Forest structures as drivers of biodiversity

We study how forest compositional and structural elements, such as canopy cover, tree species, microhabitats or deadwood, affect species communities, for example along gradients of forest development at Berchtesgaden National Park. Natural disturbances modify habitat characteristics of forest ecosystems and thus influence diversity and composition of species communities. A better understanding of the relationships between forest structures and biodiversity provides insights into the role of natural forest dynamics and can guide forest management decisions.

Climate as driver of biodiversity

Climate is a fundamental driver of species composition across taxa. We are interested in the interactive effects of climate at different spatial scales. While macroclimate is linked to latitude and elevation, microclimate is related to vegetation cover, topography and aspect. Species may thus respond to climate change not only by uphill or northwards shifts, but also by shifts towards habitats with favorable microclimatic conditions. We study changes of species communities along macro- and microclimatic gradients and simulate the impacts of future climate change and intensifying natural disturbance regimes on biodiversity.

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

Biodiversity is important for many ecosystem processes, such as productivity or decomposition. Understanding this relationship is important to predict effects of biodiversity change. We are interested in different ecosystem processes, but particularly carbon uptake and decomposition. In a collaborative experiment, we quantified the global amount of carbon released from deadwood decomposition and the contribution of insects.

Species interactions

Interactions between species, especially between trophic levels, shape communities and ecosystems. At Berchtesgaden National Park, we study how vegetation development affects populations and habitat use patterns of ungulate herbivores and vice versa as well as the role of carrion for decomposer and scavenger communities.

Movement ecology

Animal movement is one of the key mechanisms affecting biodiversity via the distribution of genes, individuals and species in space and time. Causes and consequences are often poorly understood and the movement behavior of many species is shaped by the increasing human activity and climate change. We use a combination of animal tracking with high-resolution GPS-loggers (bio-logging), camera trapping, remote sensing and weather data to better understand how animals distribute and move within their environment. We also conduct experiments regarding the effect of resource distribution and disturbance through human activity on the movement of GPS-tagged animals.