Research for the Environment


See menu on the left for comprehensive list of publications each year and by category.

Featured publications

Geocaching data as an indicator for recreational ecosystem services in urban areas: exploring spatial gradients, preferences and motivations.

A.F. Cord, F. Roeßiger, N. Schwarz (2015): Landscape and Urban Planning

In this paper, we focused on the recreational activity of ‘geocaching’ (, a worldwide outdoor game in which the participants use a GPS receiver to hide and seek containers. We used Leipzig as a case study and analyzed georeferenced localities of geocaches together with quantitative results of an online survey. We found that, while geocachers may have quite different motivations to participate in the activity, geocaching is indeed a type of local recreation and an indicator for urban ecosystem services, as green areas and experiences in nature are important.
doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.08.015

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Study area with localities of geocaches and aggregated land cover data from the Urban Atlas project

Assessing ecosystem services for informing land-use decisions: a problem-oriented approach.

Förster, J., J. Barkmann, R. Fricke, S. Hotes, M. Kleyer, S. Kobbe, D. Kübler, C. Rumbaur, M. Siegmund-Schultze, R. Seppelt, J. Settele, J. Spangenberg, V. Tekken, T. Václavík, H. Wittmer (2015): Ecology & Society

The GLUES-team has synthesised lessons learned from ecosystem service assessments for informing land use decisions. Together with the projects SuLaMa, LEGATO, INNOVATE and SuMaRiO of the BMBF-financed Sustainable Land Management Programme, we published the paper in a Special Feature of the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), which is part of Future Earth
doi: 10.5751/ES-07804-200331

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Effects of land use on plant diversity – A global meta-analysis

K. Gerstner, C. F. Dormann, A. Stein, A. Manceur, R. Seppelt (2014): Journal of Applied Ecology

Plant diversity is globally threatened by anthropogenic land use while at regional and local scales evidence for declining species diversity is mixed. Our meta-analysis on land-use effects on plant species richness revealed that direct and indirect effects of land use are quite variable and can lead to both local decreases and increases. Further, we found important covariables of specific land-use classes and strong evidence that land-use effects are moderated by biomes suggesting that effects generally depend on species pool size.
doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12329

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Cover Journal of Applied Ecology
Cover: Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Separating the effects of changes in land cover and climate: a hydro-meteorological analysis of the past 60 yr in Saxony, Germany.

Renner, M., K. Brust, K. Schwärzel, M. Volk & C. Bernhofer (2014): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences

In this paper, a separation and attribution method based on a Budyko framework is illustrated. The analyses show significant effects of global warming on evaporation and the water balance of entire Saxony. However, the main reason for the changes of the water balance was industrial air pollution - it has been proven that the air pollution driven tree damages have been the crucial factor in the higher forested basins.
doi: 10.5194/hess-18-389-2014

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Impacts of agricultural land-use dynamics on erosion risks and options for land and water management in Northern Mongolia.

J. A. Priess, C. Schweitzer, O. Batkhishig, T. Koschitzki, D. Wurbs (2014): Environ Earth Sci.

In Mongolia, nomadic herders have successfully been grazing livestock for more than a millennium. However, for recent years, we estimated that i Northern Mongolia erosion risks under current land use sum up to approximately 2–4 Mg ha-1 year-1 for steppe and 4–9 Mg ha-1 year-1 for cropland. Scenario calculations indicate that land use and climate change can either reduce (-30 %) or aggravate erosion risks up to sevenfold and contribute to the challenges in water and soil management.
doi: 10.1007/s12665-014-3380-9

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Typical strip-pattern of cultivated and fallowed fields; note the erosion marks on the fallows

Accounting for geographical variation in species–area relationships improves the prediction of plant species richness at the global scale.

Gerstner, K., Dormann, C.F., Václavík, T., Kreft, H., Seppelt, R., (2013): Journal of Biogeography

The species–area relationship (SAR) is a prominent concept for predicting species richness and biodiversity loss. A key step in defining SARs is to accurately estimate the slope of the relationship, but researchers typically apply only one global (canonical) slope which is overly simplistic. We show that predictions of global species richness patterns can be considerably improved by accounting for variation due to biomes.
doi: 10.1111/jbi.12213

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Mapping global land system archetypes.

provides a new representation of global land systems based on more than 30 high-resolution datasets on land-use intensity, environmental conditions and socioeconomic indicators. This approach advances our under-standing of the global patterns of human-environment interactions and of the environmental and social conditions associated with different types of land use.
Václavík, T., Lautenbach, S., Kuemmerle, T., Seppelt, R. (2013): Global Environmental Change.

