Recent highlights

Simons, N. K. and W. W. Weisser. 2017. Agricultural intensification without biodiversity loss is possible in grassland landscapes. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI:10.1038/s41559-017-0227-2. In der Presse. PDF

Grassland biodiversity in managed landscapes is threatened by land-use intensification, but is also dependent on low-intensity management. Solutions that allow for both agricultural production and species conservation may be realized either on individual grasslands, by adjusting management intensity, or at the landscape level, when grasslands are managed at different intensities. Here we use a dataset of more than 1,000 arthropod species collected in more than 100 grasslands along gradients of productivity, to assess the reaction of individual species to changes in productivity. We defined a range of land-use strategies and evaluated their effects on overall production and on species abundances. We show that conservation of arthropods can be improved without reducing overall production. We also find that production can be increased without jeopardizing conservation. Conservation and production could, however, not be maximized simultaneously at the landscape level, emphasizing that management goals need to be clearly defined.

Blüthgen, N., N. K. Simons, K. Jung, D. Prati, S. C. Renner, S. Boch, M. Fischer, N. Hölzel, V. H. Klaus, T. Kleinebecker, M. Tschapka, W. W. Weisser and M. M. Gossner. 2016. Land use imperils plant and animal community stability through changes in asynchrony rather than diversity. Nature Communications 7:10697 DOI:10.1038/ncomms10697. PDF

Isbell, F., D. Craven, J. Connolly, M. Loreau, B. Schmid, C. Beierkuhnlein, T. M. Bezemer, C. Bonin, H. Bruelheide, E. De Luca, A. Ebeling, J. N. Griffin, Q. Guo, Y. Hautier, A. Hector, A. Jentsch, J. Kreyling, V. Lanta, P. Manning, S. T. Meyer, A. S. Mori, S. Naeem, P. A. Niklaus, H. W. Polley, P. B. Reich, C. Roscher, E. W. Seabloom, M. D. Smith, M. P. Thakur, D. Tilman, B. F. Tracy, W. H. Van Der Putten, J. Van Ruijven, A. Weigelt, W. W. Weisser, B. Wilsey and N. Eisenhauer. 2015. Biodiversity increases the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate extremes. Nature 526:574-577. Link to Nature

Can biodiversity help protect ecosystems from extreme conditions? This study points to a promising answer: Increasing plant diversity decreases the extent to which extremely wet or dry conditions disrupt grassland productivity.
An international team of researchers from the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Ireland, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Japan, that included Sebastian Meyer and Wolfgang Weisser from the Terrestrial Ecology Research group, combined results across 46 grassland studies, including long-time data from the Jena Experiment. The analysis classified each year of each experiment on a five-point scale from extremely dry to extremely wet. They measured productivity - basically, how much above-ground plant material each level of plant biodiversity produced each year was compared between diversity levels and climatic conditions. Results proved that the higher the plant biodiversity, the lower the variability in productivity during wet or dry climate events. Overall, productivity of communities with only one or two species changed an average of 50 percent during events, while those with 16 to - 32 species changed only half that much. Biodiversity did not, however, seem to strongly influence how quickly a site returned to normal productivity after wet or dry events.

Gamez-Virues, S., D. J. Perovic, M. M. Gossner, C. Borschig, N. Bluthgen, H. De Jong, N. K. Simons, A.-M. Klein, J. Krauss, G. Maier, C. Scherber, J. Steckel, C. Rothenwohrer, I. Steffan-Dewenter, C. N. Weiner, W. W. Weisser, M. Werner, T. Tscharntke and C. Westphal. 2015. Landscape simplification filters species traits and drives biotic homogenization. Nature Communications 6:8568 DOI:10.1038/ncomms9568. PDF

Diverse landscapes promote functional diversity of insects and spiders

Small and diverse landscape structures have become rare in today’s landscapes due to the ongoing land-use intensification. However, they are of special importance for diverse species communities, because they compensate the negative effects of intensive grassland management. This result was found by our research group in a collaboration with agroecologists from the university Göttingen and three other universities. The impact of landscape composition and local land-use intensity on the functional composition of grassland arthropods was assessed within the DFG-project “Biodiversity Exploratories”. Both spider, true bug and leafhopper species which were sampled by our group and beetles, flies, butterflies and hymenoptera species were considered. One interesting result was, that the positive effects of small-scale landscapes structures was consistently found in all arthropod groups. Even on intensively used grasslands, functionally diverse communities with many small, specialized species with low dispersal ability could be found if those were located in a heterogeneous landscape.

Hauck, T. and W. W. Weisser. 2014. AAD Animal-Aided Design. ISBN 978-3-00-047519-1. Download PDF

This booklet (in German only) describes a new method of how to integrate species conservation into landscape architecture, in particular in urban planning processes.

