Research

last edited on 24th July 2017

  • Overview
  • Grassland biodiversity
  • Agricultural landscapes
  • BEFMate project
  • Urban ecosystems
  • Spatial Scaling
  • Conservation Ecology
  • Grassland Management
  • Climate Change
  • Biodiversity Exploratories
  • Forest biodiversity
  • Peat Bog Ecosystems
  • Senecio inaequidens
  • Tropical Ecosystems
  • Side-Projects

Overview of research projects

A central theme in my research is the diversity of life on earth ("biodiversity"). In particular, I am interested in the effects of changes in biodiversity on ecosystem processes such as plant-insect interactions and herbivory, and how biodiversity loss can be counteracted.

In addition, I am studying anthropogenic environmental changes (climate and habitat changes) in a variety of ecosystems such as grassland, arable land/cropland, heathland, beech forests, and peat bog ecosystems.

In particular, theory-based smaller-scale experiments and applications in nature conservation on a landscape scale are combined.


Most recent updates

In the "Diversify" project, funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programme, we study how intercropping can contribute to European farming. Our aim is to find out if and how diversified cropping systems can increase biodiversity on European farmland.

Trials were established across Europe ranging from mediterranean to boreal systems. In Münster, the following new people are welcomed in the project:

Silvia Pappagallo (PhD student)
Jana Brandmeier (Master´s student)
Ann Christin Schulze Wilmert (Bachelor´s student)
Mareike Boemke (Research student in MSc programme)

Trial establishment in the "Diversify" project (May 2017)


 

Crop rotation experiment in Harste (Germany), where we study responses of biodiversity to long-term temporal cropping system diversification.


 

New biodiversity experiment in GöttingenHamster camera trapping

left: Small-scale biodiversity experiment in Göttingen (MSc thesis Niklas Krummel)
right: Wheat harvest to study effects of field margin structures on crop yield (BSc thesis Nina Bacchi)


Large-scale experimental approaches

Large-scale experiments of C. Scherber

From top left to bottom right: "Climaite" experiment (Denmark; copyright: T. N. Mikkelsen); GrassMan experiment; Greenhouse experiments in Silwood Park; The Jena Experiment (copyright: C. Scherber, A. Weigelt, W. Voigt & The Jena Experiment); Rabbit exclosure in Silwood park; Caterpillar exclosure in Silwood park. All other images by C.Scherber.



Study habitats

Study habitats: Grassland, peat bogs, forest

From top left to bottom right: Forest ecosystems (Hainich National Park); Calcareous grassland (Meissner-Kaufunger Wald); Peat bog ecosystems (bottom row, Southern Bavaria). All images by C. Scherber.


Cage experiments with insects

Overview of cage experiments with insects

From top left to bottom right: Lysimeter plant-herbivore study in a grassland management & biodiversity removal experiment; Grasshopper cage in a climate change experiment; Pollinator cages in the Hainich National Park; Grasshopper cages in the Jena Experiment; Interior of a grasshopper cage inthe Jena Experiment. All images by C. Scherber except top right by E. Vockenhuber.


Study organisms

Study organisms: Chorthippus parallelus, Pterostichus melanarius, Tyria jacobaeae, Lochmaea suturalis

From top left to bottom right: Meadow grasshopper, Chorthippus parallelus; Common black ground beetle, Pterostichus melanarius; Cinnabar moth, Tyria jacobaeae; Heather beetle, Lochmaea suturalis. All images by C. Scherber.



Research wouldn´t be possible without a fabulous group of scientists:

Animal ecology group 2016

from left to right: Yeisson Gutierréz, Julia Tiede, David Ott, Kristy Udy,
Christoph Scherber, Michael M. Meyer, Hannah Reininghazs.

group picture

Agroecology, Scherber group
from left to right: Tatiane Beduschi, Georg Everwand, Christine Venjakob, Julia Tiede, Christoph Scherber, Verena Rösch, Urs Kormann and Claudia Normann. Not on this picture yet: Kristy Udy, Hannah Reininghaus.

Research on grassland biodiversity

MSc student (finished): Niklas Krummel; PhD student: Julia Tiede

We are currently setting up a new small-scale grassland biodiversity experiment in Göttingen. This research complements approaches used within the framework of the Jena Experiment, a large long-term biodiversity experiment (see below).

Biodiversity plots Göttingen   Carabid enclosures in the Jena Experiment

Established field experiments in Göttingen (left) and Jena (right), August/September 2014.

 

The Jena Experiment

Within a large and long-term biodiversity experiment, we study:

(1) How plant diversity affects the diet of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores
(2) Effects of plant diversity on flower traits and pollination along an experimental plant diversity gradient

At current, this involves the use of next-generation DNA sequencing approaches (pyrosequencing) to study how the diets of omnivorous Carabid beetles changes with plant diversity, plant species identity and plant traits. For this purpose, we collaborate with the research groups of Michael Traugott (Innsbruck) and Rolf Daniel (Göttingen).