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Identifying trade-offs between ecosystem services, land use, and biodiversity: a plea for combining scenario analysis and optimization on different spatial scales:

provides perspectives on the application of exploratory modelling, esp. optimization for a quantitative analysis of trade-off of different types of land use in multifunctional landscape. We also discuss the integration of these as well as scenario analysis for solving regional as well as global aspect of land use conflicts: Seppelt, R., Lautenbach, S., Volk, M., (2013): Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.
doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2013.05.002

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The impact of Best Management Practices on simulated streamflow and sediment load in a Central Brazilian catchment:

In several Brazilian river basins Best Management Practices, such as terraces or sediment retention basins, are supported by 'Payments for Environmental Services'. By means of process-based scenario simulations, this study quantified the cost-effectiveness of such measures regarding sediment retention and water yield: Strauch, M., Lima, J.E.F.W. , Volk, M., Lorz, C., Makeschin, F., (2013): J. Environ. Manage.

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A new multi-scale approach for monitoring vegetation using remote sensing-based indicators in laboratory, field and landscape:

Remote sensing is an important tool for studying patterns in surface processes on different spatiotemporal scales. However, differences in the spatiospectral and temporal resolution of remote sensing data as well as sensor-specific surveying characteristics very often hinder comparative analyses and effective up- and downscaling analyses. This paper presents a new methodical framework for combining hyperspectral remote sensing data on different spatial and temporal scales using the “One Sensor at Different Scales” (OSADIS) approach for the laboratory (plot), field (local), and landscape (regional) scales: Lausch, A. et al. (2012) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. doi:10.1007//s10661-012-2627-8

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Global map of pollination benefits
Global map of pollination benefits

Spatial and temporal trends of global pollination benefit:

Based on global data on land use and time series for production quantities and production prices of pollination dependent crops, an global increase in pollination benefits was shown and regional hotspots of pollination benefits were identified: Lautenbach, S. et al. (2012) PlosONE e35954. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035954

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Exploring indicators for quantifying surface urban heat islands of European cities with MODIS land surface temperatures:

This European wide analysis of urban heat island on the base of remote sensing data based on 263 cities revealed the variation of classical urban heat island indicators and identified the need to comparatively quantify several indicators of urban heat islands in parallel to foster comparability: Schwarz, N. et al. (2011) Remote Sensing of Environment, 115, 3175-3186.

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Map of analysed cities with thermal climatic zones by the FAO
Methodology flowchart

Using precipitation data ensemble for uncertainty analysis in SWAT streamflow simulation:

The study shows that ensemble modeling with multiple precipitation inputs can considerably increase the level of confidence in hydrological simulation results, particularly in data-poor regions: Strauch, M., Bernhofer, C., Koide, S., Volk, M., Lorz, C., Makeschin, F. (2012) Journal of Hydrology 414-415, 413-424. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.11.014

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Press & Media

Recent Publications

Beckmann, M., Bruelheide, H., Erfmeier, A., (2014):
Local performance of six clonal alien species differs between native and invasive regions in Germany and New Zealand
Austral Ecol. 39 (4), 378 - 387

Beckmann, M., Václavík, T., Manceur, A.M., Šprtová, L., von Wehrden, H., Welk, E., Cord, A.F., (2014):
glUV: a global UV-B radiation data set for macroecological studies
Methods Ecol. Evol. 5 (4), 372 - 383

Bonumá, N.B., Rossi, C.G., Arnold, J.G., Reichert, J.M., Minella, J.P., Allen, P.M., Volk, M., (2014):
Simulating landscape sediment transport capacity by using a modified SWAT model
J. Environ. Qual. 43 (1), 55 - 66

Brosinsky, A., Lausch, A., Doktor, D., Salbach, C., Merbach, I., Gwillym-Margianto, S., Pause, M., (2014):
Analysis of spectral vegetation signal characteristics as a function of soil moisture conditions using hyperspectral remote sensing
J. Indian Soc. Remote Sens. 42 (2), 311 - 324

Cerro, I., Antigüedad, I., Srinavasan, R., Sauvage, S., Volk, M., Sanchez-Perez, J.M., (2014):
Simulating land management options to reduce nitrate pollution in an agricultural watershed dominated by an alluvial aquifer
J. Environ. Qual. 43 (1), 67 - 74