since 2007
DFG SPP 1374



Functional biodiversity research explores drivers and functional consequences of biodiversity changes. Land use change is a major driver of changes of biodiversity and of biogeochemical and biological ecosystem processes and services. However, land use effects on genetic and species diversity are well documented only for a few taxa and trophic networks. We hardly know how different components of biodiversity and their responses to land use change are interrelated and very little about the simultaneous, and interacting, effects of land use on multiple ecosystem processes and services. Moreover, we do not know to what extent land use effects on ecosystem processes and services are mediated by biodiversity change.

The large-scale and long-term project Biodiversity Exploratories addresses the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They comprise a hierarchical set of standardized field plots in three different regions of Germany (Hainich, Schwäbische Alb, Schorfheide Chorin) covering manifold management types and intensities in grasslands and forests. They serve as a joint research platform for currently 40 projects involving over 300 people studying various aspects of the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem processes through monitoring, comparative observation and experiments (Fischer et al. 2010).

Within the Biodiversity Exploratories, the Weisser group is involved in several individual projects:

Local Management Team:
we are responsible for the management of the Hainich-Dün exploratory. In our field station in Mülverstedt, near Bad Langensalza in Thuringia, our team of one postdoc and four further members is responsible for the maintenance of the 50 grassland and 50 forest sites and acts as the focal point for all stakeholders and all scientists working on the plots.

we monitor arthropods, in particular insects, on a total of 300 grassland and forest plots in the three biodiversity exploratories Schorfheide-Chorin, Hainich and Schwäbische Alb. We study how the arthropod communities respond to increasing land use intensity (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014a, b, Simons et al. 2014a, b) and investigate the consequences of any change in the arthropod community on arthropod-mediated processes such as herbivory, predation, and decomposition (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014c). The long-term datasets collected by the Arthropod project also contribute significantly to the overall synthesis of how land use affects diversity (e.g. Allan et al. 2014).

we support the group of Prof. Wolfgang Wägele (Museum Alexander Koenig, Bonn) in the development of mass sequencing workflows with a focus on Diptera (flies and midges) – a very species-rich insect order with diverse roles as decomposers, herbivores, predators, pollinators etc. There are more than 9000 species of Diptera in Germany and often almost 50% of individuals in arial traps are of this order. Because of the difficulties identifying species ecologists normally ignore Diptera in their work. A workflow for identifying and quantifying Diptera would significantly improve ecological work. We also analyze the effects of different sampling fluids on DNA quality and subsequent BarCoding success in arthropods.

in collaboration with Prof. Jana Petermann, Free University Berlin we study land-use effects on patterns and processes in decomposer metacommunities in tree holes. Here we combine observational approaches with experiments where we investigate community assembly in artificial tree holes and link species diversity to processes such as decomposition.

our group is also responsible for the coordination of the BELongDead experiment that takes place in the 30 “VIP” (very intensive plots) in the three biodiversity exploratories. Initiated by Ernst-Detlef Schulze of the Max-Planck-Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, logs (diameter 30-40cm, length four meter) of 13 different tree species were placed in triplicate in each of the plots. We study insect colonization of these logs using eclosion traps. Other groups study fungi, mites, other organisms or log decomposition, e.g. DOC flow. This unique experiment allows disentangling the effect of tree species from the effect of the surrounding forest in shaping the communities using deadwood and also decomposition.

Soil survey:
in the establishment phase 2006-2010 the Weisser group was also responsible for the initial soil survey to select sites, and to provide data on carbon storage, in close cooperation with the MPI for Biogeochemistry (e.g. Fischer et al. 2010, Schöning et al. 2013).


Local management team
Manager:  Dr. Katrin Lorenzen (born Hartwich – maternity leave), Dr. Juliane Vogt
Mechatroniker: Matthias Groß,
Forester: Frederic Van Broeck,
Technical Staff: Steffen Both, Michael Ehrhardt

Arthropods I
Postdoctoral: Dr. Martin Goßner
PhD: Nadja Simons (born Hersacher)
Former PhD students: Esther Pasalic, Iris Gallenberger, Manfred Türke, Markus Lange

Soil survey
Dr. Ingo Schöning (now at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena)