Disturbances in Ecosystems

landslide animation
Animation of forest growth impacted by a landslide event.

Many ecosystems are influenced by disturbances such as e.g. land-use, fragmentation, fire, floods or storms. Despite the fundamental relevance of these disturbances for the dynamics, structure, diversity and functioning of these ecosystems we still lack a comprehensive understanding how vulnerable and sensitive disturbed ecosystems are to changes in their disturbance regime. In particular the interaction of different disturbances and between disturbances and other stress factors (such as habitat loss, pollution or temperature change) is not yet well understood and studied. However, alterations or combinations of disturbances and multiple stresses are highly relevant in the face of climate change.

The last decades have shown that many species up to communities and ecosystems are not able to cope with such combined changes. In addition, it has been shown that different ecological communities respond in different ways and with different, positive or negative, consequences.

disturbance pattern
The intermediate disturbance hypothesis predicts high biodiversity at intermediate disturbances.
Therefore understanding the complex interplay of multiple stressors and disturbance interactions within the ecological communities, in particular with respect to their structure and interspecific interactions is pivotal. It is the basis for nature conservation, risk assessment and the development of possible management strategies and policy advice for disturbed landscapes.

Our department meets these challenges by adressing the following issues:

  • Analysis of multiple disturbances (logging, fire, landslides, storms, fragmentation) and climatic stressors (drought, CO2, increased temperatures) on the structure and dynamics of forests
  • Impact of management (mowing, fertilization, irrigation) and climatic stressors (drought, CO2, increased temperatures) on the structure and dynamics of grasslands
  • Geographic range shifting of species and communities in dynamic landscapes
  • Impact of environmental stress and disturbances on the stability and functioning of microbial ecosystems
  • Modelling the isolated and combined effect of stressors on honeybee colonies
  • Population and community dynamics under different disturbance regimes
  • Functional resilience of aquatic ecosystems under multiple stressors
  • Ecological-Economic Modelling for grassland species conservation impacted by land use

Selected Publications

  • Galic, N., Sullivan, L.L., Grimm, V., Forbes, V.E., (2018):
    When things don’t add up: quantifying impacts of multiple stressors from individual metabolism to ecosystem processing
    Ecol. Lett. 21 (4), 568 - 577
    full text (url)
  • Knapp, N., Fischer, R., Huth, A., (2018):
    Linking lidar and forest modeling to assess biomass estimation across scales and disturbance states
    Remote Sens. Environ. 205 , 199 - 209
    full text (url)
  • Brinck, K., Fischer, R., Groeneveld, J., Lehmann, S., Dantas de Paula, M., Pütz, S., Sexton, J.O., Song, D., Huth, A., (2017):
    High resolution analysis of tropical forest fragmentation and its impact on the global carbon cycle
    Nat. Commun. 8 , art. 14855
    full text (url)
  • Drechsler, M., Johst, K., (2017):
    Rapid assessment of metapopulation viability under climate and land-use change
    Ecol. Complex. 31 , 125 - 134
    full text (url)
  • Galic, N., Grimm, V., Forbes, V.E., (2017):
    Impaired ecosystem process despite little effects on populations: modeling combined effects of warming and toxicants
    Glob. Change Biol. 23 (8), 2973 - 2989
    full text (url)
  • Karakoç, C., Singer, A., Johst, K., Harms, H., Chatzinotas, A., (2017):
    Transient recovery dynamics of a predator–prey system under press and pulse disturbances
    BMC Ecology 17 , art. 13
    full text (url)
  • Singer, A., Johst, K., (2017):
    Transience after disturbance: Obligate species recovery dynamics depend on disturbance duration
    Theor. Popul. Biol. 115 , 81 - 88
    full text (url)
  • Horn, J., Becher, M.A., Kennedy, P.J., Osborne, J.L., Grimm, V., (2016):
    Multiple stressors: using the honeybee model BEEHAVE to explore how spatial and temporal forage stress affects colony resilience
    Oikos 125 (7), 1001 - 1016
    full text (url)
  • Singer, A., Johst, K., Banitz, T., Fowler, M.S., Groeneveld, J., Gutiérrez, A.G., Hartig, F., Krug, R.M., Liess, M., Matlack, G., Meyer, K.M., Pe'er, G., Radchuk, V., Voinopol-Sassu, A.-J., Travis, J.M.J., (2016):
    Community dynamics under environmental change: How can next generation mechanistic models improve projections of species distributions?
    Ecol. Model. 326 , 63 - 74
    full text (url)
  • Urban, M.C., Bocedi, G., Hendry, A.P., Mihoub, J.-B., Pe'er, G., Singer, A., Bridle, J.R., Crozier, L.G., De Meester, L., Godsoe, W., Gonzalez, A., Hellmann, J.J., Holt, R.D., Huth, A., Johst, K., Krug, C.B., Leadley, P.W., Palmer, S.C.F., Pantel, J.H., Schmitz, A., Zollner, P.A., Travis, J.M.J., (2016):
    Improving the forecast for biodiversity under climate change
    Science 353 (6304), aad8466-1 - aad8466-9
    full text (url)
  • Johst, K., Drechsler, M., Mewes, M., Sturm, A., Wätzold, F., (2015):
    A novel modeling approach to evaluate the ecological effects of timing and location of grassland conservation measures
    Biol. Conserv. 182 , 44 - 52
    full text (url)
  • Kazmierczak, M., Johst, K., Huth, A., (2015):
    Conservatives and Gamblers: Interpreting plant functional response to water stress in terms of a single indicator
    Ideas Ecol. Evol. 8 (1), 29 - 41
    full text (url)