On July 19th 2021 Ramona Heim successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Fire ecology in Eurasian wetland and tundra ecosystems” and thereby completed her dissertation.
The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group heartly congratulates her and wishes all the best for her future career.
Current topics for theses in our project BiCO2
We have new research topics for winter 2021/22 and summer 2022 in our project BiCO2. Potential research questions are for example:
Which influence do different forestry systems have on biodiversity and carbon storage?
How do different soil treatments or soil compaction in forests affect biodiversity and carbon storage?
How do different forestry systems affect the activity of soil enzymes?
BiCO2 - New project on the connection between biodiversity and carbon storage
Significant amounts of carbon are stored in Central European forests. In addition, forests and their soils are important for biological diversity, which in turn strengthens the adaptability and stability of the forest ecosystem. The aim of this project, which is carried out jointly with the NABU-Naturschutzstation Münsterland and the Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW), is a synoptic view of the carbon balance and biodiversity - above and below ground. The studies planned for the next three years should help to better assess the influence of the intensity of use on the performance of forests in terms of biodiversity, carbon storage and climate stability.
The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group congratulates Alyona Koshkina, Wieland Heim and Frederike Velbert on successfully defending their dissertations!
All three dissertations took place in a public video conference with a festive setting.
On January 28th, Alyona Koshkina defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Effects of land-use change on keystone small mammal species in the steppes of Kazakhstan”. Wieland Heim followed her on January 29th with the defense of his doctoral thesis on "The migration ecology of East Asian land birds". On February 12th, the third defense took place in a very short time - Frederike Velbert defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Functional responses to restoration in the vegetation and seed bank of wet grasslands”.
The decline of biodiversity is currently a very important topic in the media, politics and research. The Volkinitiative Artenvielfalt, initiated by Naturschutzbund (NABU) NRW, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND) NRW and Landesgemeinschaft Naturschutz und Umwelt (LNU) is committed to the preservation of biodiversity in North Rhine-Westphalia. Further information can be found here.
Fires are shaping ecosystems across biomes and bioclimatic zones. In the face of global change, fires increase in frequency and extent, and therefore receive more and more attention not only in the scientific community but also in media and politics. A recent review published in Science highlighted that anthropogenic drivers, such as climate and land-use change, critically transform fire activity and its impacts on biodiversity.
However, our knowledge on the effects of changing fire patterns on biodiversity, ecosystem structure and functioning across the vast areas of northern Eurasia is limited.
Recent research from the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research group at the University of Münster adds evidence on fire effects in this region, which is underrepresented in the scientific literature. Together with international cooperation partners, our projects cover a wide geographical range from the Russian Far East over the Central Asian steppes to the Siberian subarctic Tundra. Our results from various ecosystem types have now been published in several recent papers:
We found that a decrease in livestock grazing on the steppes of northern Kazakhstan led to an increased fire frequency in Kazakhstan which in turn strongly influenced plant functional composition. Martin Freitag led this paper, which combined field data on plant functional traits and multi-scale satellite data (1) [doi: 10.1111/gcb.15411].
In the subarctic Tundra of the North Western Siberia fire legacy effects are visible over more than four decades! While permafrost thaw depth and soil temperature recover during this time span, we found a lower lichen cover and enhanced shrub growth >44 years after fire. This has been shown in a paper led by Ramona Heim (2) [doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143425].
Field work in the grasslands of the biodiversity exploratories
Opportunities for MSc theses and research projects
The Biodiversity Exploratories (www.biodiversity-exploratories.de) are currently the most extensive German research project studying the relationships between biodiversity, land use and ecosystem processes. In past years, a disturbance and seeding experiment for the experimental enrichment of plant species diversity and recently an experiment for the extensification of land use have been established in grasslands. In these experiments, data on the vegetation composition are continuously collected, which offer opportunities for exciting master's theses and research projects. For the field work in May 2021, we are looking for motivated students who are interested in vegetation-ecological topics.
