to the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group

The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group is part of the Institute of Landscape Ecology (ILÖK) of the University of Münster. We study the structure, function and change of terrestrial ecosystems by using soil and vegetation as integrative key features in landscape ecology. We offer a broad range of courses in vegetation science and physical geography that addresses Bachelor, Master and Diploma students in landscape ecology as well as studens of other disciplines of geosciences.

© Johannes Kamp

Citizen science online databases – how useful are they for monitoring population trends?

Monitoring of animal and plant population trends is important to identify declining species that can then be prioritized for conservation actions. Standardized, country-wide monitoring schemes are expensive, and need a large number of skilled volunteers to participate. However, with the advent of mobile technology, more and more people report casual observations of birds and other taxa online. Databases such as ‘ornitho’ or ‘eBird’ already store millions of records. The huge potential of these repositories for research and conservation has been recognized repeatedly, e.g. for explaining climate-change related phenology shifts or changes in the routes of migratory animals. If the mass of of ‘citizen scientists’ records is also useful to understand whether populations are increasing or decreasing was however unclear.

Using a country-wide database for birds, Johannes Kamp and colleagues from the RSPB and the Danish BirdLife partner DOF examined if bird population trends derived from online recording matched those from a more standardized monitoring scheme. In a recent paper in Diversity & Distributions [doi: 10.1111/ddi.12463/full], they report that declines in many bird species detected by standardized monitoring were not picked up by the unstructured online databases, suggesting that the latter are no easy substitute for cost-intensive structured monitoring. This is most likely explained by observer behaviour – encouraging birdwatchers to report all species in an area (and not only rare or interesting ones) will increase the usefulness of the data for many research questions.

Our working group is growing!

More Babynews for the ILÖK! Hale and hearty Lina was born on 17th of June. 
Congratulations and all the best to the parents, Anne and Wanja!

Welcome, Joke! We heartly congratulate Wiebke and Sebastian, as their son was born
on the 25th of May - and wish the little family all the best!

The Tea Decomposition Project - It´s Tea Time!

© Ika Djukic

Since beginning of June the ILÖK takes part in the worldwide project "TeaComposition". This project is led by the Ecosystem Research and Environmental Information Management Working Group of the Federal Environment Agency in Vienna, and aims at analysing long term litter decomposition dynamics in different habitat types.

Main focus will be the assessment of carbon losses and storage in litter and their key drivers under recent and predicted climatic scenarios worldwide. The instalation of tea bags as well as the subsequent analyses will be performed in cooperation of the working groups Soil Ecology and Land use and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research within the Biodiversity Exploratories.

Two successful doctorates at once!

Img-20160430-wa0012 Schnitt

We congratulate our PhD students Kristin Gilhaus and Immo Kämpf to their successful thesis defenses. At the same day as Elisa Fleischer (Climatology group) they defended their theses with the titles “Grassland management by year-round grazing – opportunities and constraints“ and “Effects of Land-use Change on Agroecosystems of Western Siberia”.

University newspaper reports on urban ecological research

Forschung an städtischen Grünlandflächen

The current issue of the wissen|leben (Issue 2, April 2016 (German); german article  here), the official newspaper of WWU Münster, reports on biodiversity research by Valentin H. Klaus and his students. In various bachelor and master theses, the researchers assessed plant diversity and environmental conditions in parks and urban grasslands in Münster. Additionally, at the lake Aasee, experimental plots were installed to floristically enrich the established grassland vegetation (Publication in the Project "Urban Ecological Research").

Teams are already standing on their starting blocks for the Field Work Season 2016

Auf zur Feldsaison 2016

Fieldteams of the projects STOICHIO and  ESCAPE of the Biodiversity-Exploratories will take off for their last field season of the current project phase.

Both teams will conduct vegetation relevés and collect biomass samples on grassland plots  in the National Park Hainich-Dün (Thuringia) and its surroundings. During this field work phase we will complete data sets regarding nutrient stoichiometry, biodiversity, productivity, disturbance and resilience of grasslands along a land use gradient.

New edition of the "Davert Depesche+"

Titelblatt Davert Depesche+

Recently and within the project "Fit for Climate Change", the new edition of the "Davert Depesche+" brochure has been released. The University's role as scientific supervisor of the project is displayed vividly, a spring flower is presented and to "natural scientists" are being portrayed.

This edition also counts with the second quartal's programme and is completed by a searching game for children. The brochure is released quarterly and is on display in many locations in the South of Münster and in the Institute for Landscape Ecology. Additionally, a german version may be downloaded here.

