Functional Ecology and Global Change

Senior Scientist Group
Head: PD Dr. Matthias Schleuning

Human actions globally jeopardise natural ecosystems. We investigate how these human impacts and anthropogenic climate change modify biodiversity and ecological processes and functions. Our research primarily aims to disentangle the functional causes and consequences of global biodiversity loss. The results of our research are also used to develop potential future scenarios of ecological communities and ecosystem functions.
Our work covers three main research fields: plant-animal-interactions, experimental plant ecology and global change models. In all fields, we examine the complex networks of species interactions in ecological communities. Most of our research is centred on plant-bird interactions, which are important for the stability of ecological communities as well as for ecosystem functions, such as pollination, seed dispersal and plant regeneration.
To investigate the interactions between plants and birds, we work in a variety of ecosystems, ranging from the tropics (e.g. the Andes and Mount Kilimanjaro) over the subtropics (e.g. South African Fynbos) to temperate systems (e.g. the Alps). In our research, we combine observational and experimental approaches with comprehensive collections of functional species traits from natural-history museums. We also test and evaluate our insights into the driving factors and processes in ecological communities in meta-analyses and simulation models at large, macroecological scales.

Selected projects
DFG Research Unit "Environmental changes in biodiversity hotspot ecosystems of South Ecuador"
DFG Research Unit "Kilimanjaro ecosystems under global change"
DFG Project "ProteaNet"
DFG Project "Differential effects of seed dispersal interactions on plant regeneration across environmental gradients"

Matthias Schleuning - Senior Scientist
Eike Lena Neuschulz - Research associate
Mathias Templin - Technical assistant
Plant-animal interaction networks
Jörg Albrecht - Postdoc
Robert Modeste Byamungu - Postdoc
Alexander Neu - Ph.D. student
Vinicio Santillán - Ph.D. student 
Experimental plant ecology
Dominik Merges - Ph.D. student
Global change models
Isabel Donoso - Postdoc
Larissa Nowak - Ph.D. student

Selected publications
Bender et al. Ecography 2018, doi: 10.1111/ecog.03396
Neuschulz et al. Journal of Ecology 2018, doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12818
Schleuning et al. Nature Communications 2016, doi: 10.1038/ncomms13965