Allan, E., O. Bossdorf, C. F. Dormann, D. Prati, M. M. Gossner, T. Tscharntke, N. Blüthgen, M. Bellach, K. Birkhofer, S. Boch, S. Böhm, C. Börschig, A. Chatzinotas, S. Christ, R. Daniel, T. Diekötter, C. Fischer, T. Friedl, K. Glaser, C. Hallmann, L. Hodac, N. Hölzel, K. Jung, A. M. Klein, V. H. Klaus, T. Kleinebecker, J. Krauss, M. Lange, E. K. Morris, J. Müller, H. Nacke, E. Pašalic, M. C. Rillig, C. Rothenwöhrer, P. Schall, C. Scherber, W. Schulze, S. A. Socher, J. Steckel, I. Steffan-Dewenter, M. Türke, C. N. Weiner, M. Werner, C. Westphal, V. Wolters, T. Wubet, S. Gockel, M. Gorke, A. Hemp, S. C. Renner, I. Schöning, S. Pfeiffer, B. König-Ries, F. Buscot, K. E. Linsenmair, E.-D. Schulze, W. W. Weisser and M. Fischer. 2014. Interannual variation in land-use intensity enhances grassland multidiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:308-313. PDF

This is the first meta-analysis paper from the Biodiversity Exploratory research project that analyses the effects of increasing land use intensity in grasslands on a variety of taxa. Our research group contributed data of eight out of 18 taxonomic groups analysed, was strongly involved in the characterisation (e.g. land use, soil analysis) and selection of sites. The analysis shows with increasing land use most biodiversity is lost very early on, in the transition from very extensive to more intensive use. It also shows that not only mean land-use intensity affects biodiversity but also land-use variability.

Allan, E., W. W. Weisser, M. Fischer, E.-D. Schulze, A. Weigelt, C. Roscher, J. Baade, R. Barnard, H. Beßler, N. Buchmann, A. Ebeling, N. Eisenhauer, C. Engels, A. F. Fergus, G. Gleixner, M. Gubsch, S. Halle, A. Klein, I. Kertscher, A. Kuu, M. Lange, X. Roux, S. Meyer, V. Migunova, A. Milcu, P. Niklaus, Y. Oelmann, E. Pašalic, J. Petermann, F. Poly, T. Rottstock, A. W. Sabais, C. Scherber, M. Scherer-Lorenzen, S. Scheu, S. Steinbeiss, G. Schwichtenberg, V. Temperton, T. Tscharntke, W. Voigt, W. Wilcke, C. Wirth and B. Schmid. 2013. A comparison of the strength of biodiversity effects across multiple functions. Oecologia 173:223-237. PDF

This paper is the second large meta-analysis of the Jena Biodiversity Experiment that compares effects of plant species richness on more than 500 different ecosystem variables, all measured within the same diversity plots. The paper shows that plant species richness affects a multitude of ecological processes, but not all of them (about 40-50%). It also shows that diversity effects are stronger on a) aboveground than belowground variables, b) diversity- than abundance-related variables, and c) variables related to the C- than to the N-cycle. In contrast to other synthesis works that compile data from different experiments this study is unique in that measurements and sampling efforts are highly standardized.

Ebeling, A., S. Pompe, J. Baade, N. Eisenhauer, H. Hillebrand, R. Proulx, C. Roscher, B. Schmid, C. Wirth and W. W. Weisser. 2014. A trait-based experimental approach to understand the mechanisms underlying biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships. Basic and Applied Ecology 15:229-240.

This paper describes a new experiment within the Jena Biodiversity Experiment framework that is the first field experiment that directly manipulates trait diversity of plant mixtures based on plant traits measured in the same field site. It allows to study the role of trait redundancy and trait complementarity as well as how species interactions change along a gradient in plant diversity.

Scherber, C., N. Eisenhauer, W. W. Weisser, B. Schmid, W. Voigt, M. Fischer, E. D. Schulze, C. Roscher, A. Weigelt, E. Allan, H. Bessler, M. Bonkowski, N. Buchmann, F. Buscot, L. W. Clement, A. Ebeling, C. Engels, S. Halle, I. Kertscher, A. M. Klein, R. Koller, S. Konig, E. Kowalski, V. Kummer, A. Kuu, M. Lange, D. Lauterbach, C. Middelhoff, V. D. Migunova, A. Milcu, R. Muller, S. Partsch, J. S. Petermann, C. Renker, T. Rottstock, A. Sabais, S. Scheu, J. Schumacher, V. M. Temperton, and T. Tscharntke. 2010. Bottom-up effects of plant diversity on multitrophic interactions in a biodiversity experiment. Nature 468:553-55 PDF

This paper is one of the first synthesis papers of the Jena Experiment, summarizing the effects of plant species richness on a large number of different taxa, of organismic interactions, and of processes linked to such interactions. It shows a strong biodiversity effects on a large proportion of the variables. The effect is strong for herbivores but decreases for higher trophic levels, and aboveground organisms are more strongly controlled by plant species richness than belowground organisms.