Asynchrony plays a greater role in stability than diversity alone

Csm 2016 Hohe-asynchronita _t-hohe-stabilitaet 9648928a22
© TUM/ Gossner

The stability of animal or plant communities under consideration of external factors does not only depend on biodiversity. Most influencing factor is the asynchrony of populations: the greater the temporal variation of the development of different species within one ecosystem, the higher its stability. These results were obtained by scientists of our groupunder the leadership of colleagues of the TU München and the TU Darmstadt and have now been published in "Nature Communications". Press releases with more more graphics from our colleagues from Munic and Darmstadt.

Taking stock at the end of the year


Today’s research projects are usually highly collaborative – this is why we need to bring people from the networks together regularly to review progress and plan future work. In November, we hosted annual and strategic meetings of three projects, SASCHA and BALTRAK (dealing with sustainable land use in Siberia and Kazakhstan), and ESCAPE (Biodiversity Exploratories). The inspiring atmosphere of these gatherings also often sparks new ideas and follow-up research.

Our staff presents research results on conferences


© Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University
  • © Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University

This year, the staff of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group presented the results of numerous studies, very often conducted with the active participation of students, on seven different scientific conferences. A total of eleven talks and two posters were presented. The diverse topics ranged from restoration ecology and ornithology to vegetation science and nutrient cycles. Attendance at these conferences facilitates scientific exchange with colleagues, amplifies collaboration with other  institutions and helps to communicate results, for example to practitioners.

Wet forests south of Münster as carbon sinks

Carabus Auronitens Klein

With the last, recently completed soil profiles in the Davert and the soil samples already taken in spring, we now have enough data to calculate the soil carbon stocks within the project “Fit for Climate Change”. more


© Valentin Klaus
  • © Valentin Klaus
  • © Valentin Klaus
  • © Valentin Klaus
  • © Valentin Klaus
  • © Valentin Klaus

Students investigate effects of climate change on grasslands

An ongoing experiment with mesocosms aims to evaluate the effects of agricultural fertilization on grasslands under drought stress, accompanying the field research of the ESCAPE-project within the “Biodiversity Exploratories” framework. Mesocosms are pieces of natural ecosystems relocated to a lab or green house, in this case sods of meadows and pastures of the Swabian Alps. The sods were cut out 20 cm deep, transported to Münster and transplanted into special containers in a green house.

Since periods of prolonged drought are expected to become more frequent in the future, the sods are not only fertilized with slurry but also subjected to drought stress. Changes in nutrient cycling are meanwhile closely monitored. The results may help to develop adapted management strategies for these agricultural grasslands. Five students measuring for example stable isotope abundances and gas fluxes are involved in this experiment. First results are expected at the end of 2015.


Back from Siberia!

In a joint field-trip with our partner in the SASCHA project, the Tyumen State University, we brought 26 students from Tyumen and Münster to explore the vast landscapes of Western Siberia. Over 14 days we followed a 1000 km long gradient through different ecozones from the meadow steppes near the Kazakh border to the boreal forests and raised bogs of the Russian Taiga. More impressions on the SASCHA Blog and in this video, made by Russian students.

Waterbird counts in Central Asia


© Christian Härting / Benjamin Ullrich
  • © Christian Härting / Benjamin Ullrich
  • © Christian Härting / Benjamin Ullrich
  • © Christian Härting / Benjamin Ullrich
  • © Christian Härting / Benjamin Ullrich

In a collaboration with Holger Schielzeth at the University of Bielefeld and our partner ACBK, two students of the Ecosystem Research Group have been counting waterbirds in the Lake Tengiz area, Central Kazakhstan, since April. Lake Tengiz is perhaps the most important wetland for waterbirds on the Siberian-Central-Asian flyway, comparable to the German Wadden Sea.
The aim of the project is to repeat extensive surveys conducted between 1998 and 2004 in order to learn more about population trends and identify declining species. The results from these earlier surveys are available here and here.

Butterfly bonanza in Siberia

© Johanna Trappe/Fritzi Kunz

In the fourth year of the BMBF-funded SASCHA-project, we now focus on data analysis, paper writing, and the implementation of the project results. However, a number of data gaps are still to be filled in the field. Two motivated BSc students are currently in Tyumen, Western Siberia, to count butterflies along standardized transects. Contrary to common belief, it's not freezing cold all year round in Siberia - sunny days and temperatures around 30°C result in high butterfly activity, but also challenging mosquito densities...
The richness and abundance of butterflies is stunning in the area - many species thrive that are now on the brink of extinction in Central Europe. As the area is at the border of several zoogeographical regions, dry steppe species and Taiga endemics meet. More in the  SASCHA-Blog