Monday 10 March 2014

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 13 March 2014

Biosciences Seminar Series - Lent 2014
13 March 2014 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Plant diversity, global change, and multitrophic interactions

Dr. Christoph Scherber

The Jena experiment (Bild 02 -

Biodiversity is fascinating, be it a highly diverse grassland in full bloom, a tropical rainforest or a coral reef. But why are some sites less diverse? What happens if a site gets disturbed, e.g. due to human action? And, if the biodiversity of a site changes, what are the effects on the underlying ecosystem processes, such as plant-insect interactions or herbivory? Can the effects of biodiversity changes counteracted? In particular, what are the effects of anthropogenic environmental changes, such as climate and habitat change?

Our seminar speaker this week, Dr. Christoph Scherber from the University of Goettingen (Germany), has a long-standing interest in similar questions, which he addresses through a combination of experimental and observational approaches. Research in his group spans a bewildering range of different study systems, from tropical ecosystems to agricultural landscapes, grassland management, forest biodiversity or peat bog ecosystems (see here). 

In particular, his talk this week will feature research his group has carried out within the famous Jena Biodiversity Experimentone of the longest-running biodiversity experiments in Europe (running since 10+ years), aimed at understanding biodiversity effects in experimental grassland communities.

Recent experiments have shown that biodiversity loss may affect a wide range of ecosystem processes and interactions among organisms. In addition, global change drivers (such as climatic changes) may affect interactions among organisms.

In this talk, I will show recent results from several large scale experimental systems: (i) The Jena biodiversity experiment and (2) The Danish CLIMAITE experiment. In addition, I´ll report on findings from real-world grassland and forest systems to show that results gained in highly experimental settings can be reproduced also in real-world systems.

In the Jena experiment, we manipulated plant species richness and community composition for more than ten years and studied effects of plant diversity on a wide range of organism interactions. I will show that plant diversity has bottom-up effects on multitrophic interactions that dampen with increasing trophic level. I will also show new data on the effects of prey diversity on omnivores in the Jena Experiment, where we use molecular methods to unravel trophic interactions in aboveground systems.

In the "Climaite" experiment, we independently manipulated drought, warming and atmospheric CO2 concentration in a Danish heathland. I will show how multi-factor climate change affects insect herbivore performance and above-belowground interactions.

Overall, the talk should be interesting for a wide range of biologists, from molecular biologists and microbiologists to biodiversity and global change researchers. I´ll conclude that effects of biodiversity loss and interacting global change drivers have complex effects on ecosystem processes and organism interactions.

Everyone most welcome, as usual, and please let your students know!

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