Results of a long-term experiment from Israel show that plants can adapt to climate change in a relatively short time. However, they also suggest that this adaptation may not be complete and may not include all the essential characteristics of the plants. This is the conclusion of a publication that was published in Ecology letters last week with the participation of Christian Lampei. Press release
We congratulate Johannes Kamp on his full professorship in conservation biology at the University of Göttingen, which he will fill at the 1st of August 2020. We are grateful for his great commitment during the past 9 years and will miss his expertise, reliability and pleasant seriousness. We wish a good start at his new institution and look forward to ongoing and future cooperation, preferably in his beloved Kazakh Steppes and beyond.
Congratulations: Two successful habilitations!
We congratulate PD Dr.Anna Bucharová and PD Dr. Johannes Kamp on their habilitation and venia legend in Juli 2019. Following their inaugural lectures in November they received their certificates from the Dean of faculty, Prof. Dr. Harald Strauß. We wish Anna Bucharová and Johannes Kamp all the best and continued success in their research activities!
Evolution in the city
The habitat of many species is greatly changed by increasing urbanization. Some species are therefore locally extinct, others may adapt to the changes. The latter happens because individuals who are better able to cope with the changed situation reproduce more frequently. In a worldwide project, the Global Urban Evolution Project (GLUE), in which Anna Bucharova and Christian Lampei are involved, these effects of urban space on the evolution of species are being investigated globally for the first time using the example of white clover. There is now a short contribution on this subject on Hyperraum TV.
Invitation: "Ornithology in the wild east" - bird research in Russia
Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union are home to the largest populations of most Palearctic bird species. Unfortunately, often little is known about the ecology and population changes of these core populations. Since 2011, the Amur Bird Project has been investigating bird populations and migratory routes. Those interested in the results of this year's expeditions are invited to attend the public lectures at the annual meeting on 07.12.2019 at the Institute for Landscape Ecology in Münster. This year, under the title "Ornithology in the wild east", numerous other projects will also be presented that deal with the bird world in the little explored vastness of Eurasia. Programme
New topics for Bachelor and Master thesis
If you are interested in a Bachelor or Master Thesis or a research project in our research group, please have a look here or contact us directly!
Follow the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group now on Twitter!
The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group startet to post news regarding projects and publications on Twitter. Follow us here!
New textbook on restoration ecology
Together with Johannes Kollmann, Anita Kirmer, Sabine Tischew and Kathrin Kiehl, Norbert Hölzelhas recently published a new textbook on restoration ecology. This book will cover the basics of restoration ecology, including their application and methods for restoring ecosystems. The book is addressed primarily to students and can be used for parallel reading.
The individual chapters can be downloaded here (free for university members).
Manual for the propagation of hummock peat mosses
Hummock peat mosses are of great importance for the functioning of bog ecosystems. Research on restoration success showed that hummock peat mosses often do not establish even after more than 30 years of successful rewetting. The reason for this is obviously dispersal limitation as a result of man-made habitat fragmentation, as well as a generally minor importance of the generative propagation in hummock peat mosses.
In a joint project with the Stiftung Lebensraum Moor and the substrate manufacturer Gramoflor GmbH & Co. KG, the Institute of Landscape Ecology has produced a manual for the propagation of hummock peat mosses for restoration purposes (in German) as a guideline for restoration. In this project, funded by the German Federal Environment Foundation (DBU), various propagation methods were tested on irrigated greenhouse tables as well as in field trials. Results of this research have now been published in a manual written by Norbert Hölzel, Till Kleinebecker, Klaus-Holger Knorr, Peter Raabe and Gabriela Gramann. This manual is addressed to stakeholders and practitioners in conservation and bog restoration.
