Department of Conservation Biology

Working group - Conservation Oriented Population Ecology - COPE

The unprecedented expansion of human activities across the globe leads to an ever-increasing loss of natural habitats, their fragmentation and degradation. In addition, overexploitation of natural resources contributes to the destabilization of ecosystems and climate change is putting every ecosystem under stress. Together, these anthropogenic pressures threaten biodiversity in general and not every species can easily cope with them; only through great effort and by means of appropriate measures can the decline in biodiversity be halted. However, for the application of such measures, many factors influencing species survival under habitat loss, overexploitation and climate change need to be considered simultaneously. These include environmental factors, spatio-temporal stochasticity, and biological factors such as species mobility, evolutionary potential and population parameters. interact with these anthropogenic drives. Advancing the protection of species in changing landscapes therefore requires a better understanding of animal-landscape interactions taking place at the individual, population and community levels and how they scale up.
Population ecology
One of the WG's fields of work is the analysis of different land use strategies and their effects on the population dynamics of certain animal species.
Drawing: Bianca Bauch
The research group COPE 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 invasive species, international species trade, climate change and habitat loss due to land use 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 aspects in our studies include species' traits and environmental responses; animal movement and dispersal (connectivity), population dynamics, strategies to cope with these changes, but also physiology and phylogenetics.

We provide recommendations for nature conservation and international species protection (e.g. under which scenarios a sustainable use of natural resources could take place), and for implementation and optimization of biodiversity monitoring methods at local, national and global scales. Furthermore, we seek to understand local conservation conflicts that may arise due to changes in the occurrence of different species and to minimise them by means of suitable planning instruments.

An important part of the COPE research group comprises field-based data collection such as inventories, surveys and monitoring. For this purpose, we use a variety of sampling approaches, including Citizen Science, wildlife detection dogs, ID-tracking and eDNA.  Finally, we are concerned that field-based biodiversity data follow the FAIR principles, i.e., are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, and provide tools for FAIR data and metadata management.

Group members

Ongoing projects

Completed projects

Selected publications


Group members

Guest scientists


Wildlife Detection Dogs

We also have four-legged employees in our WG. You can find more information about this here.


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.


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.