Sonja Knapp


Dr. Sonja Knapp
Research scientist

Department Community Ecology
Helmholtz Centre
for Environmental Research - UFZ
06120 Halle, Germany

Tel: +49 345 558 5308
Fax: +49 345 558 5329

Sonja Knapp

Research interests

Urban Ecology: urban plant biodiversity including the diversity of species, traits, and phylogeny; analysis of the effects of land use and human actions on urban plant biodiversity; linking plant biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban areas

Functional Ecology: Analysis of the functional composition of floras with regard to morphological, anatomical, and phenological traits; using these analyses to understand the processes that shape ecosystems and effects of human actions on these processes

Phyloecology: Analsis of evolutionary relationships between plant species to identify processes of community assembly

Macroecology: Large-scale patterns of plant biodiversity (regional to national) considering climate and land use as drivers of diversity

Current projects

Citizen Science-project "Recording the flora and fauna of protected areas in the city of Halle (Saale)": Coordinator. Funding: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and City of Halle (Saale), Germany

UrBioNet (Urban Biodiversity Network) "Patterns, Drivers and Traits Working Group": Involved scientist. Funding: UrBioNet


Mitigating land use conflicts - between land sparing and land sharing (Integrated Project in Topic 1 "Land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem services: sustaining human livelihoods" of the project oriented funding of the Helmholtz Association - POF III, 2014-2018), involved scientist. Funding: Helmholtz Association

Mitigating land-use conflicts

Urban transformations - sustainable urban development towards resource efficiency, quality of life and resilience (Integrated Project in Topic 1 "Land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem services: sustaining human livelihoods" of the project oriented funding of the Helmholtz Association - POF III, 2014-2018), involved scientist. Funding: Helmholtz Association 

Urban Transformations

Past projects

Natural Capital Germany - TEEB DE: Chapter coordinator for the report on "Ecosystem services in cities – Protecting health and enhancing quality of life". Funding: BMBF and BfN

Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems program for the Twin Cities Household Ecosystem Project and Cedar Creek Long-Term Ecological Research (DEB-0620652): Guest scientist at University of Minnesota, St. Paul, USA. Funding: National Science Foundation, USA (NSF)

Impacts of climate change on ecological patterns and processes (Cluster 2 in Topic 1 "Land Use Options - Strategies and Adaptation to Global Change" of the project oriented funding of the Helmholtz Association - POF II, 2009-2013), involved scientist. Funding: Helmholtz Association

RAME - Research Association Mining and Environment in Vietnam, Sub-project on plant-based methods for the sustainable recultivation of mining sites and the treatment of waste water, 2008-2011, coordination work within the sub-project. Funding: BMBF


Editorial activities

Publications: Papers in ISI-listed journals

Knapp, S., Winter, M., Klotz, S. (accepted) Increasing species richness, but decreasing phylogenetic richness and divergence over a 320 year period of urbanization. Journal of Applied Ecology, Early View (doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12826) 

Published online

Banzhaf, E., Kabisch, S., Knapp, S., Rink, D., Wolff, M., Kindler, A. (2017) Integrated Research on Land-Use Changes in the Face of Urban Transformations – an Analytic Framework for Further Studies. Land Use Policy 60, 403-407

Knapp, S., Schweiger, O., Kraberg, A., Asmus, H., Asmus, R., Brey, T., Frickenhaus, S., Gutt, J., Kühn, I., Liess, M., Musche, M., Pörtner, H.-O., Seppelt, R., Klotz, S. & Krause, G. (2017) Do drivers of biodiversity change differ in importance across marine and terrestrial systems - or is it just different research communities' perspectives? Science of the Total Environment 574, 191-203.


Published online, open access

Kabisch, N., Frantzeskaki, N., Pauleit, S., Naumann, S., Davis, M., Artmann, M., Haase, D., Knapp, S., Korn, H., Stadler, J., Zaunberger, K., Bonn, A. (2016) Nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation in urban areas - perspectives on indicators, knowledge gaps, barriers and opportunities for action. Ecology and Society, 21 (2): 39

Published online

Knapp, S., Stadler, J., Harpke, A. & Klotz, S. (2016) Dispersal traits as indicators of vegetation dynamics in long-term old-field succession. Ecological Indicators, 65, 44-54 (doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.10.003)

See paper in special issue "The value of long-term ecosystem research (LTER)"

Jaganmohan, M., Knapp, S., Buchmann, C.M. & Schwarz, N. (2016) The bigger, the better? The influence of urban green space design on cooling effects for residential areas. Journal of Environmental Quality, 45, 134-145

Published online

Wang H.-F., Qureshi, S., Knapp, S., Friedman, C.R. & Hubacek, K. (2015) A basic assessment of residential plant diversity and its ecosystem services and disservices in Beijing, China. Applied Geography 64, 121-131.