One aim of the project “The migration ecology of Asian land birds ” is to uncover the unknown migration routes of songbirds in East Asia. So far, we have mainly deployed light-level geolocators on birds on the breeding grounds in Russia, where we can be sure that individuals return to the very same site and thus enable us to download their stored data in the following year. Now, Wieland Heim and Ramona Heim have returned from a field trip to South-East Asia. Local ringing groups in Hong Kong and Vietnam found out, that Siberian Rubythroats Calliope calliope and Siberian Blue Robins Larvivora cyane would return to the same site each winter. This enabled us for the very first time to tag birds with geolocators on their wintering grounds. 20 data loggers were deployed, and we hope that many of them will be retrieved next winter.
After the fieldwork, Wieland Heim took part in a workshop on the conservation of the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola in Myanmar. This initiative was stirred by results from our tracking studies: Using the technique described above, we found out that birds breeding in the Russian Far East would spend their winter in Myanmar. The country now develops an action plan for the protection of this critically endangered bird.
Many thanks to our local partners, the Mai Po bird ringing group and the Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Research Centre.
Once a familiar farmland bird, Northern Lapwings have been declining rapidly over the past decade across Germany. The NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union Germany) and the Institute of Landscape Ecology (ILOEK) at the University of Münster invite to a symposium on the ecology and conservation of Northern Lapwings. Talks will cover population trends, analyses on nest and chick survival, the effectiveness of conservation measures and agricultural policies. At the conference, a specialist group on Northern Lapwings will be founded.
Registration for the symposium start on 8th February 2019 at 12 h at ILOEK, Geo1-Gebäude, Heisenbergstr.2. Talks (in German language) will start at 13 h, and will be continued on Saturday morning (until noon). In the afternoon, a field trip to the Rieselfelder Münster, a wetland of international importance in the vicinity of Münster, will be organized. A training on methods to efficiently find wader nests will be offered to the participants. More information and online registration. Please register by 28th January 2019.
Project meeting attracts more than 60 participants
The annual meeting of the Amur Bird Project at the Institute of Landscape Ecology in Münster on the 15th of December was the largest of its kind so far: a wide range of topics, spanning a geographical area from the Kola Peninsula in the west to Kamchatka in the east, and from the Arctic tundra in the north to Azerbaijan and Georgia in the south, attracted around 80 (!) participants. Many thanks to all speakers, helpers and visitors for fruitful discussions and a very nice day of Palaearctic ornithology! The full program can be found here.
Russian guest scientist at the ILÖK
Since the beginning of December, Dr. Larissa Ivanova, ecophysiologist of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yekaterinburg and the University of Tyumen, is guest in the Institute of Landscape Ecology (ILÖK). During her stay of two months in the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group she is supported by a Fellowship of the International Office of the WWU. Dr. Ivanova is accompanied by her husband Dr. Leonid Ivanov and the daughters Yevgenia and Elisabeta. During their stay, the two ecophysiologists work mainly on chemical analysis of leaf samples in the laboratory and on joint publications together with colleagues from Münster. This work will continue the successful collaboration regarding publishing activities of last year, which resulted in a highly respected article in the Journal New Phytologist. Furthermore, it is planned to submit a grant proposal within the current bilateral call of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR).
A palaearctic perspective on birds: public lectures
Russia harbours significant populations of most Palaearctic birds, but only few information is available. During the Amur Bird Project annual meeting we will report on the progress of the ornithological work in the Far East and beyond. All presentations on the 15th of December 2018 at the Institute of Landscape Ecology in Münster are open for the public.
Article promoted in the Blog of Journal of Ecology
Recently the article ”The type of nutrient limitation affects the plant species richness–productivity relationship: evidence from dry grasslands across Eurasia” by Palpurina et al. got published online in Journal of Ecology. This paper is the outcome of a data merging project led jointly by colleagues from Bulgaria, Czech Republic and the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology in Münster. To promote and illustrate this work James Ross, Blog Editor of Journal of Ecology, has posted a photo-story giving impressions about fieldwork in the vast steppe grasslands of Central Eurasia. The pictures come along with short stories about specific sampling locations and peculiarities of fieldwork in such remote areas.
Fieldwork season in the biodiversity exploratories finished
Three and a half years after establishing the SADE experiment, members of our working group sampled additional data to study the effects of seed addition and sward disturbance in grasslands on plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. From March until September, our colleagues and students carried out fieldwork in the three study regions of the biodiversity exploratories.