Allan, E., W. W. Weisser, A. Weigelt, C. Roscher, M. Fischer, and H. Hillebrand. 2011. More diverse plant communities have higher functioning over time due to turnover in complementary dominant species. PNAS online, doi:10.1073/pnas.1104015108, PDF

Using long-term data on biomass production of individual plants in the Jena Experiment, we show that more diverse plant communities had consistently higher productivity, that is, a higher level of functioning over time. We identify the mechanism for this as turnover in the species driving biomass production; this was substantial, and species that were rare in some years became dominant and drove function in other years. Such high turnover allowed functionally more diverse communities to maintain high biomass over time and was associated with higher levels of complementarity effects in these communities. In contrast, turnover in communities composed of functionally similar species did not promote high biomass production over time. Thus, turnover in species promotes consistently high ecosystem function when it sustains functionally complementary interactions between species.

Perrings, C., S. Naeem, F. Ahrestani, D. E. Bunker, P. Burkill, G. Canziani, T. Elmqvist, R. Ferrati, J. A. Fuhrman, F. Jaksic, Z. Kawabata, A. Kinzig, G. M. Mace, F. Milano, H. Mooney, A. H. Prieur-Richard, J. Tschirhart, and W. W. Weisser. 2010. Ecosystem Services for 2020. Science 330:323-324. PDF

This letter proposes a critical evaluation of the 2020 targets that had been proposed for the strategic plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In this paper an interdisciplinary group of scientists from the international program of biodiversity science, DIVERSITAS, considers the implications of an ecosystem services approach for these biodiversity goals.

Stein, C., S. B. Unsicker, A. Kahmen, M. Wagner, V. Audorff, H. Auge, D. Prati, and W. W. Weisser. 2010. Impact of invertebrate herbivory in grasslands depends on plant species diversity. Ecology 91:1639-1650. PDF

Unsicker, S. B., A. Franzke, J. Specht, G. Kohler, J. Linz, C. Renker, C. Stein, and W. W. Weisser. 2010. Plant species richness in montane grasslands affects the fitness of a generalist grasshopper species. Ecology 91:1083-1091. PDF

The two papers result from a longer-term study on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in semi-natural grasslands along a gradient in plant species richness (BIOLOG DIVA-Jena). Stein et al. reports results from a 5-year program of applying insecticide and molluscicide to exclude herbivores above- and belowground. Excluding herbivores leds to shifts in the plant community that were stronger when belowground herbivores were excluded. Effects on plant biomass were generally small but depended on plant diversity: the effect of herbivory on biomass tended to be negative at sites of high diversity and positive at sites of low diversity. Unsicker et al. (2010) measured fitness of grasshoppers in the plots and found a positive effect of plant species richness on grasshopper fecundity and grasshopper population size.

Poethke, H. J., W. W. Weisser, and T. Hovestadt. 2010. Predator-Induced Dispersal and the Evolution of Conditional Dispersal in Correlated Environments. The American Naturalist 175:577-586.

Zheng, C. Z., W. W. Weisser, S. A. Harri, and O. Ovaskainen. 2009. Hierarchical Metapopulation Dynamics of Two Aphid Species on a Shared Host Plant. The American Naturalist 174:331-341.

These two theoretical papers build on the long-term field and laboratory studies on aphid metapopulation ecology and the role of predation for the induction of aphid winged dispersal morphs. Poethke et al. investigate the conditions under which predator-induced dispersal is an adaptive strategy for organisms with a metapopulation structure. Zheng et al. use field data collected in sites in Finland and Switzerland to model the hierarchical multiscale colonization-extinction dynamics of two aphid species living on tansy, Tanacetum vulgare using Bayesian inference.

Türke, M., K. Andreas, M. M. Gossner, E. Kowalski, M. Lange, S. Boch, S. Socher, J. Müller, D. Prati, M. Fischer, R. Meyhöfer, and W. W. Weisser. 2012. Are gastropods, rather than ants, important dispersers of seeds of myrmecochorous forest herbs? American Naturalist 179(1):124-131. PDF

Türke, M., E. Heinze, K. Andreas, S. M. Svendsen, M. M. Gossner, and W. W. Weisser. 2010. Seed consumption and dispersal of ant-dispersed plants by slugs. Oecologia 163:681-693. PDF

In beech-dominated forests in Central Europe, many early-spring flowering geophytes show adaptations to seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory). Ants, however, can be rare in mature shaded forest stands. These papers present data to suggest that terrestrial gastropods (snails and slugs) are significant consumers and dispersers of seeds of myrmecochores and discuss the underestimated role of gastropodochory for the dispersal of herbs and other plants.

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