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

sUrBioCity - Deciphering Drivers of Urban Biodiversity across Multiple Scales. Involved Scientist. Funding: iDiv


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 & Traits Working Group": Involved scientist. Funding: UrBioNet

UrBioNet - Patterns & Traits Working Group

UrBioNet: A Global Network for Urban Biodiversity Research and Practice

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

Wellmann, T., Haase, D., Knapp, S., Salbach, C., Selsam, P., Lausch, A. (2018) Urban land use intensity assessment: The potential of spatio-temporal spectral traits with remote sensing. Ecological Indicators 85, 190-203

Published online with 50 days' free access until December 25th, 2017

Schwarz, N., Moretti, M., Bugalho, M., Davies, Z., Haase, D., Hack, J., Hof, A., Melero, Y., Pett. T., Knapp, S. (2017) Understanding biodiversity-ecosystem service relationships in urban areas: a comprehensive literature review. Ecosystem Services 27, 161-171

Published online (free access until November 11, 2017)

Knapp, S., Winter, M., Klotz, S. (2017) Increasing species richness, but decreasing phylogenetic richness and divergence over a 320 year period of urbanization. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (4), 1152-1160

Published online

UFZ-press release 26.04.2017

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

Published online

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

Summary article on Earth System Knowledge Platform (German only)

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.

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

Stadler, J., Klotz, S., Brandl, R. & Knapp, S. (2017) Species richness and phylogenetic structure in plant communities: 20 years of succession. Web Ecology 17, 37-46


Published online; open access

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")

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)

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

Kabisch, S., Koch, F., Gawel, E., Haase, A., Knapp, S., Krellenberg, K., Nivala, J., Zehnsdorf, A. (Eds.) (2018) Urban Transformations. Sustainable urban development through resource efficiency, quality of life and resilience. Springer International Publishing. - Out soon

See online at

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

See online (in German) 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 (in German) 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 (in German) 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