Emerging Ecosystems - Functional Dynamics under Global Change

Changes in land use and climate, invading species (including pathogens and their vectors) as well as chemical stressors alter environmental conditions into those previously not encountered. Species interact with their environment through functional traits. Depending on the perspective and question, (i) species respond via traits to the environment allowing the species to survive and reproduce and (ii) traits can have an effect on ecosystems, i.e. altering ecological conditions in a system. Newly emerging environmental conditions will hence act as selective drivers changing communities to exhibit new trait compositions and altered ecological functions. This will have consequences on ecosystem services (ESS) demanded by society such as pest regulation, nutrient provision, carbon sequestration etc. Here we will analyse how emerging environmental conditions will impact crucial ecosystem functions underlying ESS.

There is evidence that the functional response of ecosystems to temporal changes is non-linear. We assume that response trajectories can be modified by suitable management measures, considering appropriate temporal and spatial scales.


The Integrated Project Emerging Ecosystems intends to develop hierarchies of drivers determining ecosystem compositions, i.e. ranking relative importance of different drivers mentioned above and their constituent elements. This will enable us to synthesize appropriate measures across scales in the temporal hierarchy to manage emerging ecosystems (e.g. treatment of non-native species, optimal land management, adaptations to climate change) in order to provide ecosystem functions for desired ecosystem services.


IP11 Grafik Übersicht Functional response of ecosystems over time, modified after Smith et al. (2009). Responses can be short term (A) by individual responses (physiologic/metabolic, mortality), medium term (B) by species reordering and long-term (C) by species migration. The colored lines are deviations from the hypothesised trajectories (grey) due to, e.g., pest outbreaks (yellow), biological invasions, assisted translocations (red), long-living organisms or adaptation measures (blue).

More information about the Work Packages

WP 1 Theory & Synthesis

WP 2 Ecosystem Emergency Management

WP 3 Transient Dynamics

WP 4 Ecosystems of the Future