Novel approaches to biodiversity monitoring

We have developed new approaches to study landscape-wide changes in biodiversity of different organism groups. Using replicated landscapes, we show that biodiversity dynamics in space and time can best be understood when all available habitats are sampled (rather than focusing just on managed or seminatural areas).

Fig. 1

(Figure from Scherber et al. 2018, Novel approaches to sampling pollinators in whole landscapes: a lesson for landscape-wide biodiversity monitoring, published in "Landscape Ecology".

Research on grassland biodiversity

We have use a variety of approaches to study effects of biodiversity on multitrophic interactions in grassland biodiversity experiments, e.g. within the framework of the Jena Experiment, a large long-term biodiversity experiment (see below).

Biodiversity plots Göttingen   Carabid enclosures in the Jena Experiment

Established field experiments in Göttingen (left) and Jena (right), August/September 2014.


The Jena Experiment

Within a large and long-term biodiversity experiment, we study:

(1) How plant diversity affects the diet of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores
(2) Effects of plant diversity on flower traits and pollination along an experimental plant diversity gradient

At current, this involves the use of next-generation DNA sequencing approaches (pyrosequencing) to study how the diets of omnivorous Carabid beetles changes with plant diversity, plant species identity and plant traits. For this purpose, we collaborate with the research groups of Michael Traugott (Innsbruck) and Rolf Daniel (Göttingen).

In addition, we plan to study plant-seed predator and continue to study plant-pollinator interaction networks, with a focus on spatiotemporal niche differentiation.

PhD students: Julia Tiede (2013-2016) and Christine Venjakob (2010-2013)
MSc students: Juliane Heimann (maiden name: Juliane Specht, 2006)

Aerial view of The Jena Experiment  Detailed Aerial View of the Jena Experiment

Past research (2003-2010) has focused on multitrophic responses as a function of plant species richness.

Biodiversity positively affects ecosystem services

A particularly interesting finding is that plant species richness positively affects ecosystem services important for human well-being. These services include:

  • weed suppression and invasion resistance
  • decomposition
  • parasitism and biological control
  • flower visitation and pollination
  • resistance against plant pathogenic fungi

Biodiversity and ecosystem services from a biodiversity experiment
(modified from Scherber et al., Nature)

Plants form the basis of terrestrial food webs

Our research has shown that changes in plant biodiversity affects above- and belowground trophic interactions, with effects dampening the higher you climb the "trophic ladder".

Bottom-up trophic cascade in a food web

Above-belowground interactions are modified by changes in plant biodiversity

Plant biodiversity and above-belowground structural equation model
(modified from Scherber et al., Nature)


The Jena Experiment is a multidisciplinary, long-term research facility to study the effects of changes in plant species richness on ecosystem processes. For example, we are interested in the effects of plant species richness on processes at higher trophic levels. One central research question during the last years has been: Are plant monocultures more susceptible to herbivore attack than plant mixtures? 

Caging Experiment with GrasshoppersGrasshopper Feeding TrialGrasshopper Herbivory

Selected publications:

Bottom-up effects of plant diversity on multitrophic interactions in a biodiversity experiment  Evaluated by Faculty of 1000

published online 27th October 2010; see also Supplementary material S1 and S2

by Scherber C, Nico Eisenhauer, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Bernhard Schmid, Winfried Voigt, Markus Fischer, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Christiane Roscher, Alexandra Weigelt, Eric Allan, Holger Beßler, Michael Bonkowski, Nina Buchmann, François Buscot, Lars W. Clement, Anne Ebeling,  Christof Engels, Stefan Halle, Ilona Kertscher, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Robert Koller, Stephan König, Esther Kowalski, Volker Kummer, Annely Kuu, Markus Lange, Dirk Lauterbach, Cornelius Middelhoff, Varvara D. Migunova, Alexandru Milcu, Ramona Müller, Stephan Partsch, Jana S. Petermann, Carsten Renker,  Tanja Rottstock, Alexander Sabais,  Stefan Scheu,  Jens Schumacher, Vicky M. Temperton & Teja Tscharntke (2010)

Nature 468, 553–556 (25 November 2010) (published online 27th October 2010), DOI:


Functional identity versus species richness: herbivory resistance in plant communities

by Scherber C, Heimann J, Köhler G, Mitschunas N, Weisser WW (2010)

(online first), DOI: Access © Springer (Open Access by institutional agreement)


Biodiversity and belowground interactions mediate community invasion resistance against a tall herb invader

by Scherber C, Mwangi PN, Schmitz M, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Beßler H, Eisenhauer N, Migunova VD, Weisser WW, Schulze ED, Schmid B (2010)

Journal of Plant Ecology
3 (2): 99-108, DOI: Open Access © Oxford Journals


Diversity and beyond: Plant functional identity determines herbivore performance

by Specht J, Scherber C, Koehler G, Weisser WW (2008)

Journal of Animal Ecology 77, 1047–1055, DOI:


The effects of plant diversity and insect herbivory on performance of individual plant species in experimental grassland

by Scherber C, Milcu A, Partsch S, Scheu S, Weisser, WW (2006)

Journal of Ecology 94, pp. 922-931, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, DOI:


Effects of plant diversity on invertebrate herbivory in experimental grassland

by Scherber C, Mwangi PN, Temperton VM, Roscher C, Schumacher J, Schmid B, Weisser WW (2006)

147, pp. 489-500, Springer Berlin, Heidelberg, New York. DOI: