Dr. Rico Fischer


Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ Leipzig

Department of Ecological Modelling

Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig

Buildung 1.0, Room 202 Map

Tel.: +49 341 235 - 48 2267
Fax: +49 341 235 - 45 2267

Research Interests

Expert in Forest Modelling and Remote Sensing

  • Forest ecology and forest modeling
  • Carbon cycle and disturbances in forest ecosystems
  • Linking remote sensing and ecological modelling
  • The impact of climate change and land use change on ecosystem services
  • Tropical forest fragmentation and their consequences
  • The impacts of extreme events for forests in Germany Project MOMENT

"Stands of Time" within the heart of the Malagasy Hauts-Plateaux. Credit: Trent Marwick


Forest Modeling

The forest gap model FORMIND is an individual-based vegetation model that simulates the growth of forests on the hectare scale. It allows to explore forest dynamics and forest structure including also processes like gap building (falling down of large trees).

Publication: Lessons learned from applying a forest gap model to understand ecosystem and carbon dynamics of complex tropical forests.

More details about FORMIND at www.formind.org

FORMIND at Wikipedia

FORMIND. An individual-based forest model.

Simulating the carbon stocks and fluxes of tropical rainforests at Mt. Kilimanjaro

Analyzing the carbon fluxes of a tropical forest in Tansania, Africa. We simulated biomass dynamics, forest productivity and carbon fluxes for a sub-montane forest at Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Publication: Simulating Carbon Stocks and Fluxes of an African Tropical Montane Forest with an Individual-Based Forest Model

Modelling the dynamics of tropical rainforests in Madagascar under climate change

Simulating the dynamics of lowland tropical forest in a changing world. Analyzing the impact of drought and logging on rainforest structure and dynamics.

Publication: Simulating the impacts of reduced rainfall on carbon stocks and net ecosystem exchange in a tropical forest

Publication: Simulating Forest Dynamics of Lowland Rainforests in Eastern Madagascar

Evaluating the impact of selective logging on forest dynamics

Analyzing the mid- and long-term impacts of different management intensities on the dynamic and structure of a species-rich tropical lowland forest of French Guiana. High selective logging intensities prolong the recovery times of ecosystem functions such as biomass and productivity.

Publication: Simulation of succession in a neotropical forest: High selective logging intensities prolong the recovery times of ecosystem functions.

A multi-scaled analysis of forest structure and sampling strategies

Consideration of scale is essential when examining structural relationships in forests. Sampling strategy also plays a critical role in estimating forest characteristics. The scale as well as the sampling are crucial to correctly assess biomass in forests.

Publication: A multi-scaled analysis of forest structure using individual-based modeling in a costa rican rainforest.

Publication: An analysis of forest biomass sampling strategies across scales.

Grouping of tree species for modelling species-rich forests

The challenge of considering the high species diversity of tropical forests in forest models is often addressed by grouping species into plant functional types (PFTs). However, the number of PFTs affect the predictions of forest productivity and other carbon fluxes derived from forest simulations.

Publication: Consequences of a Reduced Number of Plant Functional Types for the Simulation of Forest Productivity

Formind the forest model
Visualisation of Formind the forest model. See www.formind.org for more details.

Remote Sensing

Emissions from the edge of the forest: global forest fragmentation

Deforestation has a correspondingly fatal effect, even for the remaining forest fragments. Vegetation at the edges is exposed to an unfavourable micro-climate: direct solar radiation and higher wind speeds mean that these areas dry out more readily. We analysed the state of tropical forest fragmentation and its impact on the global carbon cycle by using high-resolution remote sensing data. We have discovered that fragmentation of formerly contiguous areas of forest leads to carbon emissions rising by another third.

The photo shows forest fragments of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest in Northeastern Brazil. Photo: Mateus Dantas de Paula

Publication: High resolution analysis of tropical forest fragmentation and its impact on the global carbon cycle.

Press release

We found also similar patterns of fragment sizes in the tropics across all continents. These patterns follow exactly the analytical predictions of percolation theory. In our analysis we show that, beyond the critical point, continental tropical landscapes will in future consist of many more small and isolated forest fragments if deforestation continues as before.

Publication: Global patterns of tropical forest fragmentation

Press release

Estimating forest structure from remote sensing

We investigated the potential of lidar and radar data to monitor forest biomass and forest structure and its temporal variations. Forest structure identification can be used to distinguish between different forest stages and different types induced by logging, natural disturbance, or forest management.