In addition, we plan to study plant-seed predator and continue to study plant-pollinator interaction networks, with a focus on spatiotemporal niche differentiation.

PhD students: Julia Tiede (2013-2016) and Christine Venjakob (2010-2013)
MSc students: Juliane Heimann (maiden name: Juliane Specht, 2006)

Aerial view of The Jena Experiment  Detailed Aerial View of the Jena Experiment

Past research (2003-2010) has focused on multitrophic responses as a function of plant species richness.


Biodiversity positively affects ecosystem services

A particularly interesting finding is that plant species richness positively affects ecosystem services important for human well-being. These services include:

  • weed suppression and invasion resistance
  • decomposition
  • parasitism and biological control
  • flower visitation and pollination
  • resistance against plant pathogenic fungi

Biodiversity and ecosystem services from a biodiversity experiment
(modified from Scherber et al., Nature)


Plants form the basis of terrestrial food webs

Our research has shown that changes in plant biodiversity affects above- and belowground trophic interactions, with effects dampening the higher you climb the "trophic ladder".

Bottom-up trophic cascade in a food web


Above-belowground interactions are modified by changes in plant biodiversity

Plant biodiversity and above-belowground structural equation model
(modified from Scherber et al., Nature)


 

The Jena Experiment is a multidisciplinary, long-term research facility to study the effects of changes in plant species richness on ecosystem processes. For example, we are interested in the effects of plant species richness on processes at higher trophic levels. One central research question during the last years has been: Are plant monocultures more susceptible to herbivore attack than plant mixtures? 

Caging Experiment with GrasshoppersGrasshopper Feeding TrialGrasshopper Herbivory


Selected publications:

Bottom-up effects of plant diversity on multitrophic interactions in a biodiversity experiment  Evaluated by Faculty of 1000

published online 27th October 2010; see also Supplementary material S1 and S2

by Scherber C, Nico Eisenhauer, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Bernhard Schmid, Winfried Voigt, Markus Fischer, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Christiane Roscher, Alexandra Weigelt, Eric Allan, Holger Beßler, Michael Bonkowski, Nina Buchmann, François Buscot, Lars W. Clement, Anne Ebeling,  Christof Engels, Stefan Halle, Ilona Kertscher, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Robert Koller, Stephan König, Esther Kowalski, Volker Kummer, Annely Kuu, Markus Lange, Dirk Lauterbach, Cornelius Middelhoff, Varvara D. Migunova, Alexandru Milcu, Ramona Müller, Stephan Partsch, Jana S. Petermann, Carsten Renker,  Tanja Rottstock, Alexander Sabais,  Stefan Scheu,  Jens Schumacher, Vicky M. Temperton & Teja Tscharntke (2010)

Nature 468, 553–556 (25 November 2010) (published online 27th October 2010), DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09492


 

Functional identity versus species richness: herbivory resistance in plant communities

by Scherber C, Heimann J, Köhler G, Mitschunas N, Weisser WW (2010)

Oecologia
(online first), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1625-1Open Access © Springer (Open Access by institutional agreement)


 

Biodiversity and belowground interactions mediate community invasion resistance against a tall herb invader

by Scherber C, Mwangi PN, Schmitz M, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Beßler H, Eisenhauer N, Migunova VD, Weisser WW, Schulze ED, Schmid B (2010)

Journal of Plant Ecology
3 (2): 99-108, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtq003 Open Access © Oxford Journals


 

Diversity and beyond: Plant functional identity determines herbivore performance

by Specht J, Scherber C, Koehler G, Weisser WW (2008)

Journal of Animal Ecology 77, 1047–1055, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01395.x


 

The effects of plant diversity and insect herbivory on performance of individual plant species in experimental grassland

by Scherber C, Milcu A, Partsch S, Scheu S, Weisser, WW (2006)

Journal of Ecology 94, pp. 922-931, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01144.x


 

Effects of plant diversity on invertebrate herbivory in experimental grassland

by Scherber C, Mwangi PN, Temperton VM, Roscher C, Schumacher J, Schmid B, Weisser WW (2006)

Oecologia
147, pp. 489-500, Springer Berlin, Heidelberg, New York. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-005-0281-3


 
For additional information, see the Jena Experiment homepage.

EU Project "Diversify": Cropping system diversification

PhD student: Silvia Pappagallo

New EU H2020 project "Diversify" on crop system diversification through intercropping

In the "Diversify" project, funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programme, we study how intercropping can contribute to European farming. Our aim is to find out if and how diversified cropping systems can increase biodiversity on European farmland.

