Prof. Dr. Karin Frank


Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Department of Ecological Modelling

Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig

Bld. 1.0, Room 206

Tel.: +49 341 235-1279
Fax: +49 341 235-1473

Prof. Dr. Karin Frank


The focus of my research is on modelling the structure, dynamics, functions and stability properties of ecological, eco-hydrological and social-ecological systems under the influence of global change (esp. climate, land use and institutional change). I am particularly interested (i) in providing insights into complex environmental problems related to grand challenges of the society, their functioning and induced chances and risks, (ii) in identifying (management and policy) options for their sustainable solution, and (iii) in developing respective model-based tools for decision-support. Topics are e.g.

  • Survival and spread of species and species communities under habitat loss, fragmentation and environmental fluctuations, with implications for biodiversity conservation;
  • Performance of regulating ecosystem services under multiple stressors (climatic, chemical and biological stressors), with implications for contaminant degradation, eutrophication control or the biological pump;
  • Sustainability of natural resource use in drylands; influence of uncertainty (rainfall variability, drought, eco-hydrological feedbacks); key factors of resilience; chances and risks of novel technologies and institutions; with implications for climate adaptation and poverty alleviation
  • Land use aspects of transforming the energy system; influence of markets, policies and socio-environmental context on allocation decisions and their impacts; concepts for conflict mitigation; with implications for the spatial design of sustainable renewable energy systems.

I have methodological expertise in spatial, stochastic, equation- and rule-based approaches of ecological modelling, agent-based social-ecological modelling, the integration of organismic and matter flux aspects, and the combination of theories, modelling and experiments / case studies. Synthesizing conceptual and methodological reflections are integral part of my work.

My Activities at the University of Osnabrück

Curriculum Vitae


Diploma in Mathematics, University of Leipzig
Promotion (Dr. rer. nat.), Mathematical Physics, University of Leipzig
1992 -
Scientist at the Department of Ecological Modelling (OESA) at the UFZ
2004 - 2007
Co-Head of a Junior Research Group “Ecological Economics”, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation
Habilitation (Dr. habil.), Applied System Sciences, University of Osnabrück
2010 -
W2 Professorship in “Ecological Modelling”, Joint appointment of University of Osnabrück and UFZ
Helmholtz Management Academy; Certificate of Malik Management Systems St. Gallen

Recent responsibilities at the UFZ

Head of Department of Ecological Modelling (OESA)
Spokesperson of the POF III Integrated Project “Land use aspects of transforming the energy system” (EnergyLandUse) of the Helmholtz Program “Terrestrial Environment”
Spokesperson of the Board of the UFZ Graduate School HIGRADE

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Graduate education

Modelling and integration gain increasing importance in solution-oriented environmental research. Therefore, the next generation of decision-makers in all environmental fields has to be provided with these skills as early as possible. I follow a comprehensive structured approach and facilitate (undergraduate and graduate) teaching, supervision and (UFZ-wide, national and international) capacity building in ecological and social-ecological modelling using our scientific networks.

Memberships in scientific panels

  • Member of the Selection Panel of the PhD Fellowship Program of the     DBU (since 2010)
  • Founding member of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (    iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (since 2012)
  • Member of the External Advisory Board of the U.S. National Socio-Environmental
    Synthesis Centre (SESYNC), Annapolis, MD (since 2012)