Publication: Remote Sensing Measurements of Forest Structure Types for Ecosystem Service Mapping

Publication: Monitoring of Forest Structure Dynamics by Means of L-Band SAR Tomography

More methods regarding forest structure analysis was performed within the HGF Alliance “Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics” - improving the understanding and modelling of dynamic processes.


Linking Remote Sensing with Ecological Modeling

An innovative research field is the combination of individual-based vegetation models with the latest remote sensing technology. For this purpose, the high degree of detail of the models in combination with the full-coverage measurement of the earth is used to determine the different ecosystem functions.

Estimating forest biomass and carbon fluxes from remote sensing

Forest models can help to better interpret remote sensing data. The linkage of models with remote sensing (e.g., lidar) allow to develop robust relationships between remote sensing metrics and forest variables like biomass. This can be done for local studies as well as for whole continents.

Publication: Linking lidar and forest modeling to assess biomass estimation across scales and disturbance states

Publication: The importance of forest structure for carbon fluxes of the Amazon rainforest.

Publication: From small-scale forest structure to Amazon-wide carbon estimates.

Satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X 3D-scanning the earth surface. Image: EADS Astrium

The role of forest structure for biomass and productivity

Future remote sensing missions will have the capability to provide information on forest structure (e.g., from lidar or radar). By linking remote sensing techniques with vegetation modelling, the role of forest structure for ecosystem services of forests can be investigated. This will lead to more accurate assessments of forest biomass and productivity around the globe.

Publication: The Relevance of Forest Structure for Biomass and Productivity in Temperate Forests: New Perspectives for Remote Sensing.

Publication: Remote Sensing Measurements of Forest Structure Types for Ecosystem Service Mapping

Forest Structure in Germany
Forest Structure in Germany. Estimated horizontal and vertical forest structure by linking remote sensing with a forest model.

Science in the News

Fires and Deforestation in the Amazon

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 27. August 2019

    "Regenwälder sind mehr in Gefahr als je zuvor"

ZDF, 27. August 2019

    Verheerende Brände weltweit - Zündquelle Mensch.

Spiegel Online, 23. August 2019

    "Der Regenwald braucht mindestens hundert Jahre, um sich zu erholen"

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 25. Oktober 2019

    #Fragen4Future Amazonas Abholzung?

Press release, 08. November 2019

    The forests of the Amazon are an important carbon sink.

Klimawald 2.0, July 2020, Bayerische Staatsforsten

    „Der Amazonas könnte von einer Kohlenstoff­senke zur ­-quelle werden.“

Forest Fragmentation in the Tropics

Press release, 14. February 2018

    Deforestation and Fragmentation in the tropics.

Press release, 30. March 2017

    Emissions from the edge of the forest.

Zoo Leipzig and Visualization of Forests

Zoo Live, August 2012

    Baummessung in Gondwanaland (page 10).

Spiegel TV, 24. May 2012

    Virtueller Waldspaziergang: In 3D durch Sachsens Tropen.

Press release, 28. June 2011

    Gondwanaland hilft Wissenschaftlern, Waldmodelle zu verbessern.


Resonator - Der Forschungspodcast der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, 25. Oktober 2019

    Resonator Waldmodellierung

UFZ-Newsletter, February 2014

    Mathematik für den Regenwald (page 11)

2021 (1)

2020 (4)

2019 (5)

2018 (10)

2017 (4)

2016 (3)

2015 (2)

2014 (3)

since 2018 Post Doc position at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig. Linking remote sensing and forest modeling.
2013 - 2017 Post Doc position at the Helmholtz Alliance “Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics"
2010 - 2013 PhD student at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig within the DFG Research Unit "KiLi” Kilimanjaro ecosystems under global change - Linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical ecosystem processes
Thesis: "Modelling the dynamics of African tropical forests. Analysis of the influence of disturbances on tropical forests using the FORMIND forest model"
2008 - 2010 Master in Applied Mathematics at the University of Applied Science (HTWK) Leipzig
Thesis: "Modelling the growth of rainforests. Investigation of the effects of drought stress and timber use on the tropical rainforest using the example of RNI Betampona, Madagascar"
2005 - 2008 Diploma in Business Mathematics at the University of Applied Science (HTWK) Leipzig
Thesis: "Modelling of non-linear dependencies with the help of copulas - application in the determination of value at risk"


2014 - UFZ Doctoral Award
2013 - Best Presentation HIGRADE Conference