Characteristics of plant diversity, biomass production, nutrient cycling, decomposition rates and seed rain along a land-use gradient will help us to test and understand biodiversity and ecosystem functioning relations in agricultural grasslands.
WH | Field work all over Russia in 2018
Songbird migration along the East Asian flyway
The migration routes used by birds travelling from Eurasia to Africa and vice versa are well studied, but little do we know on the whereabouts of birds moving to Asia. Within the project Migration ecology of Asian landbirds we used light-level geolocation to map the full migration of a songbird along the East Asian flyway for the very first time. Three Siberian Rubythroats Calliope calliope were followed from their breeding site at Muraviovka Park in Far East Russia to their wintering grounds in tropical South-East Asia. The results were published recently in the Journal of Ornithology.
Meanwhile, the Amur Bird Project team in Far East Russia led by Wieland Heim has retrieved 13 more geolocators carried not only by Siberian Rubythroats but Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica and Pallas´s Grasshoppper Warblers Locustella certhiola as well. The information stored on these data loggers will significantly enhance our understanding of important stop-over and wintering areas of songbirds from continental Asia.
Furthermore, a total of 113 individuals out of 8 species were equipped with new tracking devices during this year’s field season at four more study sites. The team started off in the Far East, and followed the Trans-Siberian Railway across Siberia to Northwest-Russia. One of the target species was the critically endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola. To study the survival rate of this declining songbird, we colour-ringed several individuals in the Selenga river delta at Lake Baikal and near Syktyvkar, where a second team led by Dr. Johannes Kamp worked with one of the last populations in the west of its range. First results of our studies are featured in a recent article published in the South China Morning Post.
Two students from Münster have joined the expedition in 2018: Ilka Beermann studies the habitat use of the Yellow-breasted Bunting in her Master thesis, while Lukas Fuhse conducted point counts to estimate population sizes of songbirds for his Bachelor project. Working in remote areas of Russia with a tight schedule was only possible through the support of our partners on site, many thanks to Aleksey Antonov, Sergei Smirenski, Yury Anisimov, Oleg Bourski, Katya Demidova, Gleb Nakul and Ural Expeditions.
RH | How do fires affect the forest tundra ecosystem?
Field work in northern West Siberia
Mid of July, a team of 13 students and researchers from all over Russia and Münster University, coordinated by Ramona Heim and Andrey Yurtaev, continued the work about fire impacts on the forest tundra.
Some decades ago, wildfires have been a rather uncommon phenomena in Tundra ecosystems. Recent studies predict an increase in fire frequency and extent in the course of climate change but the ecological impact of tundra fires are so far poorly understood.
This year, we collected data regarding vegetation and soil on a fire scar, which burnt over 25 years ago and is situated in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Daniel Rieker collected Data for his Master thesis on plant functional traits while Betty Haas, also student of the University of Münster, was interested in tundra soils. Moreover, Dr. Christian Lampei took a closer look on active layer thickness and Wieland Heim carried out a breeding bird survey.
In spite of harsh conditions because of loads of mosquitos, we can look back on a successful field work with a promising data set.
The international field course was carried out together with the University of Tyumen, the Department of Science and Innovation of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, and the Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic in Nadym, and ended with a day full of cultural program in Novy Urengoy.
JK | status conference
Between Europe and the Orient
The Volkswagen Foundation funds a larger number of inter- and transdisciplinary projects both from the natural and social science in Central Asia and on the Caucasus within the funding measure Between Europe and the Orient.
The AG Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research was asked by the foundation to organize a status symposium of the funding measure jointly with our partner in Kazakhstan, ACBK. The conference took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 16-18 April 2018. More than 130 participants from across the region presented results from 16 projects. The focus was very broad, ranging from land-use changes and biodiversity conservation to security making, mobility and gender issues. A recurring theme were the long-lasting legacies of the Soviet Union in all aspects of life in the region. Workshops on scientific writing and successful fundraising were offered to young scholars and PhD students, and a field trip to the Tien Shan mountains south of Almaty allowed the participants to stretch their legs after two packed days of intense discussions and inspiring talks.
