascular plants and mammalian herbivores was positively linked to the provision of essential services such as carbon storage, which plays a fundamental role in climate regulation.

"This study does an excellent job of demonstrating that only by considering multiple influencing factors in concert can we make meaningful recommendations for the sustainable management of our ecosystems during changing climate”, says co-author Simone Cesarz, Head of Laboratory of iDiv’s Experimental Interaction Ecology group.

The findings of this study are of great relevance for achieving a more sustainable management of grazing, as well as for establishing effective management and restoration actions aimed at mitigating the effects of ongoing climate change and desertification across global drylands. “We have now reached a human population of 8 billion people and climate change increases the proportion of dry areas worldwide. The present results clearly highlight that we need to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises in concert and to manage ecosystems in a sustainable way to protect their integrity”, says co-author Nico Eisenhauer, head of Experimental Interaction Ecology at iDiv and professor at Leipzig University.

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation are in bold)

Maestre, F.T., …, Simone Cesarz, Nico Eisenhauer, … Carlos A. Guerra et al. Grazing and ecosystem service delivery in global drylands. Science (2022), doi: 10.1126/science.abq4062

 

Contact:

Prof Fernando T. Maestre
University of Allicante
Email: ft.maestre@ua.es

 

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

 

Simone Cesarz
Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Email: simone.cesarz@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv TOP NEWS Research Thu, 24 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2022 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/5019.html Seven iDiv members named Highly Cited Researchers

Clarivate Analytics lists seven iDiv members in its 2022 selection of “Highly Cited Researchers”. According to Clarivate Analytics, these scientists have demonstrated significant influence through the publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers, during the last decade.

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

• Prof Jonathan Chase (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

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

• Dr Marten Winter (iDiv)

 

In total, approximately 6,900 researchers have been selected.

See full list: https://recognition.webofscience.com/awards/highly-cited/2022/

 

Contact:

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TOP NEWS Tue, 15 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
The benefits of contributing to the citizen science platform iNaturalist as an identifier https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4871.html Report by Dr Corey Callaghan, Assistant Professor at University of Florida, formally postdoctoral... Report by Dr Corey Callaghan, Assistant Professor at University of Florida, formally postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

As the number of observations submitted to the citizen science platform iNaturalist continues to increase it is increasingly important that these observations can be identified to the finest taxonomic level, maximizing their value for biodiversity research. Here, we explore the benefits of increasing the number of identifiers on iNaturalist.

In an increasingly human-modified world, biodiversity data are essential to the detection and understanding of local to global biodiversity change [1]. Biodiversity monitoring is targeted in the draft post-2020 global biodiversity framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, recognizing that up-to-date knowledge is needed to guide decision making. In recent decades, there has been a massive increase in available biodiversity data — there are currently >2.1 billion species occurrence records in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, representing a 12-fold increase since 2007 [2]. This rise in biodiversity data is due in part to the growing popularity of citizen, or community-based, science.

One of the most globally successful platforms is iNaturalist, a multi-taxa platform and joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. iNaturalist allows participants to contribute observations of any organism (e.g., Figure 1), or traces thereof, along with associated spatiotemporal metadata. Observations are then identified and verified to high taxonomic resolution by the iNaturalist community, in conjunction with the rapidly improving computer vision suggestions. An observation is deemed ‘Research Grade’ when it meets the site’s metadata quality criteria, and has two or more suggested identifications, more than two-thirds of which agree at a species level (i.e., 2/2, 2/3, 3/4, etc.; although records identified to a level finer than family can also become Research Grade if no further progress in identification is deemed possible). While the quantity of data and contributors continue to increase on iNaturalist, one bottleneck to fully realizing the potential of these data for scientific research is the dearth of participants with reasonable expertise (i.e., someone with the skills and ability to make informed identifications) — hereafter ‘identifiers’ — actively participating in the community. The iNaturalist community — as of January 2022 — consists of 2.5 million users, 92% of whom only observe, <1% of whom have only made identifications, and 7% of whom both observe and identify. More recruitment of identifiers is clearly needed.


Seven reasons to contribute to iNaturalist as an identifier

    1. Your contributions increase knowledge of biodiversity

    • When you add an identification to an observation, it can immediately increase the value of that record by advancing the taxonomic level to which that observation is identified

    • Identification efforts can be prioritized for maximum knowledge increase (e.g., by identifying species in undersampled regions of the world, targeting specific taxonomic groups that are threatened, or focusing on regions of the world with high endemism)

    2. The value of opportunistic records is increasing

    • As a result of rapidly increasing statistical advances and data integration approaches with structured sampling, each identified record can advance our understanding of species distributions and abundance trajectories

    • Photographs from iNaturalist are increasingly used in many unique and novel secondary ways, often opportunistic in nature

    3. You can contribute data on threatened, data-deficient, or invasive species

    • Since its inception, iNaturalist users have documented many significant records, including the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct or locally extirpated, considerable range extensions and new national records, previously undocumented behaviors and host associations, and even the discovery and subsequent descriptions of new species

    • iNaturalist is useful in monitoring pathognomonic spread to new locations and for rapid responses in detecting novel introductions

    4. iNaturalist is a ready-made, free, and easy-to-use data-collection infrastructure

    • A computer or smartphone and an internet connection are the only requirements for using iNaturalist, with all aspects of the platform, including uploading, identifying, and downloading data, entirely free

    • An important component of the iNaturalist infrastructure is the computer vision providing automated identification suggestions

    • iNaturalist features a dedicated ‘Identify’ tool that is streamlined for a rapid workflow to make, and review, identifications quickly

    5. You can partake in dynamic, real-time interactions around the world

    • Engaging with iNaturalist prompts you to discuss and collaborate with all types of users in real time, with benefits for everyone involved

    • Discussing identifications is a way of honing and expanding your own skills, including the opportunity for more experienced experts to validate the identifications of less-experienced experts, training the next generation of identifiers

    6. You can engage with a broader audience

    • iNaturalist offers an efficient and powerful mechanism for broader societal impact, since identifiers can engage with thousands of individuals around the world, helping to connect people with the ecosystems of which they are a part

    • Engaging with participants through the platform can also improve the quality and quantity of observations that are useful for biodiversity science

    7. You can enjoy yourself

    • Browsing photographs of even well-known species, and helping new naturalists to identify them, can be enjoyable and personally rewarding

    • There is an official ‘iNat Observation of the Day’ project showcasing such observations

How identifications can contribute to biodiversity research

As an identifier on iNaturalist, you can identify observations that have been made anywhere in the world, and your identification efforts can be prioritized for maximum knowledge increase. For example, correct identifications of poorly-studied invertebrates from the tropics are arguably more valuable than identifications of common birds in the United States. Past misidentifications can be transparently amended on iNaturalist, and the person who made the observation, and any potential future identifiers, can learn about the identification of that organism. Even if an observation is not identifiable to species level, an expert identification to family or genus, coupled with teaching the observer what to look for and capture next time, is often useful for improving data quality in the future.

In addition to the use of opportunistic records to quantify biodiversity in space or time, photographs from iNaturalist are also being used in many unique and novel secondary ways, often opportunistic in nature. For example, opportunistic records have been used to study timing of winter coat molt in mountain goats [4]. The usability of a photograph for these purposes is most valuable when the observation has been identified to the finest possible taxonomic resolution, something that increasing the number of expert identifiers can help achieve. Identifiers can further add value to observations with iNaturalist annotations (e.g., Plant Phenology=Flowering), observation fields (e.g., Host Species), and adding observations to projects (e.g., bees concentrating on nectar; [5]).

Since its inception, iNaturalist users have documented many significant records, including the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct or locally extirpated (e.g., [6]) considerable range extensions and new national records (e.g., [7]), and previously undocumented behaviors and host associations (e.g., [8]). Observations uploaded to the project Australasian Fishes have contributed more than 600 novel findings of undescribed species, range extensions, and undocumented behaviors and species interactions (e.g., [9]), whilst the project First Known Photographs of Living Specimens has more than 3600 records representing the first, and often only, photographic records of those taxa [10]. Novel observations identified promptly can be especially important from a biosecurity perspective. Citizen science can enable the early detection of invasive species [11], and indeed there are an increasing number of records of invasive species having been first detected via iNaturalist. On 31 July 2020, a photograph of feeding damage on an elm leaf (Ulmus sp.) was uploaded to iNaturalist by user Alain Hogue (@alainhogue). Within eight hours, Charley Eiseman (@ceiseman), a North American expert in leaf mining and other herbivorous insect tracks and signs, suggested the observation may represent the first North American record for the Elm Zig-zag Sawfly (Aproceros leucopoda), an invasive pest species outside its native range in eastern Asia. The observation sparked on-site visits by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Canadian Forest Services, where specimens were collected, and additional searches of Ulmus observations from Canada and the USA uncovered more records [12].

A consistent thread across many of these ‘special’ records is that, until seen and identified by an expert, they are just another record among the millions uploaded to the platform. Indeed, there are likely thousands of range shifts or extensions, new national records, rediscoveries, or newly introduced species that have been uploaded to iNaturalist but gone unnoticed due to a dearth, or even absence, of identifiers for particular taxa or regions.

Conclusions

iNaturalist is revolutionizing our understanding of biodiversity at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and across society. While we focus on individuals dedicating their own time identifying iNaturalist observations, we recognize that institutional support for experts to dedicate time to identify observations is an additional opportunity that would yield similar benefits. In the same vein, there exist barriers to the widespread use of iNaturalist globally (i.e., access to the internet or smartphones) that will need to be fully overcame to maximize the value of iNaturalist for biodiversity research in the future. Nevertheless, in the short term, we hope that you will consider contributing your expertise to iNaturalist — a time investment of 30 minutes per day, week, or month can provide substantial contributions to collectively improving our understanding of biodiversity. We conclude by offering an open invitation to all prospective identifiers to reach out to us on iNaturalist for any advice or guidance (see Table S1).

 

Original publication:

(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Corey T. Callaghan et al. (2022): The benefits of contributing to the citizen science platform iNaturalist as an identifier. PLOS DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001843

 

Contact:

Dr. Corey T. Callaghan
Assistant Professor
University of Florida
formally: German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: 954-577-6300
Email: c.callaghan@ufl.edu 

 

References

[1] Stephenson PJ, Stengel C. An inventory of biodiversity data sources for conservation monitoring. PLoS One. 2020;10: e0242923.

[2] Heberling JM, Miller JT, Noesgaard D, Weingart SB, Schigel D. Data integration enables global biodiversity synthesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021;118: e2018093118.

[3] Seltzer C, Making Biodiversity Data Social, Shareable, and Scalable: Reflections on iNaturalist & citizen science. Biodivers. Inf. Sci. Stand. 2019; e10197.

[4] Nowak K, Berger J, Panikowski A, Reid DG, Jacob AL, Newman G, et al. Using community photography to investigate phenology: A case study of coat molt in the mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) with missing data. Ecol Evol. 2020;10: 13488-13499.

[5] Portman ZM, Ascher JS, Cariveau DP. Nectar concentrating behavior by bees (Hymenoptera: Anthophila). Apidologie. 2021;52: 1-26.

[6] Jones CD, Glon MG, Cedar K, Paiero SM, Pratt PD, Preney TJ. First record of Paintedhand Mudbug (Lacunicambarus polychromatus) in Ontario and Canada and the significance of iNaturalist in making new discoveries. Can Field-Nat. 2019;133: 160-166.

[7] De Roux JM, Noguera-Urbano EA, Ramírez-Chaves HE. The vulnerable Colombian weasel Mustela felipei (Carnivora): new record from Colombia and a review of its distribution in protected areas. Therya. 2019;10: 207-210.

[8] Putman BJ, Williams R, Li E, Pauly GB. The power of community science to quantify ecological interactions in cities. Sci Rep. 2021;11: 1-8.

[9] Booth DJ, Sear J. Coral expansion in Sydney and associated coral-reef fishes. Coral Reefs. 2018;37: 995.

[10] Mesaglio T, Soh A, Kurniawidjaja S, Sexton C. ‘First Known Photographs of Living Specimens’: the power of iNaturalist for recording rare tropical butterflies. J Insect Conserv. 2021;25: 905-911.

[11] Larson ER, Graham BM, Achury R, Coon JJ, Daniels MK, Gambrell DK, et al. From eDNA to citizen science: emerging tools for the early detection of invasive species. Front Ecol Environ. 2020;18: 194-202.

[12] Martel V, Morin O, Monckton SK, Eiseman CS, Béliveau C, Cusson M, et al. Elm zigzag sawfly, Aproceros leucopoda (Hymenoptera: Argidae), recorded for the first time in North America through community science. Can Entomol. 2021;154: 1-18.

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Mon, 14 Nov 2022 09:39:38 +0100
Protecting and connecting nature across Europe https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4864.html International project NaturaConnect brings together the knowledge on how to protect biodiversity in... International project NaturaConnect brings together the knowledge on how to protect biodiversity in Europe

Based on a media release by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Vienna/Leipzig. Europe needs healthy ecosystems that benefit biodiversity and people and are resilient to climate change. The Horizon Europe NaturaConnect Project will support European Union governments and other public and private institutions in designing a coherent, resilient and well-connect Trans-European Nature Network. The new project is conducted by international partners from research and environmental organisations, led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

In October 2020, European Union Member States committed to legally protect a minimum of 30% of the European Union’s land and sea area and to strictly protect at least a third of these protected areas. This is expected to contribute to the European Green Deal’s goal of preserving and restoring Europe's natural capital and taking a leading role in the Post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Framework. 

One of the cornerstones of this strategy is to develop a coherent Trans-European Nature Network (TEN-N) to function as a connected system through ecological corridors with natural and semi-natural areas, which, if appropriately managed, can deliver a wide range of benefits for biodiversity and people. 

To help the European Union and its Member States realize their ambitious strategy for protected areas, the European Union Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme has funded a new project called NaturaConnect. The Project brings together experts from more than twenty partner institutions*, jointly coordinated by IIASA, iDiv and MLU.

Working closely with protected area managers, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders, the project team will conduct research, engagement, and dissemination activities across Europe to identify the best areas to protect and connect to preserve biodiversity and adapt to climate change. The team will also work with national and sub-national nature conservation agencies and other stakeholders within six case studies to test and refine their approaches and inform local ongoing conservation efforts. One such example is the Carpathian-Danube region, where NaturaConnect will evaluate the connectivity design and implementation challenges in a transboundary area encompassing ten different European Union countries.

“By working with key decision makers, policy experts, and other important stakeholders, NaturaConnect will create a strategic plan for realizing an ecologically representative, well-connected network of conserved areas that contribute to achieving the objectives of the European Union Biodiversity Strategy to 2030,” notes project coordinator Dr Piero Visconti, who leads the Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Research Group in the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Programme.

“Designing a truly coherent nature protection network is a major scientific challenge since it requires not only predicting where and how biodiversity may be threatened in the future but also finding ways of reconnecting natural areas through highly modified landscapes,” adds deputy coordinator from iDiv and MLU, Dr Néstor Fernández.

The project aims to:
1. Support planning authorities, by collecting and making accessible the best available data and tools to assess biodiversity and the benefits to people
2. Provide input to planning authorities into the design of an effective Trans-European Nature Network by anticipating future developments in climate and land use conditions that may limit or enable the development of such a network
3. Identify alternative configurations of protected areas and corridors based on preferences related to policy targets 
4. Identify opportunities and challenges to the implementation of the network, mechanisms, and instruments of implementation, particularly financial instruments and ways to mitigate barriers through extensive dialogue with practitioners, capacity building, and decision support
5. Showcase applications of the protected area network design through case studies 


“We are excited to embark on this project and to develop and create knowledge, tools, and capacity building programs with our partners to support the European Commission, European Union Member States and conservation practitioners in realizing the vision of TEN-N,” Visconti concludes.