Trials were established across Europe ranging from mediterranean to boreal systems. In Münster, the following new people are welcomed in the project:

Silvia Pappagallo (PhD student)
Jana Brandmeier (Master´s student)
Ann Christin Schulze Wilmert (Bachelor´s student)
Mareike Boemke (Research student in MSc programme)

Trials in July 2017:

Trial establishment (May 2017):

 


Temporal cropping system diversification

PhD student: Michael Meyer

In a novel crop rotation experiment in Harste (Germany), we study responses of biodiversity to long-term temporal cropping system diversification. The experiment is in close collaboration with the Institute of Sugar Beet Research, Göttingen


 

Effects of hedgerows on crop yield

BSc student (finished): Nina Bacchi

Within the framework of a BSc thesis, we measured effects of different types of field margins on yield of crops (oilseed rape, wheat). We test the hypothesis that field margin type influences yield, e.g. via enhanced biological control or altered microclimate.

In contrast to previous studies, we harvest whole plants and collect seeds using threshing machines and seed cleaning machinery. This will give insights into yield components that are relevant from a farmer´s perspective.

Brassicogethes aeneusOilseed rape (canola) field and wheat fieldMeasuring crop yieldWheat harvest

 

Multitrophic interactions in agricultural landscapes

PhD students (finished): David Gladbach, Urs Kormann, Tatiane Beduschi
MSc students (finished): Marie Zahnert, Sarah Lenze, Marieke Neßmann

Since 2006, we are studying multitrophic interactions in agricultural landscapes using a variety of approaches and experimental designs. Projects involved are the EU-funded project "Agripopes", the Helmholtz funded project "BESS" and the DFG-RTG 1644 "Scaling problems in statistics".

lanscapeYellow pan trap in a wheat field



A grid-based sampling approach for landscape-wide biodiversity

We have developed new approaches to study lanscape-wide changes in biodiversity of different organism groups. Using replicated landscapes, we show that biodiversity dynamics in space and time can best be understood when all available habitats are sampled (rather than focusing just on managed or seminatural areas).

Image classification mapSampling grid for one 1x1-km landscape

Image recognition software
(ENVI EX) was used for landscape-wide habitat classification based on false-colour infrared images from the RapidEye satellite. In each of 10 landscapes (size 1x1 km), we then established regular sampling grids with 25 sampling locations. At each sampling location, we measured parameters such as vegetation composition, herbivorous beetle abundance and pollinator abundance.



Measuring landscape context using grid sampling rather than concentric circles

Traditionally, landscape context has been measured using a "concentric circles" approach. Such an approach is inadequate in many cases. A grid-based sampling, shown on the right, allows sampling all habitats occurring in a landscape (modified from Scherber et al. 2012)

 


 

Research on butterflies, plants and leafhopper communities in calcareous grasslands

In collaboration with the Naturpark Meißner-Kaufunger Wald, we study plants, butterflies and leafhopper communities and how they are affected by land-use intensity. Using transect approaches, we study gradients ranging from the centre of each calcareous grassland out into other surrounding habitat types.

Calcareous grassland (Kalkmagerrasen) near Rosbach (Hessen)Maculinea arion (Large Blue) on Onobrychis viciifolia


 

Most recent publications:

NewstarLandscape composition, connectivity and fragment size drive effects of grassland fragmentation on insect communities

by Rösch V, Tscharntke T, Scherber C, Batáry P (2013) Landscape composition, connectivity and fragment size drive effects of grassland fragmentation on insect communities.

Journal of Applied Ecology50:387–394.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12056


 

Landscape moderation of biodiversity patterns and processes - eight hypotheses

by Tscharntke T, Tylianakis J, Rand T, Didham R, Fahrig L, Batary P, Bengtsson J, Clough Y, Crist T, Dormann C, Ewers R, Holt R, Holzschuh A, Klein A, Kremen C, Landis D, Laurance W, Lindenmayer D, Scherber C, Sodhi N, Steffan-Dewenter I, Thies C, van der Putten W, Westphal C (2012)

Biological Reviews (published online 24th January 2012)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org//10.1111/j.1469-185X.2011.00216.x

Faculty of 1000



Scale effects in biodiversity and biological control: methods and statistical analysis

by Scherber C, Lavandero B, Meyer KM, Perovic D, Visser U, Wiegand K, Tscharntke T (2012).

pp. 123-138 in: Biodiversity and Insect Pests: Key Issues for Sustainable Management, First Edition. Edited by Geoff M. Gurr, Steve D. Wratten, William E. Snyder, Donna M.Y. Read. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Published 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (published online 15 May 2012).
DOI: http://dx.doi.org//10.1002/9781118231838.ch8


 

Landscape-moderated bird nest predation in hedges and forest edges

by Ludwig M, Schlinkert H, Holzschuh A, Fischer C, Scherber C, Trnka A, Tscharntke T, Batáry P (2012).