Published online

Knapp, S., Wittig, R. (2012) An analysis of temporal homogenisation and differentiation in Central European village floras. Basic and Applied Ecology, 13, 319-327 (  


Knapp, S., Kühn, I. (2012) Origin matters: Widely distributed native and non-native species benefit from different functional traits. Ecology Letters, 15, 696-703 (doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01787.x)  


Knapp, S., Dinsmore, L., Fissore, C., Hobbie, S. E., Jakobsdottir, I., Kattge, J., King, J., Klotz, S., McFadden, J. P. & Cavender-Bares, J. (2012) Phylogenetic and functional characteristics of household yard floras and their changes along an urbanization gradient. Ecology, 93, S83-S98 (doi: 


Research Highlight in Nature

Special Issue "Integrating Ecology and Phylogenetics" featured by US National Science Foundation

Beck J., Ballesteros-Mejia L., Buchmann C.M., Dengler J., Fritz S., Gruber B., Hof C., Jansen F., Knapp S., Kreft H., Schneider A-K., Winter M., Dormann C.F. (2012) What’s on the horizon of macroecology? Ecography, 35, 673-683 (doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2012.07364.x)  


Bräuniger, C., Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Klotz, S. (2010) Testing taxonomic and landscape surrogates for biodiversity in an urban setting. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97, 283-295 (doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.07.001)  


Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Stolle, J. & Klotz, S. (2010) Changes in the functional composition of a Central European urban flora over three centuries. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 12, 235-244 (doi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2009.11.001) 


Also see the newspaper-article at "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung" (in German only)

Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Bakker, J.P., Kleyer, M., Klotz, S., Ozinga, W.A., Poschlod, P., Thompson, K., Thuiller, W. & Römermann, C. (2009) How species traits and affinity to urban land use control large-scale species frequency. Diversity and Distributions, 15, 533-546 (doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2009.00561.x)


Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Wittig, R., Ozinga, W.A., Poschlod, P. & Klotz, S. (2008) Urbanization causes shifts in species' trait state frequencies. Preslia 80, 375-388 


Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Schweiger, O. & Klotz, S. (2008) Challenging urban species diversity: contrasting phylogenetic patterns across plant functional groups in Germany. Ecology Letters 11, 1054-1064 (doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01217.x) 


Also see the interview with "Deutschlandfunk" (in German only)

Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Mosbrugger, V. & Klotz, S (2008) Do protected areas in urban and rural landscapes differ in species diversity? Biodiversity and Conservation 17, 1595-1612 (doi: 10.1007/s10531-008-9369-5) 


Please also mind the erratum to this article

Publications: Papers in journals not listed in ISI

Knapp, S. (2015) Die Stadt der Zukunft - grün, vielfältig, lebenswert? FORUM der Geoökologie 26 (3), 41-43 ("The city of the future - green, diverse, worth living?")  


Knapp, S. (2014) Die Stadt brummt. Vom Wert der Stadtnatur für Pflanzen und Bienen. Allgemeine Deutsche Imkerzeitung / Die Biene / Imkerfreund, 1/2014, 18-19 ("The city is buzzing. On the value of urban nature for plants and bees")

See online at

Knapp, S., Gerth, A. & Klotz, S. (2012) Sustainable recultivation and wastewater treatment in Vietnamese coal mining. World of Mining - Surface & Underground 64, 253-261 (bilingual: German, English)

See online at

Knapp, S. (2008) Vielfalt vor der Haustür. Biodiversität in der Stadt. Forum der Geoökologie 19 (3), 28-31 ("Diversity next door. Biodiversity in town")


Knapp, S., Kühn, I., Mosbrugger, V. & Klotz, S. (2006) Artenvielfalt in Schutzgebieten der Stadt Halle (Saale) und des Saalkreises - ein Stadt-Land-Vergleich. (Species diversity in the protected areas of Halle and Saalkreis, Central Germany - a comparison of city and countryside) Geobotanische Kolloquien 20, 21-30. Frankfurt am Main

Hoechstetter, S., Wahr, J., Knapp, S., Klotz, S., Uhl, D., Thiv, M. & Mosbrugger, V. (2005) Muster der Biodiversität von Gefäßpflanzen in Baden-Württemberg - eine geostatistische Analyse abiotischer Einflussfaktoren (Biodiversity patterns of vascular plants in Baden-Wuerttemberg (SW-Germany) - a geostatistical analysis of abiotic factors). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde Serie A (Biologie), Nr.676 

Publications: Books, book chapters and reports

Knapp, S., Klotz, S. (2017) Stadtnatur. In: Marx, A. (Ed.), Klimaanpassung in Forschung und Politik. pp. 215-236. Springer Spektrum, Wiesbaden.

See online at

Knapp, S., Keil, A., Keil, P., Reidl, K., Rink, D., Schemel, H.-J. (2016) Naturerleben, Naturerfahrung und Umweltbildung. In: Kowarik, I., Bartz, R., Brenck, M. (Eds.) Naturkapital Deutschland – TEEB DE: Ökosystemleistungen in der Stadt – Gesundheit schützen und Lebensqualität erhöhen, S. 146 – 169. TU Berlin, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung – UFZ. Berlin, Leipzig.

See online at

Fischer, F., Schneider, H., Fröhle, K., Knapp, S., Locher, R., Reidl, K., Rink, D., Schwarze-Rodrian, M. (2016) Natur und Wirtschaft. In: Kowarik, I., Bartz, R., Brenck, M. (Eds.) Naturkapital Deutschland – TEEB DE: Ökosystemleistungen in der Stadt – Gesundheit schützen und Lebensqualität erhöhen, S. 203 – 215. TU Berlin, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung – UFZ. Berlin, Leipzig. 

See online at

Knapp, S. (2014) The Urban Garden: A Centre of Interactions Between People and Biodiversity. In: Kabisch, N., Larondelle, N., Reeve, A., Artmann, M. (Editors) Human-Environmental Interactions in Cities: Challenges and Opportunities of Urban Land Use Planning and Green Infrastructure, p. 82-99, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  

See online at

Knapp, S. (2010) Plant biodiversity in urbanized areas. Plant functional traits in space and time, plant rarity and phylogenetic diversity. Vieweg + Teubner, GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden. ISBN 978-3-8348-0923-0 (PhD thesis)

See online at