Our working group Plant Biodiversity of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution studies the impact of changes in land-use and climate on the biodiversity on various temporal and spatial scales.
Our focus is to study phenological changes due to changes in abiotic conditions. Some plant species can take advantage of warmer conditions and flower earlier as well as senesce later which leads to an increase of their growing season length. However, not all species are able to do so. The aim of our research is to study whether we can explain these species-specific changes with plant functional traits and which impact these changes have on ecosystem functioning. We do that in close collaboration with colleagues from the PhenObs Network, the iDiv (e.g., the Ecotron facility) or in the framework of the AquaDiva project.
In addition to that, we study the variability of plant functional traits within species (intraspecific variability), which results from e.g. changes in land-use or abiotic conditions. Also seasonal variation is important and studied. Looking at the intraspecific variability allows us to assess the fitness and competitive strength of a plant species with changing conditions. We focus on the analysis of morphological and physiological traits such as specific leaf area, stomatal parameters, photosynthesis rates and frost resistance of herbaceous species along elevational gradients or in different meadow types.
Furthermore, we use and apply modern techniques to monitor changes in biodiversity like the automatic detection and evaluation of plant cover percentages from pictures in cooperation with colleagues from the Michael Stifel Center and in the virtual "Werkstatt" for digitization in the sciences.