Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Gutianshan [(c) Christian Ristok]

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My main research interests encompass three research areas which are closely interlinked in the different projects: (1) Invasion ecology, (2) Biodiversity research, and (3) Trait-based ecology.

I address these fields with observational and experimental (field and greenhouse experiments) approaches at the local, regional and global scale.

Invasion ecology – with a focus on plant invasions along elevation gradients

Since my PhD thesis I have a specific interest in plant invasions into mountains and I am chair of the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN). Within MIREN, we use standardized protocols for vegetation surveys and field experiments worldwide to gain more general insights into patterns and drivers of plant invasions. Thereby, we also aim to understand and predict the effects of global warming.

Generally, I’m interested in the role of local (pre-)adaptation and phenotypic plasticity for the success of plant invasions, and how introduced populations might evolve in a new range.

Main projects:

  • Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN)   
  • “Effects of climatic pre-adaptation and disturbance on seedling establishment of Senecio inaequidens” (Master thesis of S. Palm; 2013-2015; with S. Lachmuth, MLU)
  • “Factors controlling plant invasion: community niche, vegetation structure and local adaptation” (PhD project of Anna Pahl; 2011-2014; with J. Kollmann, TU Munich)

Biodiversity research

Within this large field I have two main focuses: (a) Patterns and drivers of mountain biodiversity, and (b) Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) research.

(a) I’m interested not only in patterns of non-native plant diversity along elevation gradients (see above), but also elevational patterns of native species and how these patterns are affected by non-native species and human influence. Specifically, I seek for understanding the underlying mechanisms of species diversity. As for plant invasions, I’m also interested in the effects of global climate change on native plant diversity, specifically in the alpine zone.

Main projects:

(b) How does biodiversity affect ecosystem functioning and how does this relationship depend on land use and climate? In most of my projects, I analyze the variability of plant functional traits (see also below), which are a connecting link between diversity and ecosystem functioning.

Main projects:

Trait-based ecology

Plant functional traits are the link between many of the projects listed above. (a) I’m interested in the role of trait variability for invasion success, (b) I investigate how plant functional traits and functional diversity change along elevation gradients, (c) I aim to use traits to understand mechanisms behind elevational species richness patterns, (d) I’m interested in the question how the local neighborhood of a plant individual affects its traits, and (e) I seek to understand how traits affect ecosystem functioning and services. Particularly for the last two points, I analyze not only above-ground but also root traits.

Main projects:

BadNut (Nutrien Network)

BadNut (Nutrien Network)

BadNut (Nutrien Network)