Acta Oecologica 45: 50–56.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2012.08.008


 

Agricultural intensification and cereal aphid–parasitoid– hyperparasitoid food webs: network complexity, temporal variability and parasitism rates

by Gagic V, Hänke S, Thies C, Scherber C, Tomanovic Z, Tscharntke T (2012)

Oecologia (published online May 2012).
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-012-2366-0


 

The relationship between agricultural intensification and biological control: experimental tests across Europe

by Thies C, Haenke S, Scherber C, Bengtsson J, Bommarco R, Clement LW, Ceryngier P, Dennis C, Emmerson M, Gagic V, Hawro V, Liira J, Weisser WW, Winqvist C, Tscharntke T (2011).

Ecological Applications 21: 2187-2196
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/:10.1890/10-0929.1


 

Crop-noncrop spillover: arable fields affect trophic interactions on wild plants in surrounding habitats

by Gladbach DJ, Holzschuh A, Scherber C, Thies C, Dormann CF, Tscharntke T (2011)

Oecologia 166:433-41 (published online 13th December 2010).Open Access
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1870-3

Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning in marine-terrestrial environments

PhD student: Hagen Andert

Within the framework of a collaborative project in the North Sea, we are studying effects of disturbance frequency on insect communities using artificial islands built in the German Wadden Sea.

Wadden seaSalt marsh

Further information can be found on the BEFmate website.

 

 

Scaling of biodiversity in urban gardens and agricultural landscapes

PhD students: Kristy Udy (2013-2017), Hannah Reininghaus (2013-2017)

 

Green spacePitfall trap with funnelTrap nest

(photographs courtesy of Hannah Reininghaus and Kristy Udy).

We study effects of spatial and temporal scaling on insect communities (antagonistic vs. mutualistic interactions) within the framework of a DFG-funded research training group.

 

 

DFG-Research Training Group 1644 "Scaling Problems in Statistics"

PhD students: Kristy Udy (2013-2016), Hannah Reininghaus (2013-2016)
Urs Kormann (2010-2014), Tatiane Beduschi (2010-2014)


 

Spatiotemporal changes in landscape patterns and biodiversity

Using remote sensing data (RapidEye satellite), we study changes in landscape structure over time. We combine this approach to trace organism abundance and species number through space and time.

Landscape change over time
Image created by C. Scherber based on RapidEye multispectral imagery.



Studying organism abundance in whole landscapes

In a DFG-funded Research Training Group (Graduiertenkolleg 1644), we study Scaling Problems in Statistics. For example, we use a grid-based sampling approach on a landscape scale to estimate landscape-wide biodiversity.

 

Grid-based sampling approach to study biodiversity on a landscape scale


 

Biodiversity patterns in replicated landscapes

Abundance patterns in 10 replicated landscapes

Using 10 different landscapes, each with a size of 1 km², we study the dynamics of insects in space and time. Note that the results show actual field data, interpolated using kriging. A heatmap colour scheme was used for graphical representation.


 

NewstarLatest publication:

Scale effects in biodiversity and biological control: methods and statistical analysis

by Scherber C, Lavandero B, Meyer KM, Perovic D, Visser U, Wiegand K, Tscharntke T (2012).

Book Chapter in: Biodiversity and Insect Pests: Key Issues for Sustainable Management, First Edition. Edited by Geoff M. Gurr, Steve D. Wratten, William E. Snyder, Donna M.Y. Read. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (in press).


 

Within the DFG-funded Research Training Group, we focus on two major questions:

(1) Scale dependence of plant-insect interactions and community structure in changing landscapes

Spatial processes play an important role in community and population ecology. For example, the immigration of individuals from different habitats in the surrounding landscape can be important for local community composition, a process that is termed mass effect. In addition, community composition may change across different spatial scales. This can have far-reaching implications for ecosystem services. For example, the effects of local complexity on local pollinator communities may be both high or low, depending on spatial scale (scale- and context-dependence). While previous studies of our group have shown that landscape context is an important determinant of biodiversity and ecosystem services, mechanistic insights into the underlying processes are lacking. In particular, the data collected so far do not allow explicit spatial modelling approaches, spatial interpolation, or the incorporation of spatial dependencies. In addition, data on dispersal rates of organisms are lacking so far. Here, we will study the scale-dependence of ecological communities in agricultural landscapes and organism interactions in the field. The description and the prediction of the intensity of a species, i.e., the abundance of organisms, will be based on the theory of random marked sets, a generalization of the theory of marked point processes.