For more information:
https://naturaconnect.eu/

* NaturaConnect is conducted by: International Institute for Applied System Analysis (project lead; Austria); German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig/Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (project co-lead; Germany); Associacao Biopolis (Portugal); BirdLife Europe (Netherlands); Birdlife International (United Kingdom); Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique (France); Doñana Research Station - Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Ivestigaciones Cientificas (Spain); Europarc Federation (Germany); Finnish Environment Institute (Finland); Humboldt-University of Berlin (Germany); Institute for European Environmental Policy (Belgium); Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Netherlands); Rewilding Europe (Netherlands); University of Evora (Portugal); University of Helsinki (Finland); University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (Austria); University of Rome La Sapienza (Italy); University of Warsaw (Poland); Vrie University of Amsterdam (Netherlands); WWF Central and Eastern Europe (Austria); WWF Romania and WWF Hungary. 

 

Contact:

Dr Piero Visconti
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Research Group Leader
Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation
Research Group Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program
Phone: +43 2236 807 427
Email: visconti@iiasa.ac.at

 

Dr Néstor Fernández (speaks English and Spanish)
Scientific Employee Biodiversity Conservation Group
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/profile/342.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 Media Release Thu, 10 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
Deforestation and grassland conversion are the biggest causes of biodiversity loss https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4869.html Researchers rank drivers of global biodiversity change Researchers rank drivers of global biodiversity change

Based on a media release by Natural History Museum London

Luxembourg/London/Halle. The conversion of natural forests and grasslands to agriculture and livestock is the biggest cause of global biodiversity loss. The next biggest drivers are the exploitation of wildlife through fishing, logging, trade and hunting - and then pollution. Climate change ranks fourth on land so far but second in oceans. This is the main result of an international study led by researchers from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC) in Argentina, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Natural History Museum London. The study, published in Science Advances, demonstrates that fighting climate change alone will not be enough to prevent the further loss of biodiversity.

Whilst climate change has rightly attracted attention for its catastrophic consequences for the natural world, it is currently only the fourth largest driver of biodiversity loss on land, followed by invasive alien species in fifth place. “This major new study, published during the COP27 climate summit, demonstrates clearly that fighting climate change alone will not be enough to prevent the further loss of biodiversity, and with it our future”, says Dr Nicolas Titeux, one of the two first authors. “The various direct drivers should be addressed with similar ambition as the climate crisis and as a whole.” Titeux currently works at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology but conducted the major part of the study at the UFZ with funding from iDiv.

Greenhouse gasses have been known to be the leading cause of the climate crisis for decades but just as important is understanding what is behind the enormous and rapid decline in species. A million species of animal and plant are threatened with extinction within the next few decades without significant countermeasures. Ecosystems worldwide are changing away from their natural condition, which means that they are increasingly unable to provide crucial ecosystem services for human well-being.

The authors of the study, led by Dr Pedro Jaureguiberry from UNC and Dr Nicolas Titeux, also found that climate change is already in second place as a direct driver of species loss in the oceans. Here, the exploitation of fish stocks plays the biggest role. However, based on current developments, the authors assume that the importance of climate change for species loss and the decline of ecosystem services will increase in the coming years and decades and move up in the ranking of direct drivers.

The authors of this study thus confirm and specify the facts that the Global Assessment of the World Biodiversity Council IPBES had already indicated in 2019. “Our publication shows the depth of the work, which was performed in the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), where only the main results could be shown”, says Josef Settele from UFZ and Co-chair of the Global Assessment of IPBES. “It indicates the profoundness of the IPBES work”. 

Need for nature-based solutions

This major study should be a game-changer for understanding how to tackle biodiversity loss. Jaureguiberry says: “Our study brings comprehensive and rigorous information on which drivers cause the most damage to biodiversity at multiple levels, from regions and realms to the different facets of biodiversity, highlighting the importance of each driver in particular contexts. Hopefully, this will contribute to a more holistic approach to generate more efficient policies to reverse biodiversity loss.”

In particular, the research demonstrates the need for a more holistic approach that will tackle the twin threats of climate and the biodiversity crisis together. Titeux points out that “The current global agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can focus too narrowly on one driver, overlooking or, in the worst-case, undermining solutions for others”. 

Professor Andy Purvis, another co-author of the study, from the Natural History Museum in London, explains: “Climate change and biodiversity loss have been tackled largely separately, by different policies that haven't always considered the other problem. For example, biofuels are proposed as one way to get to net zero, but the expansion of plantations into natural forest that could result would be terrible for nature.” 

The paper also highlights some of the ‘nature-positive’ solutions that tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss such as large-scale restoration of natural forests and effective protection of coastal wetlands.

Andy Purvis adds:” I’d love for 'nature-positive' to get into the public consciousness as much as 'net zero' has. If future generations are going to have the same birthright we had of a liveable, supportive planet, then all parts of society will have to transition as quickly as possible to being both net zero and nature-positive.”

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

 

Original Publication:
(iDiv-affiliated researchers and iDiv alumni bold)

Pedro Jaureguiberry, Nicolas Titeux, Martin Wiemers, Diana E. Bowler, Luca Coscieme, Abigail S. Golden, Carlos A. Guerra, Ute Jacob, Yasuo Takahashi, Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Zsolt Molnár, Andy Purvis (2022): The direct drivers of recent global anthropogenic biodiversity loss. Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm9982

 

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Josef Settele
Head of the Department of Conservation Biology & Social-Ecological Systems
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: josef.settele@ufz.de
Web: http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=38572

 

Dr Nicolas Titeux
Head of the Observatory for Climate, Environment and Biodiversity
Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)
Formerly:
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: (+352) 275 888 5177
Email: nicolas.titeux@list.lu

 

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 Thu, 10 Nov 2022 00:00:00 +0100
The importance of light for grassland plant diversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4853.html Field experiment shows that competition for light is the key mechanism driving loss of plant... Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Plants need light to grow. However, due to excess nutrients and/or the absence of herbivores less light can reach lower vegetation layers in grasslands. Consequently, few fast-growing species dominate and plant diversity declines. So far, this relationship has been established indirectly through experiments, but never directly by means of experimentally adding light in the field. Now, an international team of researchers including scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), was able to experimentally prove the dominant role of light competition for the first time. The results have been published in Nature.

The team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Anu Eskelinen from the University of Oulu (Finland) used the Global Change Experimental Facility (GCEF) at the UFZ research station in Bad Lauchstädt for their experiments. Scientists from UFZ, iDiv and various universities use the GCEF platform to study the influence of different climate models and land use intensities on plant community structure – specifically food webs and interactions between species.

Anu Eskulinen, who spent several years at the UFZ and iDiv as a visiting scientist, used a new experimental approach: the team directly illuminated the low-growing plants in the grassland with LED lamps, thus increasing the amount of light. In addition to this treatment, fertilisers were applied on some plots and grazing by sheep was used on others.

The experiment showed a sharp decline in species richness and biodiversity as a result of artificial fertilisation if the areas were not grazed at the same time. When the researchers added LED lamps, the loss of species richness was mitigated. Later, the researchers excluded sheep from half of the plots, which caused species richness and diversity do decline. At the same time, the total vegetation cover increased without grazing, which, in turn, reduced the light available to plants. Importantly, adding light to the understorey plants mitigated this loss of diversity. "These results suggest that herbivory is a dominant factor controlling competition for light and plant diversity," says first author Anu Eskelinen.

The research team believes that the results from the field trials should be taken into account for future grassland management and conservation policies. "Our results highlight the importance of conserving native herbivores and using sustainable grazing as a management measure," Anu Eskelinen further emphasises.

Prof. Dr Stan Harpole, co-author and head of the department of Physiological Diversity at UFZ and iDiv, adds: “This study highlights the value of carefully designed manipulative field experiments, which we need so we can strongly test the causes of diversity loss. We could only advance our understanding and test the theory in more realistic conditions because of the excellent infrastructure of the UFZ’s Global Change Experimental Facility and the support provided at the Bad Lauchstädt Research Station, and the cooperation with iDiv.”
 

This study was mainly funded by the Academy of Finland and UFZ.
 

Original publication
(Researcher with iDiv affiliation and alumni are in bold)

Eskelinen, A., Harpole, W.S., Jessen, M.-T., Virtanen, R., & Hautier, Y. Light competition drives herbivore and nutrient effects on plant diversity. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05383-9

 

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Stan Harpole
Head of Physiological Diversity
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
stan.harpole@idiv.de

Prof. Dr. Anu Eskelinen
University of Oulu (Finland)
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
anu.eskelinen@idiv.de

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

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Media Release Research Physiological Diversity TOP NEWS UFZ News Wed, 02 Nov 2022 11:57:58 +0100
Habitat mapping data can fill gaps in knowledge on biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4851.html Data gathered by habitat mapping programs can make important contributions to biodiversity... Based on a media release by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Data gathered by habitat mapping programs can make important contributions to biodiversity research. They provide insight into changes of the local flora since the 1980s – a period that is covered by hardly any other sources of information. A team from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Hamburg Authorities for the Environment, Climate, Energy and Agriculture has now shown how research can benefit from this historic habitat mapping data using habitat maps of the city and federal state of Hamburg as an example. Their results, which have been published in “Ecosphere”, also show a clear decline of species-rich habitats due to urbanization over the last decades.

In Germany, habitat mapping programs (Biotopkartierungen) have been carried out in almost every federal state since the 1980s. Similar sources exist in many other European countries. “The mapping programs are carried out by the authorities to obtain an overview of natural and semi-natural habitats for landscape planning and nature conservation,” says Lina Lüttgert from the Institute of Biology of MLU. These datasets contain comprehensive data on all habitats of the local flora and fauna. Often, they also include information on the plant species found in these areas. This makes the data interesting for research: „They can provide insight into the changes over the last decades. Also, we do not have any other systematic surveys on local diversity from that period,” says Lüttgert.

Together with a team from the Hamburg Authorities for the Environment, Climate, Energy and Agriculture, the researchers from Halle analyzed the habitat mapping data from Hamburg. Their analysis revealed, for example, decreases in area covered by species-rich (semi-)dry grasslands and increases in species-poor habitats. At the same time, human settlements have significantly increased. With the help of the habitat mapping data, the team was able to show that plant species adapted to certain habitats usually had a hard time colonizing other habitats.

According to the researchers, the trends revealed by the data from Hamburg are in line with findings from other regions in Germany and Europe. “In many places, we find that moderately common species are most threatened, while other more common species benefit from the habitat changes,” says Prof Dr Helge Bruelheide, professor for Geobotany at MLU and member of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). According to Bruelheide, the study shows how biodiversity research can benefit from data sources that have, so far, hardly been used. “The data is buried in the archives of many authorities, but hold a great potential.”

The new study is an outcome of the project “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, which is coordinated by iDiv and financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). As part of this initiative, data on the development of biodiversity throughout Germany are being compiled and analysed. To this end, researchers are teaming up with public institutions and nature conservationists.

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation are in bold)

Lina Lüttgert, Samuel Heisterkamp, Florian Jansen, Reinhard Klenke, Kerstin-Angelika Kreft, Gunnar Seidler, Helge Bruelheide. Repeated habitat mapping data reveal gains and losses of plant species. Ecosphere (2022). doi: 10.1002/ecs2.4244

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iDiv Media Release MLU News Research TOP NEWS Fri, 28 Oct 2022 13:04:53 +0200
LifeGate Leipzig project gives insight into Leipzig's biodiversiry https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4849.html Exact number of silverfish and centipedes still unknown The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release TOP NEWS Fri, 28 Oct 2022 09:58:31 +0200
Novel insecticides are bad news for bee health and their guts https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4844.html Insecticides containing flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor can have devastating effects on honey bee... Based on a Media Release of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Insecticides containing flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor can have devastating effects on honey bee health. The substances damage the insects’ intestinal flora, especially when used in conjunction with a common fungicide, making them more susceptible to disease and shortening their life span. This was recently proven in a study conducted at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and with participation of several members of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), as published in Science of the Total Environment. The two insecticides were considered harmless to bees and bumblebees when approved, but their use has since been severely restricted.

For the study, honey bees that were free from environmental influences were first bred in the laboratory. “We wanted to control every aspect of the bees’ lives – from their diet to their exposure to pathogens or pesticides”, says Dr Yahya Al Naggar, the biologist who led the project at MLU and who now works at Tanta University in Egypt. In the first few days, all bees were given the same food: sugar syrup. They were then divided into several groups and various pesticides were added to their food. One group was given flupyradifurone, while another was given sulfoxaflor. Both substances are approved insecticides in Germany, but their use is now limited to greenhouses.

As pesticides are often used as a mixture, the scientists also took this into account in their laboratory experiment by enriching the food administered to two other groups not only with the insecticides mentioned, but also with azoxystrobin, which has been used to protect plants from harmful fungi for many decades. The concentration of the substances was well below the legal requirements in each case. “Our approach was based on the realistic concentrations that might be found in pollen and nectar from plants that have been treated with the pesticides”, says Al Naggar. A control group continued to receive the normal sugar syrup without additives.

Over a period of ten days, the team observed whether the substances had any effects on the bees and, if so, what. They found that the pesticides are anything but harmless: Around half of all bees whose diet had been supplemented with flupyradifurone died during the study – and even more when combined with azoxystrobin. While sulfoxaflor produced similar effects, more insects survived the diet.

The scientists also analysed the bees’ intestinal flora, i.e. the bacteria and fungi living in their digestive tract. “The fungicide azoxystrobin led to a significant reduction in naturally occurring fungi. That was to be expected, as fungicides are used to control fungi”, says Dr Tesfaye Wubet from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), who is also a member of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). Over the course of the ten-day study, however, the team was able to show that the mixture of fungi and bacteria detected in the insects differed greatly from the control group depending on the substances used. According to the researchers, the bacterium Serratia marcescens was able to spread alarmingly well in the digestive tract of the treated insects. “These bacteria are pathogenic and harmful to bees’ health. They can make it harder for the insects to fight off infection, leading to premature death”, explains Al Naggar.

As the study was conducted in a laboratory in Halle to exclude the number of external influences, it is unclear whether the same results can be found in nature. “The effects of the pesticides could well be even more dramatic – or the bees might be able to fully or at least partially compensate for the negative effects”, concludes Wubet. With this in mind, the team calls for the potential effects of new pesticides on beneficial insects to be researched more rigorously before they are approved and for their effects on aspects such as intestinal flora to be included as standard in the risk assessment.


The study was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with additional support via the EU-funded project “Poshbee”.


Original Publication:
(Researcher with iDiv affiliation bold)

Al Naggar Y., Singavarapu B., Paxton R.J. & Wubet T.. Bees under interactive stressors: the novel insecticides flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor along with the fungicide azoxystrobin disrupt the gut microbiota of honey bees and increase opportunistic bacterial pathogens. Science of the Total Environment (2022). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157941


Contact:

Dr. Tesfaye Wubet
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Phone: +49 345 558 5204
E-mail: tesfaye.wubet@ufz.de

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Intergrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

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iDiv Media Release MLU News TOP NEWS Tue, 25 Oct 2022 10:55:28 +0200
More yield, fewer species: How human nutrient inputs alter grasslands https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4627.html Researchers find the processes behind species decline due to nutrient inputs Researchers find the processes behind species decline due to nutrient inputs

Leipzig. With high nutrient inputs in grasslands, more plant species get lost over longer periods of time than new ones can establish. In addition, fewer new species settle than under natural nutrient availability. With a worldwide experiment, researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have now been able to show why additional nutrient inputs reduce plant diversity in grasslands. Another finding was that the increase in biomass with nutrient inputs is due to a few plant species that can use higher nutrient inputs to their advantage and remain successfully at a site over long periods of time. The results have been published in the journal Ecology Letters

One of the reasons for the global threat to biodiversity is that we humans introduce more nutrients into our environment than would naturally be present there, for example, when fertilising agricultural land. In addition, precipitation re-distributes excess nutrients to other areas, and nutrients can also enter our soils through air pollution.  

Natural grasslands are a habitat for many different plant species including grasses, herbs, wildflowers and orchids, many of which can be threatened by human activities and impacts. Plants need three things to grow: carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, water and nutrients from the soil. The latter are usually scarce in semi-natural European meadows. Although this limits the growth of individual plants, it favours the possibility of many different species growing side by side. Excessive amounts of nutrients, however, create the image that is ubiquitous in our landscape today: lush green meadows but without the colourful flowers of former times. 

It has long been known that excess nutrients reduce biodiversity, but until now the process behind it has been unclear. Researchers from iDiv, UFZ and MLU have now investigated the causes of this phenomenon in collaboration with a large international team. To do this, they recorded the plant species community on fertilised and unfertilised grassland in experiments at 59 sites on six continents over a period of 13 years.

“The composition of plant species in grasslands always varies slightly; that is quite normal,” says Dr Emma Ladouceur, lead author of the study and a scientist at iDiv and UFZ. “For some species, the conditions in one year are not optimal, and they can only produce a few seeds, or no new plants emerge from them. On the other hand, other species whose seeds were already in the soil or were carried in by wind or animals can germinate. Through these processes, different species occupy new spaces in natural areas. The higher the species diversity, the higher the probability that species adapted to the living conditions are present and are providing ecosystem services humans depend on.”

With high nutrient inputs, more species get lost and less new species arrive

As expected, this experiment also consistently showed a decline in species on the nutrient-enriched plots through time. In order to be able to attribute the observations to changes in plant species, the scientists divided the plant communities into three categories: Species that were permanently present at a site over the entire study period, species that disappeared, and those that newly arrived. 

The analyses showed that on the one hand, more species got lost in the fertilised areas than in the unfertilised grasslands during the study period; on the other hand, fewer new species arrived during this time. The species composition also changed in the unfertilised areas. However, losses and gains were balanced out here - the number of species remained constant in total. 

In addition, the researchers recorded the aboveground biomass produced. As expected, the biomass of the harvested plants was higher on the fertilised trial plots than on the unfertilised ones, observable in the first year of experiments. About 60 % of this increase was due to plant species that were permanently present at a site. The remaining 40 % of the biomass was produced by newly added species, although fewer new species were added each year than on the unfertilised experimental plots. 

Study provides valuable information for practical nature conservation 

“Our results show that when unnaturally large amounts of nutrients are present, a few species benefit particularly,” says Emma Ladouceur. “Many other not-so-competitive species fall by the wayside - we lose them, and new species have a hard time establishing and taking hold.”

“Our study makes a significant contribution to better understanding the effects of unnatural nutrient inputs on our biodiversity,” says senior author Prof Stanley Harpole, head of the Physiological Diversity Research Group at UFZ, iDiv and MLU. With their study, the researchers are also providing valuable information for practical nature conservation. “For nature conservation areas next to an agricultural area, it is important to know how the run-off of nutrients affects the semi-natural ecosystem so that targeted measures can then be taken to protect it,” says Harpole.

The study was conducted within the framework of the international research network NutNet (Nutrient Network), founded in 2005, and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; FZT-118), among others. The experimental sites are distributed over six continents (two sites in Asia, four in Africa). 

Tabea Turrini/Sebastian Tilch

 

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

Emma Ladouceur, Shane A. Blowes, Jonathan M. Chase, Adam T. Clark, Magda Garbowski, …, Anne Ebeling, Nico Eisenhauer, …, Christiane Roscher, … & W. Stanley Harpole  (2022): Linking changes in species composition and biomass in a globally distributed grassland experiment. Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.14126

This article has earned Open Data and Open Materials badges. Data and materials are available at: DOI: 10.6073/pasta/293faff7ed2e287b56e85796c87c3e4b.

 

More information about the Nutrient Network project:
www.nutnet.org

 

Contact:

Dr Emma Ladouceur
Scientist in the Physiological Diversity & Biodiversity Synthesis Research Groups
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733255
Email: emma.ladouceur@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Stan Harpole
Head of department Physiological Diversity
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733171
Email: stan.harpole@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Synthesis Physiological Diversity TOP NEWS Mon, 24 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Smartphone data can help create global vegetation maps https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4772.html iNaturalist app users play a significant role in helping researchers create global maps of plant... iNaturalist app users play a significant role in helping researchers create global maps of plant traits

Leipzig. Missing knowledge in the global distribution of plant traits could be filled with data from species identification apps. Researchers from Leipzig University, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and other institutions were able to demonstrate this based on data from the popular iNaturalist app. Supplemented with data on plant traits, iNaturalist input results in considerably more precise maps than previous approaches based on extrapolation from limited databases. Among other things, the new maps provide an improved basis for understanding plant-environment interactions and for Earth system modelling. The study has been published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution

Nature and climate are mutually dependent. Plant growth is absolutely dependent on climate, but this is, in turn, strongly influenced by plants, such as in a forest, which evaporates a lot of water. In order to be able to make accurate predictions about how the living world may develop, extensive knowledge of the characteristics of the vegetation at the different locations is necessary, for example, leaf surface size, tissue properties and plant height. However, such data usually have to be recorded manually by professional scientists in a painstaking, time-consuming process. Consequently, the available worldwide plant trait data are very sparse and cover only certain regions. 

The TRY database, managed by iDiv and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, currently provides such data on plant traits for almost 280,000 plant species. This makes it one of the most comprehensive databases for plant characteristics mapping in the world. Up to now, global maps of plant traits have been created using extrapolations (estimation beyond the original observation range) from this geographically limited database. However, the resulting maps are not particularly reliable.

In order to fill large data gaps, the Leipzig researchers have now taken a different approach. Instead of extrapolating existing trait data geographically from the TRY database, they have linked it to the vast dataset from the citizen science project iNaturalist.

With iNaturalist, users of the associated smartphone app share their observations of nature, providing species names, photos and geolocation. In this way, more than 19 million data points have been recorded, worldwide, for terrestrial plants alone. The data also feeds the world's largest biodiversity database, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This is accessible to the public and also serves as an important database for biodiversity research.

In order to test the accuracy of the maps based on the combination of iNaturalist observations and TRY plant traits, they were compared to the plant trait evaluations based on sPlotOpen; the iDiv sPlot platform is the world's largest archive of plant community data. It contains nearly two million datasets with complete lists of plant species which occur in the locations (plots) studied by professional researchers. The database is also enhanced with plant trait data from the TRY database.

The conclusion: The new iNaturalist-based map corresponded to the sPlot data map significantly more closely than previous map products based on extrapolation. “That the new maps, based on the citizen science data, seem to be even more precise than the extrapolations was both surprising and impressive,” says first author Sophie Wolf, a doctoral researcher at Leipzig University. “Particularly because iNaturalist and our reference sPlotOpen are very different in structure.”

“Our study convincingly demonstrates the potential for research into voluntary data,” says last author, Dr Teja Kattenborn from Leipzig University and iDiv. “It is encouraging to make increasing use of the synergies between the combined data from thousands of citizens and professional scientists.”

“This work is the result of an initiative of the National Research Data Infrastructure for Biodiversity Research (NFDI4Biodiversity), with which we are pushing for a change in culture towards the open provision of data,” says co-author Prof Miguel Mahecha, head of the working group Modelling Approaches in Remote Sensing at Leipzig University and iDiv. “The free availability of data is an absolute prerequisite for a better understanding of our planet.”

The study was financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118) and Future Earth/bioDISCOVERY .

Sebastian Tilch 

 

Original publication: 
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Wolf, S., Mahecha, M. D., Sabatini, F. M., Wirth, C., Bruelheide, B., Kattge, J., Moreno Martınez, A., Mora, K. & Kattenborn, T. (2022): Citizen science plant observations encode global trait patterns, Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01904-x

 

Contact:

Sophie Wolf
PhD student
Leipzig University
Email: sophie.wolf@uni-leipzig.de

 

Dr Teja Kattenborn
Leipzig University
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Email: teja.kattenborn@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, 20 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Ecological imbalance: How plant diversity in Germany has changed in the past century https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4632.html Researchers evaluate plant population data between 1927 and 2020 Researchers evaluate plant population data between 1927 and 2020

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

Halle. Germany’s plant world has seen a greater number of losers than winners over the past one hundred years. While the frequencies and abundances of many species have shrunk, they have significantly increased in others. This has resulted in a very uneven distribution of gains and losses. It indicates an overall, large-scale loss of biodiversity, as a team led by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) reports in Nature

It’s a weird paradox: While global biodiversity is lost at an alarming rate, at the local level, many studies are finding no significant decreases in animal and plant species numbers. “However, this doesn’t mean that the developments are not worrying,” warns Prof Helge Bruelheide, an ecologist at MLU and iDiv. After all, it also depends on which species we are talking about. For example, if survival artists that are specially adapted to peatlands or dry grasslands are displaced by common plants, the number of species often remains, in total, the same. However, diversity is still being lost because the once very distinct vegetation of different habitats is now becoming more and more similar.

To find out how strong this trend is in Germany, the team led by MLU and iDiv looked at a multitude of local studies. Numerous experts provided data from more than 7,700 plots whose plant populations were surveyed between 1927 and 2020. These studies, some of which have not been published before, cover a wide range of habitats and provide information on nearly 1,800 plant species. This includes about half of all the vascular plant species that grow in Germany. “Such time series can provide very valuable information,” explains Dr Ute Jandt from MLU and iDiv. This is because very precise botanical censuses can be conducted in plots that are often only ten or twenty square metres in size. “It is highly unlikely that plants disappear or reappear unnoticed in such plots,” Jandt adds.

An analysis of the data shows a negative abundance trend for 1,011 of the species studied and a positive trend for 719. In other words, there have been 41 per cent more losers than winners over the last hundred years. “Even more surprising is that the losses were distributed much more evenly,” says Bruelheide. The team discovered this using the Gini coefficient, which is usually used to analyse the distribution of income and property. The index shows, for example, that in many countries across the globe, a small number of rich people are getting richer while the vast number of the poor are getting poorer. Germany’s plant world is seeing a very similar trend: the losses are more evenly distributed among the many losers, while the gains are concentrated among fewer winners.

The latter group includes, for instance, the black cherry and the northern red oak, both of which originated in North America but have now also taken over many forests in Germany. The frost-sensitive European holly has also gained more and more ground in the course of climate change. The large camp of losers, on the other hand, consists of many types of agricultural weeds such as the cornflower, meadow species such as the small scabious, and wetland specialists such as the devil’s bit.

According to the study, the strongest imbalance between gains and losses occurred between the late 1960s and the early 21st century. “This phase started with the strong intensification of land use. Since then, however, there have been successful nature conservation measures that have weakened the still ongoing negative trend to a certain degree,” says Bruelheide.

No one knows yet whether this also applies to other regions of the Earth. That is why the team advocates collecting and evaluating similar datasets from around the world. This uneven distribution of gains and losses can be taken as an early warning sign of biodiversity changes which will ultimately lead to the extinction of species.

The new study is an outcome of the project “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, which is coordinated by iDiv and financed inter alia by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). As part of this initiative, data on the development of biodiversity throughout Germany are being compiled and analysed. To this end, researchers are teaming up with public institutions and nature conservationists.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Ute Jandt, Helge Bruelheide, ..., Aletta Bonn, Volker Grescho, Reinhard A. Klenke, Francesco Maria Sabatini, Markus Bernhardt-Römermann, ..., Jürgen Dengler, ..., Sylvia Haider, ..., Martin Lindner, ..., Christiane Roscher, ..., Karsten Wesche, ... & Monika Wulf (2022): More losses than gains during one century of plant biodiversity change in Germany. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05320-w


The dataset this new Nature study is based on was also recently published in Scientific Data and is available to anyone interested: Jandt U., Bruelheide H. et al. ReSurveyGermany: Vegetation-plot time-series over the past hundred years in Germany. Scientific Data (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-022-01688-6

 

Contact:

Dr Ute Jandt
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-345-5526287
Email: ute.jandt@botanik.uni-halle.de

 

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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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Wed, 19 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
European colonial legacy is still visible in today’s alien floras https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4791.html The movement of species around the globe has lasting impacts on biodiversity and human livelihoods... The movement of species around the globe has lasting impacts on biodiversity and human livelihoods far into the future

Based on a media release by the University of Vienna

Vienna/Leipzig. Alien floras in regions that were once occupied by the same European power are, on average, more similar to each other compared to outside regions and this similarity increases with the length of time a region was occupied. This is the conclusion of a study by an international team of researchers led by the University of Vienna and with the participation of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The results were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The global redistribution of ‘alien species’, i.e. species originally not native in a specific geographic region, is closely linked to human movement which accelerated with the onset of European exploration and colonialism in the late 15th century. Back then, European powers introduced species mainly for economic reasons in order to ensure the survival of their population and to foster the establishment of settlements, next to aesthetic and nostalgic reasons. In particular, many plant species were introduced to and from the colonized regions for food, fodder or horticulture and have, over time, established ‘alien floras’ in these regions.

The longer a region was occupied by an empire, the more similar the alien floras

“The European empires restrictive trade policies ensured that plants were predominantly traded between regions occupied by the same power. Hence, the set of species exchanged between regions was restricted to the extent of the empire, and consequently, the regions became more similar in their floras compared to outside regions – a process that intensified with the length of time a region was occupied by the empire”, says the lead author of the study Bernd Lenzner from the University of Vienna. The study shows that this process is equally important as other drivers of the spread of alien species, such as socio-economic development or population density in a region, that explain how alien plant species are distributed today.

Strategic and economic importance of a region increases floristic similarity

Furthermore, regions that played an important economic or strategic role in the empires show even greater similarity in their alien floras compared to all other regions of an empire. Such regions include, for example, former trade hubs like regions in the Indo-Malay Archipelago that were crucial for the international spice trade. Similarly, this also applies to islands like the Azores or St. Helena, which were both important stopover destinations on long trans-oceanic voyages. The researchers state that dependencies based on historic European empires prevail to this day, manifested, for example, in the existence of overseas territories or common languages between regions of the world that still shape preferential trade and hence the exchange of alien plant species.

“With this study, we have successfully shown that the effects of human activity, in this case, the planting of alien plants, can be seen within the same colonies for centuries to come. can still be seen for centuries in today's floras,” says Dr co-author Marten Winter from iDiv. “Human colonisation has in some cases drastically altered ecosystems”.

The full impact of human actions on alien floras will only be observed in the future

The scientists emphasize that understanding the past is essential to draw lessons for the future: “We knew that it may take decades for alien species to establish and spread within a region they have been introduced to and that this process often unfolds with a substantial delay”, says the senior author of the study Dr Franz Essl from the University of Vienna. “However, it is remarkable to be able to detect such legacies after several decades, sometimes even centuries, after the collapse of European empires. This shows that we need to be very careful and aware of which species we move around the globe, as they will likely have lasting impacts on biodiversity and human livelihoods far into the future”.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Lenzner, B., Latombe, G., Schertler, A., Seebens, H., 3, Yang, Q., Winter, M., Weigelt, P., van Kleunen, M., Pyšek, P., Pergl, P., Kreft, H., Dawson, W., Dullinger, S., & Essl, F. (2022): Naturalized alien floras still carry the legacy of European colonialism. Nature Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01865-1.

 

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

 

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 Mon, 17 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Global study: Few of the ecologically most valuable soils are protected https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4617.html New study published in Nature Assessment shows where conservation efforts to protect soil biodiversity and ecosystem services are needed most

Halle, Leipzig, Seville. Current protected areas only poorly cover the places most relevant for conserving soil ecological values. This is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Nature. To assess global hotspots for preserving soil ecological values, an international team of scientists measured different dimensions of soil biodiversity (local species richness and uniqueness) and ecosystem services (like water regulation or carbon storage). They found that these dimensions peaked in contrasting regions of the world. For instance, temperate ecosystems showed higher local soil biodiversity (species richness), while colder ecosystems were identified as hotspots of soil ecosystem services. In addition, the results suggest that tropical and arid ecosystems hold the most unique communities of soil organisms. Soil ecological values are often overlooked in nature conservation management and policy decisions; the new study, published in Nature, demonstrates where efforts to protect them are needed most.

