Department of Conservation Biology

Working group - Population ecology and landscape structures

The unprecedented expansion of human activities across the globe leads to an ever-increasing loss of natural habitats, their fragmentation and degradation. In addition, over-exploitation of natural resources contributes to biodiversity loss and therein the destabilization of ecosystems.

Combined with climate change, anthropogenic pressures threaten biodiversity and demand prime efforts to generate relevant knowledge for halting the loss of populations and species. One must account for species needs and the multiple factors that affect their survival in altered and fragmented landscapes; and at the same time, the fact that many species and landscapes are over-exploited. On top, environmental factors include landscape structure and configuration, spatio-temporal stochasticity, and the quality of both habitats and the matrix. Finally, biological factors such as the mobility of species and their population parameters interact with landscape structure to determine connectivity.

Advancing the protection of species in altered environments therefore requires better understanding of animal-landscape interactions - taking place at the individual, population and landscape levels - and how these scale up.

Population ecology
Population Ecology and Landscape Structures: Impacts of land use on species depends on scale of perception.
Drawing: Bianca Bauch
Our research group focuses on the study of the effects of multiple anthropogenic drivers on biodiversity, at different temporal and spatial scales (local, landscape, regional) and through different levels of biological organization (species, populations, communities). Among the main drivers of transformed natural conditions we study habitat loss and fragmentation, changes in land cover and land use, light pollution and renewable constructions, invasive species introductions, the international trade in species, and climate change. Our main goal is to understand the ecological processes behind observed patterns of species occurrence, abundance, distribution and composition, including species' status and trends, risk assessments and the consequences of over-exploitation of species - as well as the consequences of uncertainty. Key issues in our studies include species' traits and environmental responses; animal movement and dispersal (connectivity), population dynamics and phylogenetics.
We provide guidance and recommendations for biodiversity conservation, monitoring and sustainable use. We help set priorities, support decision-making processes and determining local, national and regional responsibilities.

Group members

Ongoing projects

Completed projects

Selected publications


Group members

Guest scientists



Current projects


The following projects are formally considered as completed. In some cases, however, research will be continued independently of financial support and administrative framework conditions. These can be activities for the publication of further results, field work to collect further data or activities for applying for new projects. Often, new interesting questions have crystallized in the completed projects or there are questions that could be raised in the framework, but not finally solved. These are good starting points for bachelor and master theses or perhaps a PhD project. Students as well as interested employees are welcome to contact the respective project managers and will be involved and supported wherever possible.

Completed projects


Selected publications

Grimm-Seyfarth A, Mihoub J-B, Gruber B, Henle, K, (2018): Some like it hot: from individual to population responses of an arboreal arid‐zone gecko to local and distant climate. Ecol. Monogr. 88 (3), 336 - 352

Haase P, Tonkin J D, Stoll S, Burkhardt B, Frenzel M, Geijzendorffer I R, Häuser C, Klotz S, Kühn I, McDowell W H, Mirtl M, Müller F, Musche M, Penner J, Zacharias S, Schmeller D S (2018): The next generation of site-based long-term ecological monitoring: Linking essential biodiversity variables and ecosystem integrity. Sci. Total Environ. 613–614 , 1376 - 1384

Dislich C, Keyel A C, Salecker J, Kisel Y, Meyer K M, Auliya M, Barnes A D, Corre M D, Darras K, Faust H, Hess B, Klasen S, Knohl A, Kreft H, Meijide A, Nurdiansyah F, Otten F, Pe'er G, Steinebach S, Tarigan S, Tölle M H, Tscharntke T, Wiegand K (2017): A review of the ecosystem functions in oil palm plantations, using forests as a reference system. Biol. Rev. 92 (3), 1539 - 1569

Grimm-Seyfarth A, Mihoub J-B, Henle K (2017): Too hot to die? The effects of vegetation shading on past, present, and future activity budgets of two diurnal skinks from arid Australia. Ecol. Evol. 7 (17), 6803 - 6813

Gunton R M, Marsh C J, Moulherat S, Malchow A-K, Bocedi G, Klenke R A, Kunin W E (2017):
Multicriterion trade-offs and synergies for spatial conservation planning. J. Appl. Ecol. 54 (3), 903 - 913

Menger J, Unrein J, Woitow M, Schlegel M, Henle K, Magnusson WE. 2017. Weak evidence for fine-scale genetic spatial structure in three sedentary Amazonian understorey birds. Journal of Ornithology doi: 10.1007/s10336-017-1507-y

Henle K, Andres C, Bernhard D, Grimm A, Stoev P, Tzankov N, Schlegel M (2017): Are species genetically more sensitive to habitat fragmentation on the periphery of their range compared to the core? A case study on the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis). Landsc. Ecol. 32 (1), 131 - 145

Hofmann S, Everaars J, Frenzel M, Bannehr L, Cord A F (2017): Modelling patterns of pollinator species richness and diversity using satellite image texture. PLOS One 12 (10), e0185591

Jeliazkov A, Bas Y, Kerbiriou Ch, Julien J-F, Penone C, Le Viol I (2016) Large-scale semi-automated acoustic monitoring allows to detect temporal decline of bush-crickets, Global Ecology and Conservation 6, 208-218

Ferreira C, Bastille-Rousseau G, Bennett A, Ellington H, Terwissen C, Austin C, Borlestean A, Boudreau M, Chan K, Forsythe A, Hossie T, Landolt K, Longhi J, Otis J A, Peers M, Rae J, Seguin J, Watt C, Wehtje M, Murray D L (2016): The evolution of peer review as a basis for publication in ecology: Directional selection towards a robust discipline. Biological Reviews 91: 597–610.