1.1. Effects of landscape complexity and spatial scale on organism interactions We analyse dispersal, species richness, and abundance of focal organism groups using regular 1 × 1-ha grids positioned in 6 landscapes of different landscape complexity. At least 20 grid plots will be sampled per landscape. The identification of large quantities of invertebrates requires extensive expert support. GIS mapping and vegetation mapping will be central to explain the observed patterns and will serve as a basis for modelling. Vegetation leaf area index (LAI) and leaf nitrogen content will be predictors of vegetation density and attractiveness to herbivorous insects.

1.2. Dispersion of organisms in an agricultural landscape across different spatial scales We model the relationship between organism mobility, spatial landscape configuration and immigration in new habitat (mass effects), including Monte Carlo simulations.

(2) Scale and context mediated conservation management in fragmented landscapes and populations

Given a finite total area that can be set aside for conservation in human-dominated landscapes, what configuration would represent the best strategy? In contrast to prevailing arguments in favour of large habitats based on the classic theory of island biogeography, many small islands spread over a larger region may better capture a maximum of biodiversity. A sample of many reserves over a wider geographic range maximizes species richness, but in each of these small fragments, persistence of populations and ecological interactions are reduced. Reducing dispersal among habitats is similar to reducing gene flow to keep a maximum of breed diversity. In both cases, dissimilarity (of local communities or breeding populations) is conserved and thereby beta-diversity is maximized. This is in contrast to common views that, in order to maximize diversity, functional connectivity between spatially separated subpopulations should be increased, as this reduces probabilities of subpopulation extinction or allele loss. The outcome of conservation strategies is not trivial, as it depends on properties of the landscape (spatial configuration of fragments, and type of landscape matrix), species, and the resulting communities (food web interactions and ecosystem functioning). A systematic analysis of existing studies will be most valuable.

In addition, a spatially explicit multi-species model with stochastic birth, death, and dispersal processes is developed to analyse trade-offs between subpopulation persistence and beta-diversity for different landscape configurations and species groups. We will test the hypothesis that conservation value of population segregation and genetic exchange changes with fragmentation structure and scale.

We are interested in (i) developing a deeper theoretical understanding of the mechanisms using toy models and larger Monte Carlo studies; (ii) deriving optimal fragmentation strategies with respect to number and size of subpopulations and rate of geneflow between subunits that are relevant for animal conservation programs; (iii) field tests by repeated sampling (about 4) of several fragmentation levels (at least 10) in various landscapes (about 12), and model validation.

2.1. Conservation management in fragmented landscapes I An empirical test of the relative role of habitat area, fragmentation, and landscape matrix, using species differing in dispersal and specialisation has to be developed. Trapnesting bees and wasps, identified by extrenal experts, will serve as model systems to study fragmentation effects, supported by additional collections of organisms at different spatial scales.

2.2. Conservation management in fragmented landscapes II Development of spatially explicit models and analysis by means of Monte Carlo methods to clarify trade-offs in subpopulation persistence and beta-diversity.

2.3. Modelling of allele and haplotype dynamics in fragmented populations Here, theoretical optimisation of fragmentation patterns will be investigated. Genomic data of isolated chicken populations will be investigated.

4. Coexistence of species in populations with spatially structured interaction Analytical results on the parameter ranges will be obtained that allow for long term coexistence of species in interacting particle systems with different levels of local versus non-local competition.

 

agrobiodiversity and extensification

Conservation Ecology

In several projects, we combine research with applied aspects, focusing explicitly on issues of biodiversity conservation.

(1) We use camera trapping and artificial burrows to study circadian rhythms of European Hamster (Cricetus cricetus).

Camera trap

 

(2) In the Hainich National Park, we study if the size of the core zone of the National Park is sufficient to conserve typical forest species (plants, carabid beetles).

Forest Herbs Hainich National Park



(3) In peat bog ecosystems in Southern Bavaria, we study effects of water level on endangered plants, for example the glacial relic species Betula nana.

Peat Bog Lake




(4) In collaboration with the Naturpark Meißner-Kaufunger Wald, we study plants, butterflies and leafhopper communities and how they are affected by land-use intensity. Using transect approaches, we study gradients ranging from the centre of each calcareous grassland out into other surrounding habitat types.

Calcareous grassland (Kalkmagerrasen) near Rosbach (Hessen)Maculinea arion (Large Blue) on Onobrychis viciifolia

 

 

Cluster of Excellence "Functional Biodiversity research"
Grassland Management and biodiversity

PhD student: Georg Everwand (2010-2013)
MSc student: Till Benner
BSc students: Melanie Wiechmann, Annabelle Rohlfing, Wiebke Röper

Agricultural intensification is known to greatly influence biodiversity and multitrophic interactions, but the relative contribution of plant functional groups, e.g. herbs and grasses, to biodiversity is less understood. In a multidisciplinary approach with botanists, soil ecologists and phytopathologists, we characterize insect responses to fertilization, mowing and plant functional group composition in a grassland experiment. Management and plant community effects will be characterized by insect samples, quantification of herbivory and experimental phytometer studies, addressing responses of pollinators, herbivores and predators.

