Anthropogenic induced environmental changes, e.g. climate change and land use change, are counted among the major threats to biodiversity. They alter global and local environmental conditions in unprecedented dimensions. Hence, the investigation of the ability of species and communities to cope with rapidly changing environmental conditions as well as the comprehensive understanding of possible adaptation processes is urgently needed for the protection of their diversity and the associated ecosystem processes.
To study the responses of species and communities to global change in a realistic scenario requires two things. First, it demands an experimental setup allowing the manipulation of environmental conditions. Second, it requires a community large enough to develop and maintain natural ecological and evolutionary processes. Here, the world-wide unique field experiment Global Change Experimental Facility (GCEF) builds an incomparable opportunity to investigate the impact of climate change and land use on terrestrial ecosystems. The focus of my research will be on the extensively managed grasslands of the GCEF, due to the fact that they are counted among the most heterogenic and biodiverse ecosystems in Europe and provide important ecosystem services.
Using methods of quantitative and molecular population genetics, the aim of my PhD-project is the quantification of fundamental predictors of evolutionary dynamics of multiple plant species in extensively managed grassland ecosystems under different climate and land management scenarios. Parameters like heritability, selection differentials and the response to selection will be assessed both in the GCEF and in a common garden experiment with two different environments (i.e. control & drought). In the common garden the plants will grow without competition as an aid to estimate the impact of complex ecological effects exerted by the GCEF extensive grassland community. This will help to understand the evolutionary potential and response of plant species in extensively managed grassland ecosystems to predicted climate change and to formulate future scenarios.