Soils are a world of their own, hidden beneath our feet and bursting with life. They are home to billions of earthworms, nematodes, insects, fungi, bacteria and many other organisms. And yet, we are hardly aware of these organisms or their profound impacts on ecosystems. Without soils, there would be little life on land and surely no humans. In fact, most of the food we consume depends directly or indirectly on soil fertility. However, soils are also vulnerable to climate and land-use change. To better conserve soil ecological values, we must know where their protection is needed most. For plants and animals living above the soil, hotspots of biodiversity were identified decades ago. However, no such assessment was or could be made for soil ecological values until now.

First global assessment considering multiple soil ecological values

In the journal Nature, a team of international scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), and Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla (IRNAS) has published the first global estimate of hotspots for conserving soil ecological values. They conducted an impressive global field survey including more than 10,000 observations of biodiversity (invertebrates, fungi, protists, bacteria, and archaea) and of indicators for ecosystem services within 615 soil samples from all continents. They combined these observations to assess three soil ecological dimensions: (1) local species richness, (2) biodiversity uniqueness, and (3) ecosystem services (like water regulation or carbon storage).

Soil ecological values peak in contrasting regions of the planet

The results show that each of the three dimensions peaked in different regions of the planet. For instance, temperate ecosystems showed the highest local soil species richness, while biodiversity uniqueness peaked in arid ecosystems and the tropics. First author Dr Carlos Guerra explains: “When you dig into a European soil, for instance, in a forest, you will find many different species in one single spot. When you go to a forest some kilometres further, while different, you will find similar species. Not so in the tropics, where a few kilometres can mean completely different communities.” Guerra started working on the project at iDiv and MLU and is now affiliated with iDiv and Leipzig University. Unlike the two dimensions involving biodiversity, ecosystem services – the third dimension assessed – typically peaked in the colder high-latitudinal ecosystems.

Hotspots for soil nature conservation identified

The contrasting spatial patterns found for the three different dimensions demonstrate how complex it is to protect all three of them at once. “It is much more challenging than for plants and mammals, where there is usually a better spatial match of the different dimensions,” says Carlos Guerra. “When it comes to protecting soils, we should probably not focus on locally maximising all soil ecological dimensions at the same time but rather on integrated approaches that highlight the local potential.” Despite these difficulties, the researchers were able to identify ecosystem hotspots that should have the highest priority for soil nature conservation. These hotspots were located mainly in the tropics, in North America, in Northern Europe, and in Asia.

Prioritising soil nature conservation in international policies

The researchers compared these priority hotspots to those areas that are already protected. They found that half of the hotspots identified are currently not under any form of nature conservation. “Protected areas have been selected mostly for conserving plants, birds or mammals,” says senior author Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo from the Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla. “We need to include soils, their biodiversity and services in our perspective. Therefore, governments and decision-makers need to set soil nature conservation as a priority in the context of the international negotiations for the 2030 biodiversity targets.” The new study may prove helpful here as it demonstrates where soil nature conservation efforts are needed the most.

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

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Guerra, C. A., … Eisenhauer, N., … Delgado-Baquerizo, M. (2022). Global hotspots for soil nature conservation. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05292-x

 

Contact:

Dr Carlos António Guerra
(speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.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/media

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 12 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Networking event iDay strengthens joint sense of ownership for iDiv https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4611.html On 29 September 2022, the iDiv administrator networking event iDay took place at the iDiv Core... by Anna Burnett

On 29 September 2022, the iDiv administrator networking event iDay took place at the iDiv Core Centre and the Botanical Gardens Leipzig. For the third time, the Central Services team invited colleagues from the administrations of iDiv’s four hosting institutions – Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Leipzig University and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ. Following a discourse on administrative topics, in particular critical tasks surrounding the iDiv permanency post-2024, guests were able to get a glimpse of select research projects of various iDiv working groups as well as a tour of the new iDiv Core Centre. In the evening, participants joined at the Botanical Gardens Leipzig for a networking get-together and viewed iDiv’s high-tech research greenhouse, which is in operation since 2021.

iDiv Managing Director Sabine Matthiä on the event: “Due to the complexity and the many special features that the administration of a centre operated in three locations and across federal state lines entails, iDay has become particularly important for fostering exchange and networking between administrators as well as for sharpening a common understanding and joint sense of ownership for iDiv.”

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iDiv Wed, 05 Oct 2022 15:42:31 +0200
Land tenure drives deforestation rates in Brazil https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4606.html Poorly defined land rights increase deforestation, but private land rights must go hand in hand... Poorly defined land rights increase deforestation, but private land rights must go hand in hand with strict environmental policies.

Leipzig. Tropical deforestation causes widespread degradation of biodiversity and carbon stocks. Researchers from the German Center of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University were now able to test the relationship between land tenure and deforestation rates in Brazil. Their research, which was published in Nature Communications, shows that poorly defined land rights go hand in hand with increased deforestation rates. Privatising these lands, as is often promoted in the tropics, can only mitigate this effect if combined with strict environmental policies.

Forestlands in Brazil harbor the world’s largest biodiversity and carbon stores. However, increasing pressure from ambitious agroeconomic development leads to widespread deforestation. Land-tenure governs how and by whom land can be used. Therefore, specific land-tenure changes such as privatizing lands or placing them under environmental protection can both have implications for forests. 

Researchers from iDiv and Leipzig University have now analysed 33 years (1985-2018) of agriculture-driven deforestation across Brazilian forestlands. With the help of property-level data, they were able to compare six land-tenure regimes (undesignated/untitled, private, strictly protected and sustainable-use protected areas, indigenous, and “quilombola” lands held by Afro-Brazilian communities) and to draw conclusions on how these regimes affect deforestation.

Lands with poorly defined tenure rights increase deforestation

Publicly owned lands with poorly defined tenure rights clearly and consistently increased deforestation compared to all other alternatives. These lands that are neither titled nor designated to any use, but may be inhabited by rural settlers with little-to-no guaranteed property rights, account for almost one hundred million hectares in Brazil. 

“High deforestation rates in these lands may have many reasons”, explains first author Andrea Pacheco, former researcher at iDiv and now working at the University of Bonn. “For example, the government may simply not have the capacity to effectively monitor on-the-ground deforestation in these lands, resulting in limited enforcement of illegal deforestation here. This, in turn, can attract speculators who clear forest to later claim use rights. Alternatively, poor landless settlers may feel forced to illegally clear these lands for agriculture, if prices on legal land markets are too high for them.”

“This is why land-tenure interventions on these lands are so important. Our study shows that whatever alternative tenure regime with well-defined rights and regulations is implemented, it would likely help reduce this deforestation”, adds last author Dr Carsten Meyer from iDiv and UL. 

Private regimes can be effective if associated with strict environmental policy

“Privatizing undesignated and untitled lands can be highly effective as a means to reduce deforestation, but only under certain conditions and if associated with strict environmental policies. If this is not the case, deforestation may actually increase”, warns Carsten Meyer. One example for such environmental policies is the Forest Code in the Amazon, which requires landowners to maintain 80% of their land under native vegetation.

However, across very different contexts, private regimes tend to decrease deforestation less effectively and less reliably than alternative well-defined regimes. The researchers showed that both strictly protected areas and sustainable-use protected areas most reliably reduced deforestation rates across Brazil. 

They also showed that the effects of tenure held by indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) were dependent on the context. Nonetheless, privatizing IPLC lands would likely increase the risk of deforestation across Brazil. “As much of the world’s remaining forestlands are in IPLC lands, taking local contexts into account will be essential for designing policies with synergies for both biodiversity conservation and IPLCs”, says Andrea Pacheco.

The imperative need for policies that tackle undefined and private lands

Against the backdrop of the ongoing political debate in Brazil around land privatisation and protection in tropical landscapes, this study can be used to envisage policy aligned with sustainable development goals. The results show that, first and foremost, interventions in undesignated/untitled lands should be at the forefront of land-related policies in Brazil. In addition, coupling private lands with strict environmental policies has the potential to protect biodiversity in places like the Cerrado or Pantanal, where most of Brazil’s remaining forestlands are private.


The study was funded by the German Research Foundation as part of the iDiv research platform sPlot (DFG FZT 118, 202548816).


Kati Kietzmann


Original publication

(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)

Andrea Pacheco, Carsten Meyer (2022): Land tenure drives Brazil’s deforestation rates across socio-environmental contexts. Nature Communications. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-33398-3 

 

Contact:

Andrea Pacheco
Institute for Food and Resource Economics
University of Bonn
Email: andrea.pacheco@ilr.uni-bonn.de

 

Dr Carsten Meyer
Head of Junior Research Group Macroecology and Society
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733238
Email: carsten.meyer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/371.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Macroecology and Society Media Release TOP NEWS Sat, 01 Oct 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Historical reduction of the wolf in the Iberian Peninsula https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4603.html Recent expansions mean little more than a stabilisation of the species Recent expansions mean little more than a stabilisation of the species

Based on a media release of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain (CSIC)

Seville/Leipzig. The distribution of the wolf covered at least 65% of the Iberian Peninsula in the mid-19th century. Compared to this finding, recent expansions mean little more than a stabilisation of the species. This is the result of a study led by the Doñana Biological Station of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (EBD-CSIC) in collaboration with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). To reach these conclusions, the research team analysed the historical information from a geographical survey collected in the mid-19th century. The study has been published in the journal Animal Conservation. It provides new information on the history of wolf declines due to human persecution.

Humans are both witnesses to and drivers of biodiversity loss on the planet. Populations of numerous species are dwindling and disappearing from many places. “The knowledge we have of these declines comes from comparing indices that describe the distribution and abundance of species over time,” explains Dr Miguel Clavero, researcher at the EBD-CSIC and lead author of the paper. “However, the data needed to calculate these indices have only very recently started to be collected, while the impacts of human activities have been occurring for centuries. For this reason, perceptions of recent declines and the supposed ‘expansion’ of some species may be a mere thumbnail of actual declines. 

The wolf was present in all provinces

The geographical dictionary edited by Pascual Madoz in the mid-19th century was a titanic collective effort, with more than 1,400 participants, who described every Spanish population centre and geographical feature. Wild animal species are among the elements often included in the descriptions, mainly those considered useful – those hunted or fished, or harmful - wolves and other carnivores. The team responsible for this study reviewed more than 11,000 pages of the dictionary to compile and locate on the map over 1,500 mentions of the wolf, distributed throughout all the provinces of mainland Spain. 

According to Dr Néstor Fernández, researcher at iDiv and MLU and co-author of the study, “this information is very interesting in itself, but the historical distribution of the wolf cannot be derived directly from it.” The reason is that historical species accounts are typically very incomplete, so for many places, the fact that the wolf is not mentioned cannot be taken for its absence. To solve this problem, the research team developed mathematical models that described the relationship between historical species records and human pressures such as agriculture and population density. They then estimated the distribution of the wolf in Spain in the mid-19th century. “These models allow us to estimate the probability that the wolf was present in all the Iberian Peninsula, including areas where there is a lack of historical data,” says Fernández. 

The results showed that wolves occupied more than 317,000 km2, that is, more than 65% of the surface area of mainland Spain. According to Dr Fernández, this figure puts the magnitude of the wolf decline in full perspective. “Comparing the current situation with the historical distribution, the area occupied today would represent just over 30% of the historical area reached in the middle of the 19th century.”

The current “expansion” of the wolf

The distribution of the wolf in Spain reached a minimum around 1980. Since then, the species has recolonised some areas, although the estimated number of groups has remained practically unchanged. These recent changes have sometimes been interpreted as an expansion of wolf numbers, and several voices have called for the need for population control through culling. In contrast, the recent inclusion of the wolf in the Spanish List of Protected Wild Species imposes strong limitations on such controls. “In such a confrontational situation, it is very important to have a historical perspective on the conservation status of wolves taking long-term extinctions into consideration, not only the partial recovery of the species in recent years,” says Fernández. This recently published work shows that the analysis of historical documents combined with modern surveys provides a more complete understanding of species conservation trends.

Urs Moesenfechtel


Original Publication:

(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Clavero, M., García-Reyes, A., Fernández-Gil, A., Revilla, E., Fernández, N. (2022): Where wolves were: setting historical baselines for wolf recovery in Spain. Animal Conservation. DOI: 10.1111/acv.12814

This media release is also available in Spanish.

 

Contact:

Dr Néstor Fernández (speaks English and Spanish)
Scientific Employee Biodiversity Conservation Group
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/profile/342.html

 

Dr Miguel Clavero (speaks English and Spanish)
Estación Biológica de Doñana-CSIC, Seville, Spain
Email: miguelito.clavero@gmail.com
Web: http://www.ebd.csic.es/personal?p_p_id=187&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-3&p_p_col_count=1&_187_tabs1=users&_187_p_u_i_d=419096&_187_struts_action=%2F187%2Fview_user

 

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 Research TOP NEWS Media Release Thu, 29 Sep 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Jessil Pajar wins student poster award at conference https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4586.html At the 37th meeting of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) held from 8-12 August... At the 37th meeting of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) held from 8-12 August 2022 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, our PhD student  Jessil Pajar achieved the second place in the student poster award competition! Her poster was on “Metabolic profile shifts in Brassica nigra leaves after belowground nematode infection affect aphid performance aboveground “ reporting on some recent results obtained in her PhD project. Congrats Jessil!!

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Molecular Interaction Ecology Thu, 22 Sep 2022 12:59:46 +0200
Location, location, location! What leads to lignification on islands https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4472.html Islands act as natural laboratories of evolution Islands act as natural laboratories of evolution

Based on a media release from Philipps-Universität Marburg.

Marburg/Leipzig/Leiden. Increased drought, the lack of predators and isolation lead to a tendency of plants on islands to become woody. The location of the islands on which the species concerned are native also plays a role. This is the result of a study led by the Philipps University of Marburg and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) together with the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in Leiden and other institutions. The study by the German-Dutch research team, which has now been published in the scientific journal PNAS, shows how islands act as natural laboratories of evolution.

 

This text is only available in German.

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Alexander Zizka (speaks English and German)
Biodiversity of plants lab
Philipps-Universität Marburg
Evolution and Adaptation
sDiv - Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 6421 28 24495
Email: alexander.zizka@biologie.uni-marburg.de

 

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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sDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 07 Sep 2022 00:00:00 +0200
High plant diversity is often found in the smallest of areas https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4386.html Steppes of Eastern Europe harbour a similar number of plant species as Amazon rainforest regions Steppes of Eastern Europe harbour a similar number of plant species as Amazon rainforest regions

Based on a media release by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Halle/Leipzig. The steppes of Eastern Europe are home to a similar number of plant species as the regions of the Amazon rainforest. However, this is only apparent when species are counted in small sampling areas rather than hectares of land. An international team of researchers led by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig has now shown how much estimates of plant diversity change when the sampling area ranges from a few square metres to hectares. Their results have been published in the journal Nature Communications and could be utilised in new, more tailored nature conservation concepts.

In their study, the team analysed a dataset of around 170,000 vegetation images from all of the Earth’s climate zones. The data included information on all of the plant species found at a location and the coordinates of the respective area under study. The data was taken from the globally unique vegetation database “sPlot”, which is located at iDiv.

“Most studies on global biodiversity are conducted on a relatively large scale, for example, at a state or provincial scale. We wanted to find out how much results differ when smaller areas are examined,” says Professor Helge Bruelheide from MLU and iDiv. The team used artificial intelligence to investigate, among other things, the relationship between the number of plant species and the size of the area under study. 

Their investigation showed that there are regions on Earth where focusing on large study areas only provides a limited understanding of the distribution of biodiversity: sometimes, small areas can have relatively high biodiversity, for example, in the steppes of Eastern Europe, in Siberia and in the Alpine countries of Europe. At fine spatial scales, the large difference in biodiversity between the tropics, like the Amazon, and the temperate climate zones nearly disappears. 

The same applies to the African tropics, which were previously considered an exception in the tropical plant world. “The tropics have always been among the most biodiverse areas in the world. We wondered why this shouldn’t also apply to Western Africa,” explains Dr Francesco Maria Sabatini, who led the study at MLU and iDiv and is now an assistant professor at the University of Bologna. In fact, the distribution of plant species varies greatly in the African tropics, says Sabatini. These species are distributed over very large distances so that they are not always recorded when a small sampling area is examined. “To correctly recognize the high biodiversity in Western Africa, many small areas are required,” adds Sabatini. 