GrassMan Experimental PlotsZygaenid butterflies on flower

Image Copyrights: left: (C) C. Scherber; right: (C) D. Gladbach


 

Sampling invertebrates using non-attractive (colourless, transparent) pan traps

Transparent pan trap
(Image copyright: C. Scherber)


Most recent publications:

GrassMan Experiment Panorama

Slug responses to grassland cutting and fertilization in a plant functional group removal experiment

by Everwand G, Scherber C, Tscharntke T (2013)

Acta Oecologica
48:62–68.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2013.01.015

 

The CLIMAITE project (Denmark)

Effects of climate change on above-belowground multitrophic interactions

PhD student (co-supervised): David Gladbach (2007-2010)

We are currently collaborating with CLIMAITE, which is a Danish research centre to investigate how climatic changes will affect biological processes in natural (heathland) ecosystems. Specifically, studies involve aboveground invertebrates and herbivory measurements.


CLIMAITE open top CO2 chambers

 


 

The number of climate change drivers affects herbivore performance

Among the most surprising findings of our studies was that the number of climate change drivers affected herbivore performance. That is: In some ways it doesn´t matter if drought or warming kick in - it´s just how many drivers act simultaneously that matters. See an enhanced figure from our Ecology & Evolution paper:

Number of climate change drivers and herbivore performance

 


 

We show that insect herbivore performance (Lochmaea suturalis) is indirectly influenced by climate change via changes in plant quality, especially leaf tannin content and carbon-nitrogen ratio of Calluna vulgaris tissues.

Drought, warming and elevated CO2 effects in insect herbivore performance


 

Effects of climate change on above-belowground interactions

Experimental design for above-belowground climate change

In another experiment, we show that above-belowground interactions are modified by climate change under field conditions. Our study is among the first proving that herbivory-induced nutrient cycling can be altered by combined climate change drivers (drought, warming, elevated CO2).

 


 

Most recent publications:

ecology and evolution coverMulti-factor climate change effects on insect herbivore performance

by Scherber C, Gladbach DJ, Stevnbak K, Karsten RJ, Schmidt IK, Michelsen A, Albert KR, Larsen KS, Mikkelsen TN, Beier C, Christensen S (2013)

Ecology and Evolution 3:1449–1460 (June 2013) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.564

See also images published on Figshare:

Effects of the number of climate change drivers on herbivore performance. Christoph Scherber, David Gladbach, Karen Stevnbak, Rune Juelsborg Karsten, Inger Kappel Schmidt, Anders Michelsen, Kristian Rost Albert, Klaus Steenberg Larsen, Teis Nørgaard Mikkelsen, Claus Beier, Søren Christensen.


Nature Climate Change Journal CoverInteractions between above- and belowground organisms modified in climate change experiments

by Stevnbak K(1), Scherber C(1)*, Gladbach D, Beyer C, Mikkelsen TN; S. Christensen (2012) 

Nature Climate Change (published online 20th May 2012)
DOI: dx.doi.org//10.1038/nclimate1544

(1)equal contributions; *corresponding author
 

By experimentally manipulating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, drought, air and soil temperature, and herbivory simultaneously, this study provides evidence that climate change affects interactions between above- and belowground organisms through changes in nutrient availability under field conditions. 

see also Supplementary Material

Further project details can be found here.

Biodiversity Exploratories

PhD student: Christoph Rothenwöhrer (2008-2011)

 
The Biodiversity Exploratories are part of the international long-term ecological research (iLTER) network. In Germany, there are several such long-term ecological research projects. Within the framework of the Biodiversity Exploratories, we study ecosystem processes such as herbivory and pollination in selected grassland and woodland sites along land-use gradients.

Most importantly, we manipulated local-scale management by setting up electric fences to exclude grazing farm animals. We employed mowing treatments, and added phytometers crossed with complex predator exclusion treatments.