We congratulate Till Kleinebecker on his call for a full professorship in Landscape Ecology and Landscape Planning at the University of Gießen!
Thank you for more than 10 years of enjoyable collaboration, strong coffee and your never ending patience, helpfulness and serenity - it was always great fun! All the best with your new position - we are already looking forward to future cooperation!
Paper on C3 steppe plants highlighted by Faculty of 1000
Recently our paper ‘Quantitative mesophyll parameters rather than whole-leaf traits predict response of C3 steppe plants to aridity’ by Ivanova et al. published 2018 in New Phytologist got highlighted in Faculty of 1000.
Jaume Flexas and Marc Carriqui say in their comment …‘This is an enjoyable paper that reminds us that, in a nowadays scientific world dominated by ‘omics’ and technical-based science, it is still possible to produce important scientific knowledge from sound hypothesis-based experiments and observations even using simple perhaps ‘old-fashioned’ methodologies.’
Overall Runners-Up Poster Award for Denise Rupprecht
On the joint conference of the GfÖ and BES Ecology Accros Borders 2017 in Ghent, the poster of Denise Rupprecht was awarded as Overall Runners-up for the Student Poster Prize. A diverse group of judges was obviously impressed and selected the poster as one of the best out of 320 applicants. The poster is presenting data of an exclosure experiment in calcareous grasslands in limestone quarries in the Teutoburg Mountains in North-Western Germany.
Rupprecht D, Brinkert A, Gilhaus K, Hölzel N, Jedrzejek B (2017) Sheep and deer grazing as tool for restoration and maintenance of calcareous grasslands: A six-year experiment. Poster, BES, GfÖ, NecoV and EEF Joint Annual Meeting: Ecology Across Borders. Ghent, 11.-14.12.2017 download
Bird Congress in Russia
End of January, a delegation of our group participated in the 1st All-Russian Ornithological Conference in Tver, Russia. More than 300 participants presented their work from all corners of this huge country.
Wieland Heim demonstrated the value of light-level based geolocators to track Siberian land birds from their breeding areas to locate previously unknown stop-over and wintering sites in South-East Asia. Knowledge of these areas will be crucial to protect migratory birds all along their route. Johannes Kamp presented an updated population trend for the Critically Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting, and illustrated the need for a nationwide land bird monitoring using the bunting as a flagship species. Both talks resulted in engaged discussions and interresting new contacts with Russian colleagues.
Further presentations included an update on the surveys of European Russia and Kazakhstan for the new European Breeding Bird Atlas, to which members of our working group contributed. For many species, reliable population estimates and distribution maps are now available for the first time, which is important as Russia harbors large proportions of several species that are rare or decline elsewhere.
wet forests and climate change - state and future
The final conference of the "Fit for Climate Change" project was held on the 15th and 16th of February, 2018 at the Institute of Landscape Ecology. Approximately 150 participants joined.
press release of the NABU-Naturschutzstation Münsterland [in german]
television report of the WDR in the local tv news "Lokalzeit Münsterland" from 15th of February including an interview with Dr. Britta Linnemann on the project, available until 22nd of February
SASCHA 2011 – 2016
Farming the forest steppe – results of the SASCHA project summarized
Our interdisciplinary research project SASCHA has come to an end, and most results are now published. As scientific papers are not accessible to everyone, we have now summarized the results in a brochure for stakeholders and the general public.
SASCHA was a research collaboration between eight Russian and German institutions, and aimed to provide tools for more sustainable farming in the Western Siberian grain belt. The economic and social dimensions of food production in Russia were linked to the maintenance of ecosystem functions and biodiversity in an era of growing food demand.
Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting 2017 was the first time the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GfÖ), the British Ecological Society (BES), the Nederlands-Vlaamse vereniging voor ecologie (NecoV), and the European Ecological Federation (EEF), the umbrella organisation of the European ecological societies, organised their annual meetings together.
Birds in Russia Far East
Amur Bird Project Meeting at ILÖK
On Saturday, 9th of December 2017, the annual meeting of the Amur Bird Project took place at the Institute of Landscape Ecology (ILÖK) in Münster, Germany. More than 45 participants, including guests from Kazakhstan and Russia, listened to 12 presentations in three sessions. A wide range of scientific topics based on the data collected at Muraviovka Park and Far East Russia´s Amur region covered diverse aspects of ecology, habitat use, fire impact, biodiversity as well as parasites, population trends and migration of birds. Furthermore, additional results were presented on eight posters. This was the 5th meeting of its kind, the largest one so far and the first one to take place in Münster. I want to thank Norbert Hölzel, Johannes Kamp and the staff of the ILÖK for making this meeting possible, and many thanks to all speakers, the Amur Bird Project team and all visitors for their contributions resulting in a great and successful meeting.
Yellow-breasted Bunting: uplisted to Critically Endangered, consumption and trade go on, but there is hope
Yellow-breasted Bunting, once a superabundant songbird species, has declined by 85-95% since the early 1980s, with heavy, illegal persecution in China being an important driver. The species' status has recently been updated to Critically Endangered on IUCN's international Red List, based on a quantitative assessment of the decline led by Johannes Kamp of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group.
However, birds are still caught and sold in larger numbers, even on eBay-like platforms in China. A price of 15-30 USD per bird suggests high demand. Good news is that conservation organizations along the flyway are raising awareness, see e.g. this excellent video from Hongkong. Also, the Chinese law has been changed, and hunting and consumption are now criminal offences.
More research is underway to shed light on the year-round distribution and flyways of the species. Data on migration routes have been retrieved from geolocator devices by Wieland Heim. This will help us to identify key areas for conservation of the species, and learn more about potential additional drivers of the decline, such as land-use change and agricultural intensification on the wintering grounds.
stakeholder workshop 2050
Imagining the future of Kazakhstan’s agriculture and biodiversity
Scenarios are gaining importance as tools to outline and compare potential future land-use trends, and assess their impact on biodiversity. We have used scenario planning exercises successfully on smaller scales in Russia (publication). In parallel, we are now outlining how agriculture might look in neighbouring Kazakhstan in the year 2050, on a near-countrywide scale. On 15/11/2017, researchers of project BALTRAK from the IAMO in Halle, the Kazakh research institute TALAP and our group organized a workshop in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana that brought together policy makers, agricultural enterprises, experts from international organizations such as FAO and UNDP, and researchers from Kazakh universities. In small groups, the attendants discussed four different scenarios, reaching from an imagination of highly intensive, industrialised agriculture over collapse and consolidation in subsistence systems to an ‘eco’-scenario with state-subsidized organic and climate-friendly production. The screening of the scenario storylines and main drivers by a wide range of experts as well as the engaged discussion opened up new horizons for all participants.
new paper in New Phytologist
Leaf traits of steppe plants in response to aridity
A new paper ‘Quantitative mesophyll parameters rather than whole-leaf traits predict response of C3 steppe plants to aridity’ by Larissa A. Ivanova, Polina K. Yudina, Dina A. Ronzhina, Leonid A. Ivanov and Norbert Hölzel got published last week in the leading plant science journal New Phytologist. The paper is a first significant output of a cooperation between our lab and the plant ecophysiologists group around Larissa Ivanova and Leonid Ivanov from the Botanic Garden Institute of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Science in Ekaterinburg. Further papers dealing with plant trait reponses across the entire latitudinal climate gradient in Central Eurasia from desert to tundra are currently on the way.