The study also shows that the spatial scale at which other very biodiverse areas are examined, such as the Cerrado savanna region in Brazil or regions in Southeast Asia, is irrelevant. These results are also important when it comes to protecting species. “Ecosystems whose high biodiversity is spread out over a large area cannot be protected through the traditional patchwork of nature reserves. In contrast, ecosystems that have high biodiversity within a small area could benefit well from several distinct protected zones,” concludes Bruelheide.
 

The study was funded by the German Research Foundation as part of the iDiv research platform sPlot (DFG FZT 118, 202548816).

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

Sabatini, F. M., Jiménez-Alfaro, B., Jandt, U., … Haider, S., … Kambach, S., … Wesche, K., Bruelheide, H. (2022): Global patterns of vascular plant alpha diversity. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-32063-z

 

Contact:

Dr Francesco Maria Sabatini
Coordinator of sPlot – The Global Vegetation Database
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
(formerly affiliated with German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig)
Phone: +49 345 5526199
Email: francesco.sabatini@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.botanik.uni-halle.de/geobotanik/francesco_sabatini/

 

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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Research iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Thu, 01 Sep 2022 00:00:00 +0200
National parks - islands in a desert? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4046.html Effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in national parks is associated with socioeconomic... Effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in national parks is associated with socioeconomic conditions

Leipzig/Jena/Bonn. How effective is biodiversity conservation of European and African national parks? This seems to be strongly associated with societal and economic conditions. But even under the most favourable conditions, conservation efforts cannot completely halt emerging threats to biodiversity if conditions outside of the parks do not improve. This is the conclusion of a new study led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA), and the University of Bonn, in collaboration with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig University, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and many other institutions. The study published in the journal Nature Sustainability highlights the urgent need for a better design of national park networks.

Despite commendable conservation efforts and investments by governments, NGOs and international as well as national conservation agencies, biodiversity continues to decline across the globe. One of the key strategies to halt biodiversity decline is the establishment of protected areas like national parks, which are supposed to provide favourable conditions for biodiversity to remain stable.

Species declines are strongly associated with Human Development Index

An international research team led by iDiv, MPI-EVA, and the University of Bonn, in collaboration with the UFZ, Leipzig University, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and many other institutions has now investigated the biodiversity conservation effectiveness of 114 national parks in 25 countries in Africa and Europe on the basis of changes in abundances of 464 mammal and bird species. Within the surveyed ten-year period from 2007 to 2017, they found that the effectiveness of the 66 African and 48 European parks strongly depended on the respective local and national economic and societal conditions - which are reflected in the Human Development Index (HDI). A likely explanation is that resource demand from national parks is higher and less regulated when the HDI is low, making the parks less effective. The parks located in countries with highest HDI values showed average declines in species abundance of about 10% compared to more than 25% in parks located in countries with lowest HDI.

 National parks do not guarantee 100% protection

“But we also found that seemingly effective national parks embedded in favourable socioeconomic context (such as high HDI) are not necessarily a generic solution for ideal national park management”, says lead author Dr Tsegaye Gatiso, researcher at the University of Bonn and iDiv. “Finally, no socioeconomic conditions and no set of currently implemented conservation measures can guarantee the elimination of threats to biodiversity. Species may still decline in the same national park under less favourable conditions because protected areas are an inseparable part of a dynamic, complex social-ecological system.”

Better design of national parks network needed

The researchers, therefore, conclude that a marginal gap to fully effective national parks remains. A critical need is an improved design of the national park network and associated management to reduce threats and make it ecologically functional. Concerted actions that include expanding the national park network, establishing corridors between protected areas to facilitate the dispersal of species between them, and, very importantly, improving conditions for biodiversity outside national parks are the most critical elements to halt biodiversity loss.

"Many national parks have become 'islands in a desert of industrial agriculture, forestry and infrastructure'. The poor ecological conditions outside national parks reduce the species' abundance. After all, they do not orient their distribution areas to national park boundaries set by humans. If they are then exposed to a variety of negative living conditions outside the parks, this also affects their abundance inside the parks," adds the study's senior author, Dr Hjalmar Kühl, a scientist at iDiv and MPI-EVA. "It is therefore important that the ecological conditions outside the parks are significantly improved. Protected areas, and especially national parks, are sensors for the state of our planet's biodiversity. The lack of effectiveness of observed parks must be taken very seriously, and we must make great efforts to significantly improve the network of protected areas in terms of its ecological functionality."

Urs Moesenfechtel

The study was funded by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) (DFG FZT 118, 202548816; T.T.G. and H.S.K.) and the Robert Bosch Foundation (grant number 32.5.8043.0016.0; H.S.K.).

 

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

Gatiso, T. T., Kulik, L., Bachmann, M., Bonn, A., Bösch, L., Eirdosh, D., Freytag, A., Hanisch, S., Heurich, M., Sop, T., Wesche, K., Winter, M., Kühl, H. S. (2022). Effectiveness of protected areas influenced by socio-economic context. Nature Sustainability. DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00932-6

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-022-00932-6#citeas

 

Contact:

Dr Tsegaye Tagesse Gatiso (speaks English)
University of Bonn – ILR research group Economics of Sustainable Land Use and Bioeconomy
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 228 732325
Email: tsegaye.gatiso@ilr.uni-bonn.de
Web: https://www.ilr.uni-bonn.de/eslu/staff/gatiso/gatiso_e.htm

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of Junior 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 (0) 341 973 9 160
Email: hjalmar.kuehl@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/21.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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Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 15 Aug 2022 00:00:00 +0200
LifeGate – New interactive map shows the full diversity of life https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3502.html New digital map displays full diversity of life through thousands of photos

Joint press release of Leipzig University (Botanical Garden) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Leipzig. Researchers from Leipzig have published a gigantic digital map displaying the full diversity of life through thousands of photos. The so-called LifeGate encompasses all 2.6 million known species of this planet and shows their relationship to each other. The interactive map can now be accessed free of charge at lifegate.idiv.de.

If you want to find out which places are close to Quito, you search on Google Maps. If, on the other hand, you want to find out which animals are taxonomically close to the meerkat, you can search on LifeGate. LifeGate is a new interactive map, but it is a taxonomic rather than a geographic map: when you zoom in, you see photos of a species’ closest relative, whether it is the meerkat or any of the other 2.6 million known species. When you zoom out, you see which group (taxon) the species you are looking at belongs to, and which other groups it is related to. The meerkat, for example, belongs to the mongoose family, which is closely related to civets and genets, among other things. 

The diversity of life in one map 

The online platform LifeGate displays the full diversity of life in a single interactive map. With 420,000 photos already available, the underlying database contains 12 million; from the microscopic paramecium to the giant panda. There are a lot of photos of some species, but none, as yet, of others. 6,000 citizens from all over the world have made their photos available, free of charge, to this non-commercial project, and new images are being added every day. 

The creator of LifeGate is Dr Martin Freiberg, curator of the botanical garden at Leipzig University and member of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). “I wanted to construct LifeGate in such a way that all species are of equal value, and that the incredible diversity of species can really be experienced and understood,” says Freiberg. 

A novel representation

During its creation, he based it on the ‘family trees’ of nature: Biologists describe the phylogenetic evolution and relationships of living organisms in so-called phylogenies. Only modern phylogenies already based on DNA analyses have found a place in LifeGate. Such representations are usually limited to individual groups of species and show only birds or frogs, only begonias, orchids or only butterflies, for example. Freiberg has brought the phylogenies together, in painstaking detail for the first time, so that the relationship positions of all species can actually be shown at the same time. “Because LifeGate is not restricted to any one group, this is the first time that relationships between species can be represented,” he says.

Fourteen years of work, finally available to the public  

Freiberg has been working on the LifeGate map since 2008 - a feat that also included the technical programming of the platform. Now it will finally be revealed to the public. “LifeGate began as a scientific clarification project for my students,” says Freiberg. “Pictures are more memorable than mere numbers and make the topic of biodiversity more accessible. This is why the map also fascinates amateurs and laypeople. Not only biologists go to the zoo.” 

Freiberg still has a lot more planned for the future. For example, you will be able to choose from different photo views for each species. For the meerkat, for example, the eyes or the ears, the head from the front or from the side, the droppings, the footprints and so on. Virtual trips are also planned: Who eats whom? Who pollinates what? 

Freiberg’s vision is a ‘Google Maps of Biodiversity’ 

In order to fulfil his plans, Freiberg and his team now need supporters, especially in the areas of programming and project management, and in continued financing. “It’s just no longer manageable,” he says. The public announcement is intended as a first step towards achieving Freiberg’s vision: “In the future, every online search for animals, plants or bacteria will start with LifeGate. It should become the ‘Google Maps of biodiversity’.” 

By the way, Homo sapiens, of course, can also be found in Lifegate. Whoever searches for him finds a photo of Martin Freiberg and his daughter. It’s one of 2.6 million squares on the gigantic map of life - at the top, on the left.

 

 

Discover LifeGate at lifegate.idiv.de
(Use the square button on the left to change from German to English.)

 

Videos:


Citation:

Freiberg, M., Reichert, M. (2021). LifeGate. An interactive phylogenetic map.

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Freiberg
(speaks English and German)
Curator of the Botanical Garden of
Leipzig University
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 36869
Email: freiberg@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://www.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut-fuer-biologie/abteilungen/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/team

 

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/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Wed, 27 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Informing future conservation priorities of ecosystems in the Tropical Andes https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3485.html New research offers a pathway to achieving the 30 by 30 target using ecosystem diversity across... New research offers a pathway to achieving the 30 by 30 target using ecosystem diversity across four South American countries

Joint press release by iDiv and NatureServe

Washington D.C./Leipzig. Only about 5% of ecosystems within the Tropical Andes biodiversity hotspot are adequately represented in designated protected areas. Representation may be determined by a series of targets proposed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which states at least 30% of land and waters in each country should be conserved. Protecting the full diversity of ecosystems reduces extinction risk for the species those ecosystems support, but very few places on the planet currently meet the CBD target. There is an opportunity to increase representation of ecosystems that meet the CBD target to 31% (39 ecosystem types total) across four Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) through the additional protection by governments and civil societies of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), places that meet the internationally recognized standard for sites that significantly contribute to the global persistence of biodiversity. This conclusion is shown in a new study led by NatureServe, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), together with other institutions throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America. The study, now published in the journal Remote Sensing, demonstrates how Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) coupled with KBAs can inform conservation decisions at multiple scales.

To effectively conserve ecosystems, scientists document and monitor their extent (mapped areas where they occur) and conservation status over time. Combining trends in extent with degree of protection helps to accurately assess the effectiveness of conservation actions. This is what an international research team led by NatureServe and iDiv has illustrated for conservation planning in the most biologically diverse area on the planet, the Tropical Andes. Using pre-industrial and recent maps for ecosystems in the Tropical Andes, the team measured long-term ecosystem loss to intensive land uses. They then quantified representation of ecosystem types in the region within current protected areas and additional representation offered by protecting Key Biodiversity Areas.

Findings revealed that only five of 95 ecosystem types within the Tropical Andes hotspot have at least 30% of their area protected – the target per cent of land and waters that all countries should conserve by 2030, as advised by the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, the number of ecosystem types adequately protected could increase to 39 when considering ecosystems across Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru if governments and civil society act to protect Key Biodiversity Areas – places that meet the internationally recognised standard for sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by applying the concept of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), which assist in measuring different aspects of biodiversity relevant to conservation assessment, planning and policy. Analyses based on EBVs help to create a baseline for assessing change in terrestrial ecosystems to measure the impact of national policies and gauge progress of commitments toward conservation goals.

“From this study, we can see where some ecosystems have been disproportionately lost to intensive land uses,” says Pat Comer, lead author of the study and Chief Ecologist at NatureServe. “We can also see where some of our investments in land conservation have done well at securing some ecosystems while doing less well with others. By recognising and conserving the full diversity of ecosystems, we conserve the natural setting for all species to survive and evolve.”

Development of the EBVs involved hundreds of people over many years, including local collaborators from the Tropical Andes, and included many scientists and community members who participated in regional and national workshops in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

“This EBV indicator links conservation goals at the global, national and local levels. More importantly, the EBV responds directly to the needs expressed by people in these countries,” says second author Dr Jose W. Valdez, a postdoctoral researcher at MLU and researcher at iDiv. “Using an EBV framework can help bridge the gap between scientists and local communities and be a valuable tool to protect ecosystems and species diversity around the world.”

“While this study focused on the Tropical Andes, the data used to map and analyse ecosystem indicators can inform continental or even global conservation decisions,” emphasises Dr Sean T. O'Brien, President and CEO of NatureServe. “This study shows that while we have not yet adequately protected all natural ecosystems, we are able to improve the representation of ecosystem diversity if we protect our natural areas.”

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

Comer, P. J., Valdez, J. W., Pereira, H. M., Acosta-Muñoz, C., Campos, F., Bonet García, F. J., Claros, X., Castro, L., Dallmeier, F., Domic Rivadeneira, E. Y, Gill, M., Josse, C., Lafuente Cartagena, I., Langstroth, R., Larrea-Alcázar, D., Masur, A., Morejon Jaramillo, G., Navarro, L., Novoa, S., Prieto-Albuja, F., Rey Ortíz, G., Teran, M. F., Zambrana-Torrelio, C., Fernandez Trigoso, M. A. (2022): Conserving Ecosystem Diversity in the Tropical Andes. Remote Sensing. DOI: 10.3390/rs14122847

 

A Spanish version of this press release can be found here.

 

Contact:

Dr Jose W. Valdez (speaks English and Spanish)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9739168
Email: jose.valdez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1290.html

 

Dr Miguel Alejandro Fernandez Trigoso (speaks Englisch and Spanish)
Postdoctoral researcher
Research group Biodiversity Conservation
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733192
Email: miguel.fernandez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1553.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 Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Tue, 19 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0200
More species could be threatened with extinction than previously thought https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3482.html New experts survey considerably extends the global biodiversity knowledge by underrepresented... New experts survey considerably extends the global biodiversity knowledge by underrepresented species groups and regions

Based on a media release by the University of Minnesota

Saint Paul/Leipzig. On average, 30 per cent of all species worldwide might be threatened with extinction or have already become extinct over the last 500 years. This was the result of estimates by 3,331 experts working on biodiversity in 187 countries. This large and diverse group of experts was asked in a survey, led by researchers from the University of Minnesota and with the participation of iDiv and the University of Leipzig, to provide assessments of the change in the species they study. The results are expected to reduce knowledge gaps in existing scientific assessments of global biodiversity and thus improve the knowledge base for policy decisions. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

„Our aim was to enrich existing biodiversity assessments with scientifically understudied but highly relevant species groups and world regions,” says lead author Prof Forest Isbell of the University of Minnesota. The scientific literature on biodiversity mainly focuses only on some well-studied regions or species groups. For example, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which is one of the main sources of data for global biodiversity assessments, has recorded only about one per cent of the estimated number of species threatened with extinction. Only 0.2 per cent of all insects, which make up 75 per cent of all animal and plant species, are considered by the IUCN. 

Using this knowledge base, the 2018 Global Report of the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), for example, estimated that about 10 per cent of insect species could be at risk of extinction, largely based on estimates from Europe. In contrast, the new survey, which involves hundreds of insect experts from around the world, arrives at an average figure of 30 per cent. “This is a substantial difference in estimates for the most hyperdiverse and understudied types of species,” says Isbell. However, the estimates of the experts surveyed vary widely. The 30 per cent of threatened species are an average of estimates between 16 and 50 per cent. “Even though it is not yet clear, given the limited information available, which figures are closer to the true value, it is becoming clear that for a complete picture of the situation we need to seek the opinion of experts for all species groups in every region of the world,” says Isbell. 

“This paper includes the perspectives of a very wide range of experts and allows us to assess less known taxa as well as give a voice to underrepresented experts in the global literature. Experts who identify as women and who are from the Global South have provided significantly higher estimates for past biodiversity loss and its impacts,” says co-author Patricia Balvanera at the University of Mexico. “Also, experts who identify as women disproportionately study the taxa that experts estimate are most threatened.” The study also identified important demographic and geographic differences in experts’ perspectives and estimates.