Latest Publications:
  • Dressler, G., Groeneveld, J., Buchmann, C.M., Guo, C., Hase, N., Thober, J., Frank, K., Müller, B., (2018):
    Implications of behavioral change for the resilience of pastoral systems—Lessons from an agent-based model
    Ecol. Complex.
    full text (url)
  • Dressler, G., Hoffmann, F., Breuer, I., Kreuer, D., Mahdi, M., Frank, K., Müller, B., (2018):
    Polarization in (post)nomadic resource use in Eastern Morocco: insights using a multi-agent simulation model
    Reg. Envir. Chang.
    full text (url)
  • König, S., Worrich, A., Banitz, T., Centler, F., Harms, H., Kästner, M., Miltner, A., Wick, L.Y., Thullner, M., Frank, K., (2018):
    Spatiotemporal disturbance characteristics determine functional stability and collapse risk of simulated microbial ecosystems
    Sci. Rep. 8 , art. 9488
    full text (url)
  • König, S., Worrich, A., Banitz, T., Harms, H., Kästner, M., Miltner, A., Wick, L.Y., Frank, K., Thullner, M., Centler, F., (2018):
    Functional resistance to recurrent spatially heterogeneous disturbances is facilitated by increased activity of surviving bacteria in a virtual ecosystem
    Front. Microbiol. 9 , art. 734
    full text (url)
  • Schröter, M., Koellner, T., Alkemade, R., Arnhold, S., Bagstad, K.J., Erb, K.-H., Frank, K., Kastner, T., Kissinger, M., Liu, J., López-Hoffman, L., Maes, J., Marques, A., Martín-López, B., Meyer, C., Schulp, C.J.E., Thober, J., Wolff, S., Bonn, A., (2018):
    Interregional flows of ecosystem services: Concepts, typology and four cases
    Ecosystem Services 31 (Part B), 231 - 241
    full text (url)
  • König, S., Worrich, A., Centler, F., Wick, L.Y., Miltner, A., Kästner, M., Thullner, M., Frank, K., Banitz, T., (2017):
    Modelling functional resilience of microbial ecosystems: Analysis of governing processes
    Environ. Modell. Softw. 89 , 31 - 39
    full text (url)
  • Lucas, R., Groeneveld, J., Harms, H., Johst, K., Frank, K., Kleinsteuber, S., (2017):
    A critical evaluation of ecological indices for the comparative analysis of microbial communities based on molecular datasets
    FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 93 (1), fiw209
    full text (url)
  • Oberbach, A., Haange, S.-B., Schlichting, N., Heinrich, M., Lehmann, S., Till, H., Hugenholtz, F., Kullnick, Y., Smidt, H., Frank, K., Seifert, J., Jehmlich, N., von Bergen, M., (2017):
    Metabolic in vivo labeling highlights differences of metabolically active microbes from the mucosal gastrointestinal microbiome between high-fat and normal chow diet
    J. Proteome Res. 16 (4), 1593 - 1604
    full text (url)
  • Schlüter, M., Baeza, A., Dressler, G., Frank, K., Groeneveld, J., Jager, W., Janssen, M.A., McAllister, R.R.J., Müller, B., Orach, K., Schwarz, N., Wijermans, N., (2017):
    A framework for mapping and comparing behavioural theories in models of social-ecological systems
    Ecol. Econ. 131 , 21 - 35
    full text (url)
  • Schulze, J., Gawel, E., Nolzen, H., Weise, H., Frank, K., (2017):
    The expansion of short rotation forestry: characterization of determinants with an agent-based land use model
    GCB Bioenergy 9 (6), 1042 - 1056
    full text (url)
  • Worrich, A., Stryhanyuk, H., Musat, N., König, S., Banitz, T., Centler, F., Frank, K., Thullner, M., Harms, H., Richnow, H.-H., Miltner, A., Kästner, M., Wick, L.Y., (2017):
    Mycelium-mediated transfer of water and nutrients stimulates bacterial activity in dry and oligotrophic environments
    Nat. Commun. 8 , art. 15472
    full text (url)
  • Arnold, S., Attinger, S., Frank, K., Baxter, P., Possingham, H., Hildebrandt, A., (2016):
    Ecosystem management along ephemeral rivers: trading off socio-economic water supply and vegetation conservation under flood regime uncertainty
    River Res. Appl. 32 (3), 219 - 233
    full text (url)
  • Banitz, T., Frank, K., Wick, L.Y., Harms, H., Johst, K., (2016):
    Spatial metrics as indicators of biodegradation benefits from bacterial dispersal networks
    Ecol. Indic. 60 , 54 - 63
    full text (url)
  • Dressler, G., Müller, B., Frank, K., Kuhlicke, C., (2016):
    Towards thresholds of disaster management performance under demographic change: exploring functional relationships using agent-based modeling
    Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 16 (10), 2287 - 2301
    full text (url)
  • Martin, R., Linstädter, A., Frank, K., Müller, B., (2016):
    Livelihood security in face of drought – Assessing the vulnerability of pastoral households
    Environ. Modell. Softw. 75 , 414 - 423
    full text (url)
  • Masurowski, F., Drechsler, M., Frank, K., (2016):
    A spatially explicit assessment of the wind energy potential in response to an increased distance between wind turbines and settlements in Germany
    Energy Policy 97 , 343 - 350
    full text (url)
  • Schulze, J., Frank, K., Müller, B., (2016):
    Governmental response to climate risk: Model-based assessment of livestock supplementation in drylands
    Land Use Pol. 54 , 47 - 57
    full text (url)
  • Schulze, J., Frank, K., Priess, J., Meyer, M.A., (2016):
    Assessing regional-scale impacts of short rotation coppices on ecosystem services by modeling land-use decisions
    PLOS One 11 (4), e0153862
    full text (url)
  • Singer, A., Frank, K., (2016):
    Viability of cyclic populations
    Ecology 97 (11), 3143 - 3153
    full text (url)
  • Worrich, A., König, S., Banitz, T., Centler, F., Frank, K., Thullner, M., Harms, H., Miltner, A., Wick, L.Y., Kaestner, M., (2016):
    Bacterial dispersal promotes biodegradation in heterogeneous systems exposed to osmotic stress
    Front. Microbiol. 7 , art. 1214
    full text (url)
  • Worrich, A., König, S., Miltner, A., Banitz, T., Centler, F., Frank, K., Thullner, M., Harms, H., Kästner, M., Wick, L.Y., (2016):
    Mycelium-like networks increase bacterial dispersal, growth, and biodegradation in a model ecosystem at various water potentials
    Appl. Environ. Microb. 82 (10), 2902 - 2908
    full text (url)
  • Arnold, S., Attinger, S., Frank, K., Hildebrandt, A., (2015):
    Assessing the structural adequacy of alternative ecohydrological models using a pattern-oriented approach
    Ecol. Model. 316 , 52 - 61
    full text (url)
  • Jakoby, O., Quaas, M.F., Baumgärtner, S., Frank, K., (2015):
    Adapting livestock management to spatio-temporal heterogeneity in semi-arid rangelands
    J. Environ. Manage. 162 , 179 - 189
    full text (url)
  • Lauf, T., Gawel, E., Frank, K., (2015):
    The spatial allocation of renewable power infrastructure - An economic assessment of energy landscapes with an agent-based modelling approach
    CSSSA 2015 in Santa Fe, October 29 – November 1
    The Computational Social Science Society of the Americas (CSSSA), p. 1 - 18
    full text (url)
  • Müller, B., Schulze, J., Kreuer, D., Linstädter, A., Frank, K., (2015):
    How to avoid unsustainable side effects of managing climate risk in drylands - The supplementary feeding controversy
    Agric. Syst. 139 , 153 - 165
    full text (url)

Full List of Publications: Publications