Ivanova L, Yudina P, Ronzhina D, Ivanov L, Hölzel N (in press) Quantitative mesophyll parameters rather than whole-leaf traits predict response of C3 steppe plants to aridity. New Phytologist [doi:10.1111/nph.14840]
UN Decade on Biological Diversity
Award for the "fit for climate change" project Davert
The project "Fit for Climate Change", run by the NABU Naturschutzstation Münsterland and the State Enterprise for Forestry and Timber North Rhine-
Westphalia with scientific supervision by our working group, developes measures for a sustainable, near-natural adaptation of wet forests in the Münsterland to climate change. For the successful work, the project was now awarded UN Decade project.
This year our group organized a field campaign in early summer in Central Kazakhstan to sample field data of grazing impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in rangelands along a steep climatic gradient over 350 km from desert to dry steppe in the so called ‘hunger steppe’ (Betpak Dala). This work is part of the BIODESERT survey coordinated by Fernando T. Maestre, running the Dryland Ecology and Global Change Lab at Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC), Madrid, Spain. Besides Norbert Hölzel and Frederike Velbert from our lab, Salza Palpurina and Viktoria Wagner from the Masaryk University, Brno (Czech Republic) as well Tatyana Siderova (senior botanist) and Asel Esengalyeva (Bachelor student) from our partner organization ACBK (Association for the Protection of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan) participated in the survey. Our expedition was joined by a group of five Russian eco-physiologists from the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Science in Ekaterinburg under the lead of Larissa Ivanova.
We studied grazing gradients in three locations representing the climatic zones of northern desert, desert steppe and dry steppe. Sampling was done using a comprehensive standardized protocol, which included e.g. 1000 pin point measurements, 100 vegetation quadrats, plant traits, as well as dung and soil samples. To finish a single plot, we worked on average with 5 person for one full day (8-10 h). In parallel our Russian colleagues from Ekaterinburg undertook eco-physiological measurements of the dominant plants in the respective communities including measurements of photosynthesis and whole leaf traits and prepared frozen leaf samples for further analysis in the lab. Within the framework of the BIODESERT survey, covering drylands worldwide, our plots will be the only one from Central Eurasia the largest consecutive dryland area in the world. Meanwhile our soil and plant samples from Kazakhstan arrived safely in Madrid for further processing. First results of the worldwide survey are expected in the forthcoming year. One aim of the survey is to define thresholds of ecosystem degradation through grazing in global drylands. The following pictures give impressions about the fieldwork in remote areas with partly harsh conditions.
Fire in the far east
Successful fieldwork in Russia´s Amur region
The floodplains in the Amur region are one of the global hotspots of threatened biodiversity. Since 2011, the Amur Bird Project is studying endangered species and monitors bird population trends, coordinated by Wieland Heim. This year a team of volunteers and students of Münster University worked again for three months in the wetlands. One of the highlights of the field season was the recapture of several birds tagged with light-level geolocators in 2016 – for the first time we will now be able to analyze migration routes of songbirds along the East Asian flyway.
Besides the annual activities we also focused on fire impact on habitat use and return rate of the threatened Yellow-breasted Bunting. First results were already presented during the 11th conference of the European Ornithologist´s Union in August 2017 in Turku/Finland. How plant and bird diversity is shaped by man-made fires was surveyed again by Ramona Fitz. One of the “looser species” is the Swinhoe´s Rail – only recently we were able to describe the previously unknown song of this rare and less-known bird.
We hope to continue our projects in cooperation with Muraviovka Park in the next years.
up in the north
Field course in the forest tundra of Western Siberia
As new collaborations with partners in Russia are emerging, several of our students are currently near Nadym, Western Siberia for a two-week field course.
Here, in the Russian forest tundra ecosystem, they support Ramona Fitz with her fieldwork for research on the effect of reindeer grazing and fire on the tundra ecosystems. The group also comprises students and researchers from the russian University of Tyumen, the Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic in Nadym and the Interregional Expedition Center "Arctic" in Yamal. The participanty are now busy with sampling vegetation, plant fuctional traits, biomass and soil along a gradient of fire history. We hope to establish a long-term collaboration using the Russian partners field station up in the north of Western Siberia.