One of 150 grassland sites of the Biodiversity Exploratories

Exploratories

Electric fences and predator exlosures with trap nests


Most recent publications:

Grassland exclosure plotNewstar Inter-annual variation in land-use intensity enhances grassland multidiversity

by Allan E et al. & Scherber C et al. (2013)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (in press)

 


 

Grassland exclosure plot

Grassland management for stem-boring insects: Abandoning small patches is better than reducing overall intensity

by Rothenwöhrer C, Scherber C, Tscharntke T (2013)

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 167:38–42
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2013.01.005


 

Basic and applied ecology coverA quantitative index of land-use intensity in grasslands: integrating mowing, grazing and fertilization

by Blüthgen N, Dormann CF, Prati D, Klaus VH, Kleinebecker T, Hölzel N, Alt F, Boch S, Gockel S, Hemp A, Müller J, Nieschulze J, Renner SC, Schöning I, Schumacher U, Socher SA, Wells K, Birkhofer K, Buscot F, Oelmann Y, Rothenwöhrer C, Scherber C, Tscharntke T, Weiner CN, Fischer M, Kalko EKV; Linsenmair KE, Schulze ED, Weisser WW (2012)

Basic and Applied Ecology (published online 10 May 2012).
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2012.04.001


General information about the Biodiversity Exploratories can be found here.

Project partners: Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, Cathrin Westphal, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Jochen Krauss.

Associated PhD student: Juliane Steckel (Bayreuth)

DFG-GK 1086 Forest Biodiversity (Hainich National Park / UNESCO World Heritage site)

PhD students: Claudia Normann (2011-2014)

former PhD students: Elke Vockenhuber (2008-2011), Stephanie Sobek (2003-2006)
former MSc students: Marcel Mühlfeit (2013), Margaritha Hottmann (2013), Mareen Gollnow (2008)

In this project, we study plant-insect interactions in a tree diversity gradient in the Hainich National Park (Germany). The work includes a quantification of a diversity of interactions and field experiments with a main focus on herbs. In the current project phase, we focus on the effects of distance to the forest edge and tree species richness on plant and insect biodiversity. The explanatory variables are a) distance to the forest edge and
b) low vs. high tree species richness, laid out in a full factorial design along transects.


Hainich National ParkHainich National ParkAllium ursinumHainich National Park

(all photographs by C. Scherber)


Most recent publications

lathyrusNewstarThe relationship between tree species richness, canopy space exploration and productivity in a temperate broad-leaf mixed forest

by Seidel D, Leuschner C, Scherber C et al. (2013)

Forest Ecology and Management 310: 366–374 DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2013.08.058

 



Plant-animal interactions in two forest herbs along a tree and herb diversity gradient

by Vockenhuber E, Kabouw P, Tscharntke T, Scherber C (2013)

Plant Ecology and Diversity
(published online 6 March 2013)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17550874.2013.782368



Tree diversity and environmental factors predict herb species richness and cover in Germany's largest connected deciduous forest

by Vockenhuber E, Scherber C, Seidel D, Langenbruch C, Meißner M, Tscharntke T (2011)

Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 13:111-119 (published online 14th April 2011), DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2011.02.004


 

Tree diversity drives abundance and spatiotemporal β-diversity of true bugs (Heteroptera)

by Sobek S, Gossner M, Scherber C, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tscharntke T (2009)

Ecological Entomology
34, pp. 772 - 782. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2311.2009.01132.x


 

Canopy vs. understory: How does tree diversity affect trap-nesting bee and wasp communities and their natural enemies across forest strata?

by Sobek S, Tscharntke T, Scherber C, Schiele S & Steffan-Dewenter I (2009)

Forest Ecology and Management 258 (5), 609-615, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2009.04.026


 

Spatiotemporal changes of beetle communities across a tree diversity gradient

by Sobek S, Steffan-Dewenter I, Scherber C & Tscharntke T (2009)

Diversity and Distributions
15 (4), pp.660 - 670, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2009.00570.x


 

Sapling herbivory, invertebrate herbivores and predators across a natural tree diversity gradient in Germany´s largest connected deciduous forest

by Sobek S, Scherber C, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tscharntke T (2009)

Oecologia
160(2): 279-88, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-009-1304-2 Open Access © Springer (Open Access by institutional agreement)



Further project details can be found here.

Peat Bog Ecosystems

Restoration of peatland and conservation of the Dwarf Birch (Betula nana)

MSc student: Barbara Mayer (2010)

Since May 2010, we are studying plant-herbivore interactions along a drought gradient in a peat bog in Southern Bavaria (close to the towns of Seeshaupt and Bernried). In particular, we study the performance of the dwarf birch, Betula nana L. (Betulaceae), which is a glacial relict species. We monitor bog water level and follow plant performance over time.

Some of Germany´s most extensive peat bog ecosystems occur throughout Southern Bavaria (Germany). These bogs are fascinating environments that have been formed gradually after the last glaciations (about 10,000 years before today). Situated at the foothills of the Alps, many of these peat bogs (locally called "Filz") belong to the most vulnerable ecosystems in Germany, inhabited by often highly adapted species that can cope with the low pH of soil and water. I am personally interested in dragonflies, butterflies and herbivorous insects inhabiting peat bogs, as well as carnivorous plants, grasses, sedges and rushes, and Sphagnum peat mosses.


