Felix May


Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Department of Ecological Modelling

Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig


Felix May


Plant community dynamics: In my research I seek understanding of the dynamics in species rich plant communities such as tropical forests or semi-natural grassland communities. I am interested in the fundamental questions how species and functional diversity are generated and maintained in these ecosystems. With respect to applied science, I strive for improved models to predict the response of plant communities to environmental drivers, such as fragmentation, land use and climate.

Model-data integration: To address these questions I develop and apply spatial and dynamic simulation models, e.g. individual-based models or metacommunity models. For model validation and predictions I am interested in statistical methods to combine simulation models with empirical data, e.g. Bayesian analysis or pattern oriented modelling.

Trait-based plant ecology: I consider the focus on plant functional traits as a promising approach to acquire general knowledge that is not restricted to specific locations and plant assemblages. I think that trait-based community models facilitate the incorporation of ecological and physiological processes and foster the mechanistic understanding of species coexistence as well as of species responses to environmental drivers.


  • Towards a unified spatial theory of biodiversity  Spatiodiversity ERC grant
  • Shifts of plant diversity and functional traits in a heterogeneous semi-arid landscape
  • Trait-based modelling of small-scale grassland community dynamics


Courses for the graduate school HIGRADE

  • Generalized and linear mixed effects models in R
  • Introduction to statistical data analysis in R
HIGRADE Statistics and Methods

Earlier courses at University Potsdam

  • Individual-based ecological modelling
  • Plant population biology and data analysis
  • Conservation biology
  • Lectures on “Climate change and conservation biology” and “Ecology of plant communities”


  • Kazmierczak, M., Backmann, P., Fedriani, J.M., Fischer, R., Hartmann, A.K., Huth, A., May, F., Müller, M.S., Taubert, F., Grimm, V., Groeneveld, J., (2016):
    Monodominance in tropical forests: modelling reveals emerging clusters and phase transitions
    J. R. Soc. Interface 13 (117), art. 0123
    full text (url)
  • May, F., Wiegand, T., Lehmann, S., Huth, A., (2016):
    Do abundance distributions and species aggregation correctly predict macroecological biodiversity patterns in tropical forests?
    Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 25 (5), 575 - 585
    full text (url)
  • May, F., Huth, A., Wiegand, T., (2015):
    Moving beyond abundance distributions: neutral theory and spatial patterns in a tropical forest
    Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. Sci. 282 (1802), art. 20141657
    full text (url)
  • Velázquez, E., Paine, C.E.T., May, F., Wiegand, T., (2015):
    Linking trait similarity to interspecific spatial associations in a moist tropical forest
    J. Veg. Sci. 26 (6), 1068 - 1079
    full text (url)
  • Giladi, I., May, F., Ristow, M., Jeltsch, F., Ziv, Y., (2014):
    Scale-dependent species–area and species–isolation relationships: a review and a test study from a fragmented semi-arid agro-ecosystem
    J. Biogeogr. 41 (6), 1055 - 1069
    full text (url)
  • Körner, K., Pfestorf, H., May, F., Jeltsch, F., (2014):
    Modelling the effect of belowground herbivory on grassland diversity
    Ecol. Model. 273 , 79 - 85
    full text (url)
  • Weiss, L., Pfestorf, H., May, F., Körner, K., Boch, S., Fischer, M., Müller, J., Prati, D., Socher, S.A., Jeltsch, F., (2014):
    Grazing response patterns indicate isolation of semi-natural European grasslands
    Oikos 123 (5), 599 - 612
    full text (url)
  • Jeltsch, F., Blaum, N., Brose, U., Chipperfield, J.D., Clough, Y., Farwig, N., Geissler, K., Graham, C.H., Grimm, V., Hickler, T., Huth, A., May, F., Meyer, K.M., Pagel, J., Reineking, B., Rillig, M.C., Shea, K., Schurr, F.M., Schröder, B., Tielbörger, K., Weiss, L., Wiegand, K., Wiegand, T., Wirth, C., Zurell, D., (2013):
    How can we bring together empiricists and modellers in functional biodiversity research?
    Basic Appl. Ecol. 14 (2), 93 - 101
    full text (url)
  • May, F., Giladi, I., Ristow, M., Ziv, Y., Jeltsch, F., (2013):
    Metacommunity, mainland-island system or island communities? Assessing the regional dynamics of plant communities in a fragmented landscape
    Ecography 36 (7), 842 - 853
    full text (url)
  • May, F., Giladi, I., Ristow, M., Ziv, Y., Jeltsch, F., (2013):
    Plant functional traits and community assembly along interacting gradients of productivity and fragmentation
    Perspect. Plant Ecol. Evol. Syst. 15 (6), 304 - 318
    full text (url)
  • May, F., Grimm, V., Jeltsch, F., (2009):
    Reversed effects of grazing on plant diversity: the role of below-ground competition and size symmetry
    Oikos 118 (12), 1830 - 1843
    full text (url)

Curriculum Vitae

since 2015 Post-Doc at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Biodiversity Synthesis Research Group
2012 − 2015
Post-Doc at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Department of Ecological Modelling
2008 – 2013 PhD-student at University Potsdam
  • Department of Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation
  • Title of the dissertation: „Spatial models of plant diversity and plant functional traits – towards a better understanding of plant community dynamics in fragmented landscapes“ PDF of the dissertation
2000 - 2008 Geo-ecology at University Potsdam
  • Title of the thesis: “Modelling coexistence of plant functional types in grassland communities: the role of above- and below-ground competition” PDF of the thesis (1.8 MB)
  • Main subjects: Modelling in ecology and hydrology, plant ecology and conservation biology

Detailed CV (67.5 KB)