The researchers encourage biodiversity experts to use these results to learn how their own perspectives differ from those of other experts. This makes sure, that a diversity of perspectives is included when conducting global biodiversity assessment setting global biodiversity goals and targets and making new policies and other transformative changes needed to conserve biodiversity.

“Since biodiversity is highly regional in nature, the attempt of our study to bring together the opinions of regional experts from around the world is unprecedented,” says co-author Akira Mori of the University of Tokyo. “From the perspective of social and cultural diversity and inclusiveness, even if they are not necessarily complete, I believe we have presented certain suggestions for future international policy discussions.”

The experts believe that greatly increasing conservation investments and efforts now could remove the threat of extinction for one in three species that may otherwise be threatened or extinct by 2100. “However, appropriate conservation approaches need to be developed to target a wider range of organisms to combat the biodiversity crisis,” says co-author Nico Eisenhauer, professor at iDiv and Leipzig University. “For example, recent studies suggest that several current nature conservation programs may have no positive consequences for soil biodiversity – representing roughly one quarter of all species on Earth. We urgently need to make scientific progress to propose more effective protection measures”.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Isbell, F., …, Eisenhauer, N., …, Palmer, M. S. et al. (2022): Expert perspectives on global biodiversity loss and its drivers and impacts on people. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: 10.1002/fee.2536

 

Video with experts involved

 

Contact:

Prof Forest Isbell
College of biological sciences
University of Minnesota
Phone: 001-612-624-6731
Email: isbell@umn.edu

 

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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Experimental Interaction Ecology Media Release Mon, 18 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0200
North American birds not fully adjusting to changing climate https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3483.html Climate decoupling particularly prominent among habitat specialists Climate decoupling particularly prominent among habitat specialists

Leipzig/Halle/Seville. Some species of birds in North America have not fully adjusted their distributions in response to ongoing climate change. The places these birds live have become more decoupled from their optimal climate conditions, while other features of the environment become more constraining. This trend of climate decoupling is more pronounced for habitat specialists and for species declining in abundance. These are the results of a study by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Doñana Biological Station, now published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Climate decoupling as a result of ongoing climate change may lead to additional stresses on many species of birds, and exacerbate population declines.

Climate change poses a number of challenges to plants and animals. For example, as the climate changes, appropriate climatic conditions for many species are changing, and some may disappear altogether. This can become even more severe as the climate is changing together with other human-caused changes, such as land use for agriculture or other uses. When there is increasing divergence between the climatic conditions suitable for a particular species and its abundance and distribution through time, this is known as climate decoupling. For example, the grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) lives in grasslands across North America and was once quite common in these habitats. However, because grasslands continue to be degraded or lost, this has hindered this grassland specialist species from fully adjusting to changing climatic conditions. Climate decoupling, together with habitat loss, may explain the observed high rates of grasshopper sparrow abundance declines and local extinctions.

It is not only the grasshopper sparrow that is decoupling from its optimal climate conditions. A team of researchers led by iDiv, Leipzig University and MLU used the best available evidence on bird population changes through time from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and found that at least 30 out of 114 species (26%) of North American birds have become less well adjusted to their climate over the last 30 years. This means that their distributions and abundances were increasingly decoupled from climate over time. For each species, the reasons may be different. Some species might be inclined to remain in areas where they historically lived. Some species might be limited by climate-independent resources and habitats. And some species might be declining due to global changes, and thus unable to adjust to changing climate. Approximately 10% of the species studied had positive temporal trends in climate matching – they became more coupled to climate through time. For the remaining species, there was less support for significant temporal trends in climate matching – i.e., the adjustment of their abundances and distributions to climate remained more stable through time. 

“One of the most surprising results of our analysis was that the overall trend of climate decoupling showed no signs of slowing down,” says lead author Dr Duarte Viana, who did most of this study while working at iDiv and Leipzig University and is now based at the Doñana Biological Station in Seville. “This suggests a possible feedback between climate decoupling and declining populations that might emerge in the face of a multitude of current global changes,” he adds.

The researchers were able to show that climate decoupling was more prevalent among habitat specialists than among generalists. These specialists may have greater difficulty finding the right combinations of suitable habitat and climate conditions in increasingly modified landscapes.

“We also found that climate decoupling was more prominent among species that were considered threatened and that were declining in population sizes,” says senior author Prof Dr Jonathan Chase, head of the Biodiversity Synthesis research group at iDiv and MLU. “There are many known factors that are contributing to the population declines of many species of birds, but our study adds a new facet to our understanding of the potential causes of some of these changes – that species are less likely to be living in their optimal climate conditions as the world changes around them. This, like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, might be something we humans should pay attention to as we will likely soon find ourselves similarly living in places outside of our optimal climate ranges.”

Urs Moesenfechtel

 

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

Viana, S. D., Chase, J. (2022): Increasing climatic decoupling of bird abundances and distributions. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01814-y

 

Contact:

Dr Duarte S. Viana (speaks English, Portugese and Spanish)
Postdoctoral researcher
Doñana Biological Station
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Formerly:
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig
 University
Phone: +34 955 149 389
Email: dviana@ebd.csic.es
Web: https://sites.google.com/view/duarte-s-viana/home

 

Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of the Biodiversity Synthesis research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733120

Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups-and-people/core-groups/synthesis.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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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Synthesis Media Release Thu, 14 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Protecting butterflies in Leipzig https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3466.html Leipzig citizen science project “VielFalterGarten” promotes insect diversity in the city and... Leipzig citizen science project “VielFalterGarten” promotes insect diversity in the city and invites people to actively participate in the protection of butterflies

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

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Office for Urban Green Spaces and Waters of the City of Leipzig, and BUND Leipzig are now in their third season with the citizen science project “VielFalterGarten” this summer. The aim of the project, which is part of the Bundesprogramm für Biologische Vielfalt, is to research and protect the butterfly diversity in the city of Leipzig together with citizens. 

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Fri, 08 Jul 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Six guiding principles for the EU agricultural policy to halt biodiversity loss https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3443.html Over 300 scientists make recommendations on how to improve the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy Over 300 scientists make recommendations on how to improve the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy

Leipzig/Rostock. To halt biodiversity loss, the future design of EU agricultural policy could be guided by six basic principles and accompanied by multi-annual agreements and progressive payment systems. These are at the core of recommendations made by over 300 scientists from 23 EU member states who were consulted at the request of the European Commission. The process was coordinated by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Thünen Institute of Rural Studies, and the University of Rostock. A synthesis of the results of this extensive consultation process has now been published in the journal Conservation Letters.

With an annual expenditure of about 55 billion euros (about 31% of the total EU budget 2021-2027), the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can be a key instrument to halt biodiversity loss on EU farmland. The CAP already has three key measures to support biodiversity, namely compulsory standards that farmers have to adhere to (Cross Compliance), support measures for improved management (Agri-Environment-Climate Measures), and in 2014, Greening was introduced with three measures to improve Direct Payments. Despite these measures, farmland biodiversity is still declining.

In summer 2020, members of the European Commission invited European scientists to deliver evidence-based recommendations on how the updated CAP could perform better for biodiversity. The voluntary, independent process which followed this invitation was coordinated by iDiv, UFZ, Thünen Institute and the University of Rostock, and in cooperation with many other European research institutions. The process included 13 workshops and an online survey which were conducted between 2020 and 2021. Over 300 scientists and other experts from 23 European member states representing the disciplines of ecology, agronomy, economics and social sciences participated in this consultation. Dr Guy Pe'er, an ecologist at iDiv and UFZ and lead author of the study, emphasises, “The direct interaction with the European Commission was unique and extremely motivating. All scientists participated voluntarily, knowing that there is interest in using their expertise and knowledge to improve the CAP. This demonstrates how important and useful it is to strengthen the science-policy dialogue.”

In the study that emerged from these consultations, the authors highlight six principles as key for the success of the CAP:

  • protecting and restoring (semi-)natural landscape features and extensive grasslands,
  • rewarding diversity and multifunctionality, for instance through payments that are proportional to environmental benefits or by bundling together measures that, together, deliver multiple environmental objectives,
  • improving spatial planning so that measures are implemented at the landscape level,
  • supporting cooperative and coordinated implementation of the CAP, for instance by groups of farmers, to enhance cooperation among farmers and cover larger areas,
  • expanding results-based approaches where farmers have more freedom to deliver a certain environmental outcome, rather than prescription-based approaches where farmers are told what to do,
  • promoting better communication and engagement, with and among farmers, to improve the implementation of compulsory measures and the uptake of voluntary ones.

A particular focus of the study is on the new CAP instrument "Eco-schemes", as this instrument could almost double the budget currently available for biodiversity measures. The authors highlighted which measures are likely to be effective (such as fallow land and extensive permanent grasslands), but warn of the risk that large parts of the Eco-schemes’ budget will be spent on maintaining the status quo instead of improving farmland management. "This risk is quite realistic when one examines the Strategic Plans submitted by the member states”, says Pe’er. “They should really be improved either before implementation or soon after. Adjustments must also consider the world market situation, while making sure we do not risk ecosystem collapse and crop failures by placing, in response to the war, even more pressure on land and biodiversity”, he adds.

Prof Sebastian Lakner, agricultural economist at the University of Rostock and co-author of the study, points out: “Our paper comes at an important time because the war in Ukraine has led to turbulences on the international agricultural markets. Especially in such a time of multiple crises we need rational and cost-effective decisions. Given the high price levels on the world market, we may need to consider higher payment levels for Eco-schemes and Agri-Environment-Climate Measures (AECM) to achieve the necessary biodiversity effects in the EU. With small tweaks we can make the most of taxpayers' money, investing in efficient Eco-Schemes and AECM. Without them, this CAP-Reform 2021 can become a missed opportunity.”
Urs Moesenfechtel


Original Publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Pe’er, G., Finn, J.A., Díaz, M., Birkenstock, M., Lakner, S., Röder, N., Kazakova, Y.,  Šumrada, T., Bezák, P., Concepción, E.D., Dänhardt, J., Morales, M.B., Rac, I., Špulerová, J., Schindler, S., Stavrnides, M., Targetti, D., Viaggi, S., Vogiatzakis, I.N. & Guyomard, H. (2022): How can the European Common Agricultural Policy help halt biodiversity loss? Recommendations by over 300 experts. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12901

 

Contact:

Dr Guy Pe’er
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
“Agriculture and Ecosystem Services'' group,
Dept. Ecosystem Services,
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 Sebastian Lakner
University of Rostock
Chair for Agricultural Economics,
Phone: (+49) 381 - 498-3261 (Secretariat)
Email: sebastian.lakner@uni-rostock.de
Web: https://www.auf.uni-rostock.de/en/professorships/a-g/agricultural-economics/team/professor-dr-sebastian-lakner/

 

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 Media Release Ecosystem Services Thu, 30 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Life in the earth’s interior as productive as in some ocean waters https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3433.html Researchers discover microbes in pitch-dark aquifers as important primary producers Researchers discover microbes in pitch-dark aquifers as important primary producers

Joint media release by iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Jena. Microorganisms in aquifers deep below the earth’s surface produce similar amounts of biomass as those in some marine waters. This is the finding of researchers led by the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). Applying a unique, ultra-sensitive measurement method using radioactive carbon, they were able to demonstrate for the first time that these biotic communities in absolute darkness do not depend on sunlight. Instead, they can obtain energy autonomously from rock oxidation or from compounds transported into the deep. The study has been published in Nature Geoscience.

Terrestrial and marine habitats have been considered the ecosystems with the highest primary production on earth by far, i.e., the conversion of inorganic to organic carbon. Microscopic algae in the upper layers of the oceans and plants on land bind atmospheric carbon (CO2) and produce plant material driven by photosynthesis, i.e. the sun provides energy. Since sunlight does not penetrate into the subsurface, hardly any such primary production is to be expected. So much for the theory. 

However, genetic analyses of microorganisms in groundwater have indicated that even here many microorganisms are capable of primary production. In the absence of light, they must obtain the energy from oxidising inorganic compounds, like from reduced sulfur of the surrounding rocks. However, the role of primary producers in the subsurface had never been confirmed before. 

Groundwater is one of our most important sources of clean drinking water. The groundwater environment of the carbonate aquifers alone, which is the focus of the study, provides about ten per cent of the world’s drinking water. With this in mind, the researchers carried out measurements of microbial microorganism carbon fixation in a subsurface aquifer, 5 to 90 metres below-ground.

Surprisingly high primary production rates in total darkness

“The rates we measured were much higher than we anticipated,” says the first author of the study Dr Will Overholt, Postdoctoral Researcher at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. “They equal carbon fixation rates measured in nutrient-poor marine surface waters and are up to six-fold greater than those observed in the lower zones of the sunlit open ocean, where there is just enough light for photosynthesis”. Based on the measured carbon fixation rates, the researchers conservatively extrapolated global primary production in carbonate groundwater to be 110 million metric tons of carbon per year. Collectively, the net primary productivity of approximately 66 per cent of the planet’s groundwater reservoirs would total 260 million metric tons of carbon per year, which is approximately 0.5 per cent that of marine systems and 0.25 per cent of global net primary production estimates.

“This may sound small but these measurements represent only our first estimate of what the true global value may be,” says senior author Prof Kirsten Küsel from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and iDiv. “Since there is very little energy available in these nutrient-poor and permanently dark habitats, even a small percentage of the global primary production is a surprise.” 

The researchers also sought to identify the microorganisms responsible for fixing carbon and generating new biomass within the aquifer. Metagenomic analyses point to a highly abundant microorganism not closely related to previously studied bacteria, within an uncharacterised order of Nitrospiria. “As food, these organisms are thought to form the basis of life for the entire groundwater ecosystem with all of its thousands of microbial species, similar to the role algae play in the oceans or plants on land,” says Overholt.

Unique method to measure primary production of microorganisms in aquifers

Measuring carbon fixation can be done with radioactively labelled carbon dioxide. “In carbonate rock environments, there is abundant dissolved CO2, that can make it difficult to directly observe rates of carbon fixation,” says Prof Susan Trumbore from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena. The team, therefore, used a special method to trace a small amount of labelled CO2 using highly sensitive accelerator mass spectrometry. “It is exciting to see what new insights these methods can lead to,” she says.

“Our findings offer new insights into how these subsurface ecosystems function, giving clues on how to monitor or remediate groundwater sources," says Kirsten Küsel.

This study is part of the Collaborative Research Centre AquaDiva of the University of Jena and iDiv, and is partially funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – CRC 1076 – Project Number 218627073.

Sebastian Tilch


Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and former iDiv members bold)

Overholt, W. A., Trumbore, S., Xu, X., Bornemann, T. L. V, Probst, A. J., Krüger, M., Herrmann, M., Thamdrup, B., Bristow, L., Taubert, M., Schwab, V. F., Hölzer, M., Marz, M. & Küsel, K.: Carbon fixation rates in groundwater similar to those in oligotrophic marine systems. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00968-5

 

Contact:

Dr Will Overholt
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 3641 949457
Email: will.overholt@uni-jena.de
Web: https://www.geomicrobiology.uni-jena.de/meet-the-team/senior-scientists-postdoctoral-researchers/will-overholt

 

Prof Dr Kirsten Küsel
Institute of Biodiversity
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 3641 9 49461
Email: kirsten.kuesel@uni-jena.de
Web: https://www.geomicrobiology.uni-jena.de/meet-the-team/professor-administrative-assistant-coordinators/kirsten-kuesel

 

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, 29 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Junior researchers investigate the impact of human activities on soil https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3441.html iDiv and Leipzig University get new junior research group: “Soil Biological Diversity and Functions” iDiv and Leipzig University get new junior research group: “Soil Biological Diversity and Functions”

Joint media release by Leipzig University and iDiv

Leipzig. “Mysterious but beautiful” – this is how Dr Anton Potapov describes the world of organisms that live under our feet. Starting on 1 July 2022, the ecologist and microbiologist is setting up a new junior research group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University. It will take a closer look at the role of soil organisms in the ecosystem. Potapov’s work during the coming years will receive 1 million euros in funding through the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Emmy Noether Programme.

At least 25 per cent of species on earth live in the soil. Complex food webs exist between soil-dwelling animals – such as insects, arachnids and earthworms – and microorganisms and plants. Potapov and his team want to study these food webs more closely and gain a better understanding of how they function in the ecosystem. The focus is also on what influence humans have on belowground food webs and how they thus influence soil ecosystem services such as carbon storage, plant growth and water supply.

“Among other things, our projects will investigate the role of soil animals in the carbon cycle of forests,” Potapov explains. “When we plant a certain tree type in a certain soil type, for example, we change the ecosystem in complex ways. We know little about how soil organisms react to this. My goal is to better understand and predict these reactions and, more importantly, how these reactions then affect the functioning of the entire ecosystem.”

In setting up his research group at iDiv and Leipzig University, the Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting Potapov to the tune of 1 million euros. 
Anton Potapov studied in Moscow and received his doctorate in ecology and microbiology in 2015. Most recently, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Animal Ecology at the University of Göttingen.

 

Contact:

Dr Anton Potapov
Head of Junior Research Group "Soil Biological Diversity and Functions"
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Email: anton.potapov@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 iDiv TOP NEWS Fri, 24 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
The Gollum effect and its impacts on the scientific community https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3440.html Report by Dr Jose Valdez, Postdoctoral Researcher of the Biodiversity Conservation research group...

Report by Dr Jose Valdez, Postdoctoral Researcher of the Biodiversity Conservation research group at iDiv and Leipzig University, and senior author of a new publication in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

While scientific research is becoming increasingly more collaborative, the ability to freely conduct research remains restricted by established researchers who feel they have the sole right to study specific study sites, model organisms, research topics, and sometimes even entire scientific fields. Like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, they become possessively attached and guard these aspects of their research. In our recent publication in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution we refer to this as the 'Gollum effect' and explore ways in which this can be overcome to promote scientific openness and lead science into a new era where it is dispensed fairly instead of at the hands of a selected few.  

The Gollum Effect is a pervasive issue deeply embedded into academic research culture that severely hinders scientific progress and disproportionally affects marginalized groups and early career researchers. The guarding of research opportunities can be attributed to the increased competitiveness in academia for funding, publishing opportunities, permanent positions, or scientific prestige. While rarely discussed, accounts of researchers who have been prevented from conducting independent research by those that laid claim to specific topics and ideas are likely widespread.

The most typical behaviour is being disparaged or suppressed from conducting a research study by those who believe they have the sole right to do so. In some cases, when a researcher reaches out for a possible collaboration, they are dissuaded by the Gollum, who falsely claims they were already considering doing the same study or refuse to give their ‘permission’ unless they are provided with co-authorship, even if unwarranted. In the worst cases, they simply steal the research idea and publish it as their own. Other common behaviours include bullying, retaliation, or discrediting individuals and their work. Such research guarding can help prevent competition from others while also minimising the risk of research being published that counters their own. The result is a power imbalance, with those with an already established career on a particular species, site, or topic controlling the direction of future research and ensuring they maintain their power.

Those disproportionately impacted by the Gollum Effect are early career researchers, graduate students, and disenfranchised groups who already face these extreme power imbalances while trying to forge a career or obtain a degree. These individuals are particularly at risk since they don’t want to harm their careers or lose their projects, access to resources, publications, or letters of recommendation. For many, these issues eventually force them out of science ultimately, taking with them the unique perspectives and ideas that allow scientific fields to progress and expand. 

Combatting the Gollum Effect requires a culture that helps researchers remain passionate about science and able to feel free to conduct research without limitations. This demands scientific openness, where research topics, study sites, species, and scientific fields remain accessible. While collaborations should be favoured, scientists should not feel they have to ask permission from others to research a specific topic. More importantly, they should not fear retaliation if they want to study a subject heavily guarded by an established researcher.

Established and senior researchers play a key role by not remaining neutral when they notice inappropriate behaviours. Additionally, although early career researchers and students may not have much power alone, together they can be a powerful voice and effect change by demanding better policies, transparency, and accountability. Lastly, every researcher should be aware of their own behaviours. Just as the ring slowly enslaved the unassuming Sméagol, the hyper-competitiveness and steep hierarchical culture of academic research can drive any scientist to inadvertently become the wretched Gollum.

We are all part of this scientific community, and combatting the Gollum effect requires systemic change and collaborative action by all of us, regardless of position or power. Together we can cast the ring into the fire and begin a new era where research is not dictated by a selfish few but accessible to all.
Jose Valdez

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Gould, J., Valdez, J. W.* (2022). The Gollum Effect: The Issue of Research Opportunity Guarding in Academia. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2022.889236
*senior and corresponding author

 

Contact:

Dr Jose W. Valdez
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9739168
Email: jose.valdez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1290.html

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Wed, 15 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3438.html Drought-exposure history improves the recovery of grassland communities from subsequent drought Drought-exposure history improves the recovery of grassland communities from subsequent drought

Based on a media release by the University of Zurich

Zurich, Leipzig. The exposure to drought during previous generations in the field increases complementarity between offspring of different grassland species and thus makes them more resilient to subsequent drought. An international research team led by the University of Zurich and with the participation of the German Centre for integrative Biodiversity research and Leipzig University has revealed this transgenerational effect with about 1000 experimental plant communities in pots. The results, published in Nature Communications, suggest that if past extreme climatic events do not completely exclude species, they may enhance the sustainability of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a future with more frequent extreme events.

The research team exposed experimental grassland communities to eight recurrent yearly droughts vs. ambient conditions in the context of the Jena Experiment, a large grassland biodiversity experiment in Jena, Germany. The seed offspring of 12 species were then grown individually, in monocultures, or in two-species mixtures and subjected to a subsequent drought event in a glasshouse at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Offspring from plants with drought-exposure history recovered faster from the subsequent drought than those from plants without such a history; however, this was only evident when plants were grown in mixtures but not in monocultures. “These findings suggest that, in diverse plant communities, species over time can evolve better cooperation, thus increasing the stability of an ecosystem to disturbance from outside. This has important implications for biodiversity conservation under global climate-change scenarios”, says Prof Bernhard Schmid of the University of Zurich, senior author of the current publication in Nature Communications. “Conserving biodiversity can improve the adaptation of plant communities to extreme events. This adaptation is only possible if species co-experienced the past events and also face the future events together, not alone.”

The team further explored the reasons why drought-exposure history improved the recovery of mixtures from the subsequent drought. They found that offspring from plants with drought-exposure history showed a higher complementarity between species during the recovery phase than those from plants without such a history. “Species complementarity means that species limit themselves more than they limit others. It is a crucial mechanism for maintaining biodiversity and buffering the impacts of climate change on ecosystem functioning”, explains Dr Yuxin Chen, a former Postdoc at the University of Zurich, now an associate professor at Xiamen University in China and the first author of the current publication. “This transgenerational reinforcement of species complementarity may help mixture communities to sustain their biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a future with more frequent extreme climatic events.”

Co-author Prof Nico Eisenhauer from iDiv and Leipzig University and speaker of the Jena Experiment says, “These novel results highlight that plants learn to collaborate over time, particularly under climatic extremes. This indicates that old and diverse grasslands are of utmost importance for stable ecosystem functioning in a changing world.”


Original Publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Yuxin Chen, Anja Vogel, Cameron Wagg, Tianyang Xu, Maitane Iturrate-Garcia, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Alexandra Weigelt, Nico Eisenhauer, Bernhard Schmid (2022). Drought-exposure history increases complementarity between plant species in response to a subsequent drought. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-30954-9

 

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

 

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 Experimental Interaction Ecology Thu, 09 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
iDiv is mourning the loss of a former member https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3449.html Former research director of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biotechnology (IPB) in Halle passed away Former research director of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biotechnology (IPB) in Halle passed away

With great sadness, we received the news that an iDiv member of the first hour, Dierk Scheel, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on 18 May 2022. In his capacity as Department head “Stress and Developmental Biology” and research director of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biotechnology (IPB) in Halle, Dierk has been a full iDiv member from 2012 until his retirement in 2018. We're mourning the loss of a visionary leader in plant metabolomics, but mostly a smart and friendly collaborator on iDiv Flexpool projects and in the International research school “TreeDi”. We wish Dierk’s family, friends and long-time colleagues at IPB all the strength to cope with this tragic loss.

The funeral service for Dierk Scheel will be held on Friday, June 17, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. at the Gertrauden Cemetery in Halle (Landrain 25, 06118 Halle). Condolences to his family may be sent directly to his daughter (Hanna Hübler, Steinweg 13, 99090 Erfurt-Alach).

Furthermore, you can also enter your thoughts and memories of Dierk Scheel on the online memorial page https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/DierkScheel/

 

Contact:

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iDiv Members iDiv TOP NEWS Tue, 07 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Evolution: New Emmy Noether group investigates interactions between bacteria and insects https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3426.html Junior Research Group 'Symbiont Evolution' started at iDiv and MLU Junior Research Group 'Symbiont Evolution' started at iDiv and MLU

Joint press release by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and iDiv

Halle/Leipzig. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has accepted the biologist Dr Michael Gerth into the Emmy Noether Programme and will fund his work with up to 1.4 million euros in the coming years. With this funding, Gerth will move from the UK to the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and establish his own working group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). His research focuses on the evolution of special bacteria, which live in flies, bees and other insects. 

The bacteria of Gerth's research focus often provide substantial benefits to their host animals: these tiny 'roommates' can, for example, produce important nutrients such as vitamins, or toxins that help ward off parasites. The relationship between bacteria and host may even deepen to the point where the bacteria affect the animal’s reproduction. In some insects, the offspring can also develop from unfertilised ovules; in bees, this is how the male drones develop. “Wolbachia bacteria can manipulate their host in such a way that only female offspring are born, which are central to the transmission of the bacteria,” says Dr Michael Gerth.

Some bacteria also move between different animal species. “So far, little is known about what makes bacteria successful when changing hosts and what effects their new environment has on them, for example how their genetic material evolves as a result of the change,” says Gerth. This is where the new iDiv Junior Research Group “Symbiont Evolution” comes in: In laboratory experiments with various species of the Drosophila fruit fly, Gerth's team will investigate how the DNA of Spiroplasma bacteria changes when they are transferred from one species to another. In studies with wild bees, the genetic material of Wolbachia bacteria will be examined in more detail. 

“We want to find out which strains are found particularly often and which are particularly rare in wild bees. By comparing the genomic data from the laboratory and from nature, we will investigate whether there are genetic patterns which can be associated with successful host transfer," says Gerth. The influence of environmental factors, such as rising temperatures, on these processes will also be examined. 

The biologist has found optimum conditions for his research in Central Germany: “iDiv offers a unique research environment in Germany and very good infrastructure for my work. MLU has an internationally renowned zoology department whose topics complement my areas of research very well,” says the scientist. 

Michael Gerth was born in 1985 and studied biology at Leipzig University from 2005 to 2010. In 2015 he obtained his doctorate there with a thesis on Wolbachia bacteria in bees. Subsequently, he spent two years conducting research on a European Union Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship at the University of Liverpool in the UK and, until recently, worked as a lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. 

The DFG's Emmy Noether programme is aimed at outstanding early career researchers. By independently leading a junior research group over a period of up to six years, they are prepared to satisfy the prerequisites for appointment as a professor. The programme is named after the mathematician Emmy Noether who, at the beginning of the 20th century, was the first German woman to become a university lecturer in the field of mathematics.

 

Contact:

Dr Michael Gerth
Head of Junior Research Group "Symbiont Evolution"
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Email: michael.gerth@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 iDiv Symbiont Evolution Media Release Mon, 06 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Heat-lovers are the lucky ones https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3436.html 40 years of conservation data: Researchers show population trends of native insects  40 years of conservation data: Researchers show population trends of native insects 

Based on a media release from the Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Munich/Leipzig. Heat-loving insect species in Germany are benefiting from global warming. The trends of different insect groups vary considerably. While the populations of butterflies and grasshoppers decreased more frequently than they increased, dragonflies showed predominantly positive trends. This is the conclusion of a new study led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. In order to close significant data gaps, the research team evaluated an extensive collection of previously little-used data on over 200 insect species in Bavaria since 1980. The study was published in Global Change Biology.

Climate change has long since been happening in central Europe, and it is no secret that it affects the populations and distribution of animals and plants. Especially insect trends are a growing cause for concern, as multiple studies have shown their declines. How populations of our insect species are changing over past decades is a question explored by the BioChange Lab at TUM. “It is not only the climate that is changing, but also the type and intensity of land use. This includes agriculture, forestry, urban areas, and transport infrastructure” says Dr Christian Hof, head of the BioChange research group at TUM.

While changes in flora and fauna may be well-documented in certain areas or for specific species, data for insects and most importantly over prolonged time periods is very sparse. This makes it difficult to draw general conclusions about the changes in populations of insect species and the factors driving biodiversity change. Yet it is precisely findings on species population changes over time, together with factors such as land use and the climate, that informs conservation plans for protecting species, biotopes and the climate.

A rich seam of data

Thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteer and professional nature observers, we have data sets on the occurrence of various different species in Germany. One especially useful resource is the species mapping database (ASK) of the Bavarian State Office for the Environment. The ASK is the state-wide register of animal and plant species in Bavaria and currently has around 3.1 million records of species. It forms a central data resource for the everyday work of the nature conservation authorities and for compilation by the LfU of Red Lists of threatened species.

Using complex statistical methods, researchers at the TUM Chair of Terrestrial Ecology evaluated the valuable ASK data and analyzed the population trends of more than 200 species of insects in Bavaria – around 120 butterflies, 50 Orthoptera, and 60 dragonflies. In collaboration with many other experts, they showed in that across all these insect groups, there was an increase in the populations of warmth-loving species and a decline of species adapted to cooler temperatures.

Species like the heat-loving scarlet dragonfly are benefiting from climate change

Insects were divided into those that prefer warm temperatures and those that prefer cold temperatures on the basis of empirical data. “We determined the temperature preferences of each species using data on their distribution within Europe and the mean temperature in that area. In other words, species with a primarily northern distribution are cold-adapted species, and species with a primarily southern European distribution are warm-adapted species,” says Eva Katharina Engelhardt, a doctoral student at the TUM BioChange Lab.

Warm-adapted species include the baton blue (butterfly), the European tree cricket, and the scarlet dragonfly. “The scarlet dragonfly is one of the best-known beneficiaries of global warming. The dragonfly, most commonly occurring in the Mediterranean region, first appeared in Bavaria in the early 1990s and is now widespread,” Hof tells us.

Among the cold-adapted species are Thor’s fritillary, the green mountain grasshopper, and the white-faced darter.
Populations of butterflies, orthoptera and dragonflies affected by climate change

“Our comparisons of the various groups of insects revealed significant differences,” Engelhardt says. “Whilst there was more decline than increase in butterfly and Orthoptera species, the trends for dragonflies were largely positive.” One possible reason for this is improvements in water quality over recent decades, a change that particularly benefits dragonflies, which depend on aquatic habitats. Habitat specialists, in other words species adapted to very specific ecosystems, experienced a decline. Butterflies such as the large heath or the cranberry blue are example specialists since they are dependent on very specific habitats.

“Our study highlights the complex effect of climate change on our insect fauna. Our work is also an example of how modern approaches to data analysis can be used to obtain fascinating results from existing data sets. Volunteer and agency conservation work often does generate the data, but they are rarely evaluated systematically. This should happen much more often through collaborations like ours,” says Dr Diana Bowler of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Leicester. During the study, she was working at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena..

Johannes Voith, an entomologist within the Bayerisches Artenschutzzentrum (Bavarian species conservation center) at LfU, adds that “as part of collaboration with TUM in particular, we are benefiting from the knowledge gained. Next, we plan to create dynamic distribution maps for individual species.”

The study was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) by funding the sMon working group (Trend analysis of biodiversity data in Germany) through the iDiv (DFG FZT 118, 202548816).