Eriophorum vaginatumPeat Bog LakeDrosera rotundifolia
 
(1) Eriophorum vaginatum in the "Murnauer Moos" (Southern Germany)
(2) Bog lake in a peat bog in Southern Bavaria (near Seeshaupt, Starnberger See)
(3) A leaf of the sundew, Drosera rotundifolia

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous Plants - please also see the book by Barthlott et al., for which I contributed some images of carnivorous plants.

Heliamphora neblinae

Heliamphora tatei on Pico da Neblina (Brazilian-Venezuelan Border), 1998.

Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens)

Biological control and management of invasive alien plants

MSc student: Kerstin Albrecht (2011; University of Rostock)

Narrow-leaved ragwort is an invasive alien plant introduced to Europe with wool transports from South Africa about hundred years ago. It is currently rapidly spreading across Europe. In a research facility at Silwood Park (UK), we have installed an experiment on the effects of herbivory and competition on S. inaequidens. Although the main results of the establishment phase have been published, some plants have survived from 2002 until today and are still producing inflorescences even though growing in intact British grassland. It will be fascinating to see if and how this plant will survive and reproduce over long-term periods.


Senecio inaequidens



Selected publications:

Scherber C., Crawley M.J., Porembski S. (2003) The effects of herbivory and competition on the invasive alien plant Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae). Diversity and Distributions 9: 415-426, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Scherber, C., Crawley M.J., Porembski S. (2004) Insect herbivory and plant competition studies on the invasive alien plant Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae) under laboratory conditions. In: Kuehn, I. & Klotz, S. (eds.) Biological Invasions - Challenges for Science. Neobiota 3: 41-52, Berlin.



The experiments conducted at Silwood Park (UK) in 2002 have also been documented in the Flora of Berkshire, written by Michael J. Crawley, FRS

Book cover "The flora of Berkshire"

Hummingbird pollination

Collaboration with Oregon State University (Matthew Betts, Adam S. Hadley)
PhD student: Urs Kormann

Violet Sabrewing (Hummingbird)

Within the framework of the DFG research training group "Scaling Problems in Statistics" we are studying hummingbird pollination in tropical forests in Costa Rica (Las Cruces station). Using artificial feeders positioned along fencerows, we study connectivity and pollinator movement among rainforest fragments.

 


Tank bromeliads

Tank Bromeliad

I have been involved in a DFG-funded project on tank bromeliads in the Neotropics:

Methane emissions from tank bromeliads in neotropical forests

by Martinson G, Werner FA, Scherber C, Conrad R, Corre MD, Flessa H, Wolf K, Klose M, Gradstein SR, Veldkamp E (2010)

Nature Geoscience (Published online 17 October 2010), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo980

Related content:

News and Views article: Biogeochemistry: Cryptic wetlands.
by Joseph B. Yavitt (2010), Nature Geoscience, DOI: dx.doi.org/doi:10.1038/ngeo999 (Published online 17 October 2010).



Works on carnivorous plants (Heliamphora, Drosera) in the Amazon basin (Mt. Neblina, Brazil/Venezuela)

(with F. Rivadavia Lopez, A. Wistuba, J. Nerz and others)

NeblinaHeliamphora tatei var. neblinae

Nerz, J. & Wistuba, A. (2000) Heliamphora hispida (Sarraceniaceae), a new species from Cerro Neblina, Brazil-Venezuela". Carnivorous Plant Newsletter Volume 29, Number 2, June 2000, pages 37 - 41.



Gallery forest and Inselbergs in the Ivory Coast (West Africa)

(with S. Porembski, N. Biedinger and others, University of Rostock; Image credits: S.Porembski)

This was a short-term research stay in 2000, where we collected plant material and did vegetation relevés on inselbergs in the Ivory Coast. Among other plant species, we found the carnivorous plant species Genlisea stapfii, Utricularia subulata, Utricularia juncea and Utricularia pubescens (Lentibulariaceae) and Drosera indica (Droseraceae).

Inselberg West AfricaInselberg with Afrotrilepis mat

 

Side Projects
(1) Sciencegarden

From 2001-2008 I was a freelance writer for the journal "sciencegarden", a German young scientists´ on-line journal which has won a German nationwide Science Journalism prize in 2006 (the "Heureka"-award by Sanofi-Aventis)

sciencegarden

(2) BEAUTYCHECK

I have been involved in two side-projects, where I have been working together with psychologists on human facial attractiveness


Beautycheck

 

(3) Public perception and genetically modified food

This study was part of a research competition for Young Scientists (Deutscher Studienpreis / German Students Award). More information can be found at www.studienpreis.de