How will ecosystems cope with increasing magnitudes of summer drought, heavy rainfall, and winter warm spells? Scientists from the Disturbance Ecology lab at the University of Bayreuth are setting out to assess the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The international team of postdocs and PhD students around Professor Anke Jentsch has set up field experiments on the Bayreuth campus, which are embedded into a network of sites and scientists in numerous countries across six continents.
“It is a fantastic experience to contribute local data to a global community of scientists,” says PhD student Max Schuchardt. Justyna Giesztowt, a postdoc from New Zealand, shares the lab with other international fellows, such as Yujie Niu from China, Mohamed Arfin Khan from Bangladesh, Mani Shresta from Australia, and Björn Reu from Columbia. “We truly enjoy the international experience and all our joint activities within the Disturbance Ecology lab,” says Giesztowt.
In the twenty-first century a new approach has been emerging in ecology: collaborative, distributed experiments and surveys (CDE). In this approach, a network of scientists or sites applies a well-established standardized research design to tackle research questions across climatic and altitudinal gradients. They test global hypotheses in ecology, thereby using the power of geographically distributed replication.
Being integrated into research consortia across continents broadens your scientific understanding. International career plans can also arise.Max Schuchardt, PhD Student
At the University of Bayreuth, research benefits from merging approaches in experimental climate-change research and disturbance ecology: the team and their collaborators are highly active in producing research on biodiversity, vegetation dynamics, ecosystem functions, and landscape system dynamics. The Disturbance Ecology lab at Bayreuth University is among the most stimulating teams implementing a new generation of climate-change experiments—tackling events, not trends. These include experiments on the effects of extreme weather events on diversity and ecosystem functioning.
The project aims to better understand how ecosystem functions performed by grasslands are being influenced by climate and management. Our focus is on grasslands in the alps and the foothills of the alps.
This research network focuses on European gradients of resilience in the face of climate extremes. We investigate mechanisms of ecosystem resilience and strive to identify looming threats to ecosystem services.
Terrestrial ecosystems vary dramatically in their responses to drought. A better understanding of what exactly determines their sensitivity will enhance our ability to project drought impacts, at both regional and continental scales.
Intensification of weather extremes is emerging as a pivotal aspect of climate change. The EVENT projects study the significance of this phenomenon for vegetation dynamics and ecological processes.
NutNet works globally to address the challenges facing food webs—where consumers are removed through habitat loss and degradation, or added by humans for conservation, recreation, or agriculture.
One of humanity’s deepest interests is in understanding and managing recurrent pulse dynamics in natural and cultural landscapes. Thus, the Disturbance Ecology lab’s scientific interest and expertise are in advancing the frontiers of disturbance theory and ecosystem dynamics. Thereby, the lab always works “glocally” when, for example, the local impacts of global climate change are being investigated in Alpine or Mediterranean ecosystems.
Researchers travel to remote landscapes to study disturbance-driven plant biodiversity ecosystem functioning, mechanisms of resilience, ecological novelty, and dynamics in protection areas. Outdoors, students can experience the joy of scientific inspiration paired with physical challenges, when participating in science schools and field trips to remote islands or high-elevation ecosystems to learn about disturbance regimes, vegetation dynamics, and ecosystem services.
I would urge young researchers to develop a passion for an emerging research field and then persevere. Be so free as to stay in the area of your true personal interest.Prof. Dr. Anke Jentsch, Professor of Disturbance Ecology
The Disturbance Ecology research group is an active member of the Bayreuth Center for Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER), a research center of the University of Bayreuth. BayCEER bundles the competencies of about 30 working groups in the biosciences and geosciences, and supports interdisciplinary research through central facilities and services. Moreover, it enhances knowledge transfer to the general public and maintains a wide variety of international relationships with well-renowned partners, including universities and NGOs.
“The Disturbance Ecology lab on the Bayreuth campus is well-connected within the international scientific community, jointly producing outstanding scientific insights. Ultimately, our research results will serve the science-policy interface by delivering timely and highly relevant information to policymakers and stakeholders, addressing, for example, the European agri-environmental schemes and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with a special focus on extreme events. By enhancing our knowledge about the mechanisms of ecosystem resilience and the indicators of tipping points in the face of climate extremes, we support future-oriented legislative frameworks and policies that are adequate to the challenges humanity faces through policy briefs,” says Jentsch.