Eva Katharina Engelhardt, Matthias F. Biber, Matthias Dolek, Thomas Fartmann, Axel Hochkirch, Jan Leidinger, Franz Löffler, Stefan Pinkert, Dominik Poniatowski, Johannes Voith, Michael Winterholler, Dirk Zeuss, Diana E. Bowler, Christian Hof (2022): Consistent signals of a warming climate in occupancy changes of three insect taxa over 40 years in central Europe. Global Change Biology, URL: DOI: 10.1111/gcb.16200

 

Contact:

Dr Christian Hof
Junior Research Group Leader
Technical University of Munich
Chair of Terrestrial Ecology
TUM School of Life Sciences, Weihenstephan
Phone: +49 (0) 8161 71-2489
Email: christian.hof@tum.de

 

Dr Diana Bowler
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Leicester
Formerly:
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ

 

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 Ecosystem Services Fri, 03 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
The largest genomic catalogue of wild chimpanzees https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3428.html New genomic tools shed light on the evolutionary history of chimpanzees and contribute to their... New genomic tools shed light on the evolutionary history of chimpanzees and contribute to their conservation

Based on a media release by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE)

Barcelona/Leipzig. An international research team led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA) and Leipzig University has compiled the largest genomic catalogue of wild chimpanzee populations in Africa. For the first time, genomic information, obtained from hundreds of faecal samples of chimpanzees from across their range, has been sequenced, clarifying their evolutionary history and contributing to the conservation of these great apes. The new genomic atlas, published in the journal Cell Genomics, has the potential to map routes and sources of illegal trafficking that could be used to protect this endangered species.

Chimpanzees inhabit the tropical African savannah woodlands and forests. In contrast to the hominid sites preserved to this day – mainly in caves and temperate climates – the areas that chimpanzees have inhabited have resulted in few specimens preserved or detected in the archaeological record. Given the almost complete absence of chimpanzee fossils, the genetic information from current populations is crucial for describing their evolutionary history and their genetic diversity and contributing to their conservation.

An international research team led by IBE in Barcelona, iDiv and MPI EVA in Leipzig, has built the most extensive catalogue of genomic diversity in wild chimpanzee populations to date. Genetic information has been retrieved using new technologies, from hundreds of non-invasively collected chimpanzee faecal samples. For the first time, methods applied to analyse ancient DNA in human populations have been used to retrieve genetic information from great apes’ faecal samples. Further, the genomic database developed by the team can be used in practice for the conservation of chimpanzees, such as identifying illegal trafficking routes of wildlife products and orphans.
 
The first genomic atlas for chimpanzees with non-invasive samples

The research team retrieved partial genome information from more than 800 chimpanzee faecal samples to create the largest and most detailed genomic diversity atlas of this African great ape. “Using methods designed to study ancient DNA, as in the case of Neanderthals, we have been able to retrieve genomic information from faecal samples, which are very difficult to work with. We have applied that approach to an unprecedented number of chimpanzee samples from the field,” points out Professor Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, principal investigator from IBE and co-author of the study.

“We have seen that faecal samples, while posing technical difficulties, provide very valuable genomic information for the study of wild chimpanzee populations, and also allow us the possibility to geo-reference them and track contacts between populations without affecting their well-being,” adds Dr Clàudia Fontserè, a researcher at the IBE Comparative Genomics group and first author of the study.

Reconstructing the evolutionary history of chimpanzees to promote their conservation
 
With this extensive data set, the authors shed light on the demographic past of chimpanzees and provide further evidence of the genetic differentiation and exchanges between the four recognised subspecies. The research team identified that geographical features, such as rivers, constitute permeable barriers to gene flow between chimpanzee subspecies but also between communities. In addition, researchers proposed patterns of migration, connectivity, and isolation between groups of chimpanzees that have shaped the variation in the genomic landscape of these populations over the past 100,000 years.
 
“We've noticed that sometimes, even though two communities are geographically very close, they may live on two different sides of a river and have only had very limited and sporadic contact. Our approach is very helpful in identifying barriers and natural corridors between populations and may have implications for their conservation,” says Clàudia Fontserè. “Chimpanzees, like humans, have a complex evolutionary history. Their dynamics and areas of past and current population contact must be clearly identified in order to contribute to the protection of this endangered species,” points out co-author Dr Mimi Arandjelovic, a researcher at iDiv, MPI EVA and Leipzig University. Arandjelovic is co-director of the Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf), a consortium of researchers and conservationists from Africa, Europe and North America who spent eight years collecting behavioural, ecological and organic data from across the entire chimpanzee range.  

Genomics to fight illegal chimpanzee trafficking 

The new genomic tool has allowed the team to reliably identify from where individuals originate; a task not feasible until now. The ability to accurately determine the origin of chimpanzees has direct applications for their conservation, such as detecting the places where their poaching might be concentrated and identifying the routes and origins of illegal chimpanzee trafficking. “The tool developed can infer the origin of the confiscated chimpanzees, which are usually found just a few hundred kilometres from their real origin, and thus provide reliable information on the regions most in need of protection,” adds Marquès-Bonet. The developed methodology is already being applied in conservation projects for other primate and mammal species.

This research was supported among other things by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118), the Max Planck Society, The Heinz L. Krekeler Foundation, The Max Planck Society Innovation Fund and the European Research Council for the support in form of a Consolidator Grant 2019.


Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv-Affiliation in bold)
 
Fontsere, C., …, Junker, J., …, Kühl, H. S., …, Arandjelovic, M.*, Marques-Bonet, T.* (2022): Population dynamics and genetic connectivity in recent chimpanzee history. Cell Genomics. DOI: 10.1016/j.xgen.2022.100133 (*these authors contributed equally) 

 

Contact:

Mimi Arandjelovic
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9739160
Email: milica.arandjelovic@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1549.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 Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology Thu, 02 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Photos of Amazon animals supply extensive collection of biodiversity data https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3430.html Large-scale use of camera trap data can help improve wildlife conservation Large-scale use of camera trap data can help improve wildlife conservation

Manaus/São Paulo/Jena/Leipzig. An international team of researchers has published the largest collection of data from camera traps on Amazonian rainforest animals. The collection currently encompasses over 120,000 registers, plus information on time and location. It will improve research on the abundance, diversity and habitat conditions of jaguars, toucans, harpy eagles and many other endangered rainforest species and contribute to their protection. 147 scientists from 122 research institutions and nature conservation organisations collaborated under the leadership of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena to build this new database, which is based on camera trap photos. It has now been published in the journal Ecology.

In the pictures, it sometimes looks as if the animals have deliberately posed for a photo shoot. It seems that animals actually like to fall into these kinds of traps: Wildlife cameras equipped with sensors that trigger when animals approach. Jaguars, toucans, harpy eagles, ocelots, tapirs, peccaries and many more have already been photographed with these camera traps in the Amazon Basin.

An international research team has now, for the first time, compiled and standardised data from numerous camera trap studies from different regions of the Amazon. This has resulted in the most comprehensive database to date on mammal, bird and reptile species in this region. A total of 120,849 records on 289 species from 2001 to 2020 were collected and standardised. The data provides information from 143 study sites across the Amazon Basin – an area of nearly 8.5 million square kilometres covering states in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

“Our database significantly improves the information situation on vertebrates in the Amazon region,” says Ana Carolina Antunes, doctoral researcher at the University of Jena and member of the iDiv research group Theory in Biodiversity Science. Until now, knowledge about the number, diversity, distribution patterns and behaviour of species in this territory has been patchy and therefore scarce. The information was scattered among many individual publications, grey literature and unpublished raw data. This database now allows larger scale analyses of temporal and spatial changes in population densities and the residence patterns of the animals. “It's not just that the cameras allow you to take beautiful photos of the animals. They also provide further important data from which it is possible to deduce how climate change and human-induced landscape changes affect animals and their habitats on a large scale. This knowledge can help to develop protective measures for animal species that are particularly threatened by these changes,” says Antunes.

For example, the database can help keep the jaguar protected in the Amazon Forest by providing more precise habitat analyses; statements about where habitats best meet the jaguars' requirements and where they do not. The results of the analyses can be used for mapping and designating protected areas. They also confirm the importance of already designated protected areas for the jaguar and its prey. The previously fragmented data, which covered only smaller areas, allowed very sparse statements to be made about the large-scale habitats that jaguars require. The database also improves possibilities for comparing population densities between protected and non-protected areas. And what data analysis makes possible for the protection of the jaguar naturally also applies to ocelots, tapirs, peccaries and many more.

In order to be able to build this database, Antunes, together with five other scientists from Brazilian research and conservation organisations, established a collaborative network. A total of 147 researchers from nearly 122 institutions participated. The importance of this huge effort is also demonstrated by the broad financial support for this work and the participation of a total of 32 institutions. “In addition to this strong institutional support, the development of the database was mainly based on organisations’ and local communities’ knowledge and support on the ground, as Antunes points out. “They are key to preserving the Amazon Forest and associated climate, thus guaranteeing the provision of essential ecosystem services to society.”

The Amazon camtrap is part of Amazon Series of data papers, an initiative started in 2017 with the Atlantic Series, Brazil Series and Neotropical Series, led by Milton Ribeiro and Mauro Galetti, from the São Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil. Ribeiro, who is also last author of this study adds: “Altogether, these data allow us to advance our potential of addressing important questions related to conservation and public policy development”.
Urs Moesenfechtel


Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Antunes, A. C., ..., Ribeiro, M. C. (2022): AMAZONIA CAMTRAP: A dataset of mammal, bird, and reptile species recorded with camera traps in the Amazon forest. Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3738

Translated media releases and image descriptions:

 

Contact:

Ana Carolina Antunes (speaks English and Spanish)
Doctoral researcher
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733232
Email: ana_carolina.antunes@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/profile/1089.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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Theory in Biodiversity Science TOP NEWS Media Release Wed, 01 Jun 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Healthy development thanks to older siblings https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3432.html If expectant mothers are exposed to stress their child can develop behavioural problems - but less... If expectant mothers are exposed to stress their child can develop behavioural problems - but less often with siblings

Based on a media release by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)

Leipzig. Even mild forms of stress in pregnant women can have negative effects on their children's behavior even years after birth. Older siblings, however, can mitigate this effect. This is what researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig University (UL), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have found. The study was published in the journal BMC Public Health.

During the first years of their lives, children develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills that will provide the foundations for their lifelong health and achievements. However, exposure to environmental stressors during critical periods of life can have negative long-term consequences for their development. One of the most critical stressors for children is maternal stress, which is known to have a detrimental effect on children’s health and well-being, already in utero.

In a new study, a Leipzig-based team of researchers used longitudinal data from the LINA (Lifestyle and environmental factors and their Influence on the Newborn Allergy risk) cohort to test 373 German mother–child pairs, from pregnancy until 10 years of age. 

Mothers were asked to fill in three validated questionnaires, to assess their stress levels and their child’s behavioural problems. First, the researchers assessed which social and environmental factors were linked to an increase in maternal stress levels during pregnancy, and the long-term consequences of maternal stress on the occurrence of child behavioural problems. Second, the researchers assessed whether the presence of siblings had a positive effect on the occurrence of child behavioural problems, by directly reducing stress levels and increasing children’s psychological well-being, or by indirectly buffering the negative consequences of maternal stress. 

Prenatal stress can cause behavioural problems in the child

The results of the study demonstrated that socio-environmental stressors, like the lack of sufficient social areas in the neighborhood, were clearly linked to an increase in maternal stress levels during pregnancy. Moreover, mothers who had experienced high stress levels, like worries, loss of joy or tension, during pregnancy were also more likely to report the occurrence of behavioural problems when their children were 7, 8 or 10 years old. “These results confirm previous findings about the negative impact that even mild forms of prenatal stress might have on child behaviour, even after several years, and highlight the importance of early intervention policies that increase maternal wellbeing and reduce the risks of maternal stress already during pregnancy,” explains Federica Amici (UL, MPI-EVA), one of the researchers involved in the project.

On a more positive note, the study also found a lower occurrence of behavioural problems in children with older siblings. “Children who have older brothers or sisters in their households are less likely to develop problems, which suggests that siblings are crucial to promote a healthy child development,” explains Gunda Herberth (UFZ), coordinator of the LINA study. 

Higher social competence thanks to older siblings?

This study further suggests that the presence of older siblings directly reduced the likelihood of developing behavioral problems, but did not modulate the negative effects of maternal stress on child behaviour. How could older siblings reduce the occurrence of behavioural problems in children? By interacting with their older siblings, children may develop better emotional, perspective taking and problem solving skills, which are linked to higher social competence and emotion understanding. Moreover, the presence of older siblings may provide learning opportunities for parents, who might thus develop different expectations and better parental skills. 

“We were especially impressed by the important role that siblings appear to play for a healthy child development,” concludes Anja Widdig (UL, MPI-EVA, iDiv). “We hope that our findings will draw attention to the importance of public health policies that directly target children and their siblings, and promote a healthy environment for their well-being and the development of high-quality sibling relationships”.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Amici, F., …, Herberth, G. & Widdig, A. (2022): Maternal stress, child behavior and the promotive role of older siblings. BMC Public Health 22, 863. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-13261-2

 

Contact:

Prof Anja Widdig
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

 

Dr Federica Amici
Leipzig University
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Phone: +49 341 9736-754
Email: amici@eva.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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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Tue, 31 May 2022 00:00:00 +0200
Native plant gardening for species conservation https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3424.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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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Conservation 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/3422.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/3420.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/3418.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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TOP NEWS iDiv 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/3417.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/3415.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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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Conservation 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/3464.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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Media Release UFZ News TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services Tue, 26 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0200
How healthy are our streams?<br /> https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3447.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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Media Release TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services 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/3411.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 iDiv iDiv Members Media Release 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/3409.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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iDiv Members Biodiversity Conservation 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/3407.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
Citizens, conservation and climate change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3463.html Botanical gardens invite citizens to explore the effects of climate change on plants Botanical gardens invite citizens to explore the effects of climate change on plants

Biologists and botanists from the universities of Berlin, Halle, Jena and Leipzig, as well as the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) invite citizens to participate in scientific research. In the "Plant ClimateCulture!" project, they can help to record the effects of climate change in cities by observing plants in their own and in the botanical gardens of the participating cities. The project results also contribute to making cities more climate-adapted and thus more sustainable and attractive to live in. Insights into the project and a lot of background information will be provided during a tour of the Botanical Garden of the University of Leipzig (Linnéstraße 1) on 20 March.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Fri, 11 Mar 2022 00:00:00 +0100
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/3403.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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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Synthesis 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/3402.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/3400.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/3398.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/3396.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/3462.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/3394.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/3392.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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iDiv Members Media Release 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/3385.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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TOP NEWS iDiv Members 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/3386.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/3460.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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TOP NEWS iDiv Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 13 Dec 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Uniqueness is disappearing https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3388.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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sDiv TOP NEWS 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/3383.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/3391.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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sDiv TOP NEWS 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/3379.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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sDiv Media Release Biodiversity Economics TOP NEWS 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/3377.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/3375.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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Biodiversity Conservation Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv iDiv Members Tue, 23 Nov 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2021 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3374.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/3371.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 Theory in Biodiversity Science TOP NEWS Research Wed, 03 Nov 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Decline of plant pollinators threatens biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3369.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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Spatial Interaction Ecology Media Release 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/3367.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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Media Release TOP NEWS 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/3364.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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sDiv TOP NEWS 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/3365.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/3354.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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Media Release iDiv Members 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/3353.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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iDiv Research Media Release TOP NEWS Fri, 17 Sep 2021 00:00:00 +0200
New iDiv research centre building inaugurated https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/3359.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/3361.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/3357.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/3355.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 Evolution and Adaptation Evolutionary and Anthropocene Ecology Media Release 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/4352.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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Media Release iDiv Members 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/4350.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/4347.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
The art of biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4348.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
Alarming state of our streams and rivers https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/4951.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 iDiv Members TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services 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/4345.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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TOP NEWS iDiv Members sDiv Media Release MLU News Tue, 22 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0200