Shifts in ecosystem services, role of natural vegetation for climate regulation services

Team: Kirsten Thonicke, Fanny Langerwisch, Paulo Oliveira, Ariane Walz

Externally funded projects: VOLANTE (EU FP7), LEGATO (BMBF)

Regional focus: Europe, South-East Asia

Background: Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. These benefits are known as ecosystem services (ESS). Process-based modelling can strongly increase the quality of ESS assessment with respect to climate-changed induced threats to ecosystem services, and the potential to incorporate the feedbacks between the ecosystems under consideration and environmental controls. This is particularly important for regulating services, but has also implications on many other services, such as food and timber production.


Photo by F. Langerwisch

Research goals and questions: Using process-based ecosystem models and coupling these models directly to climate models allow us to investigate (A) the combined effects of climate and land use change on ESS and B) feedbacks between the regulating services and the global as well as regional climate.

  • What are the shifts in ESS provision to be expected as a combined effect of climate and land use change?
  • How strong are the feedbacks between changes in regulating services and global and regional climate?
  • What are the critical thresholds in land use change to prevent tipping points in regional climates and associated impacts on the ESS provisioning?
  • How can changes of ecosystem services be deduced and evaluated on the basis of an (simulated) ecosystem state?
  • How will ecosystem tipping points influence human well-being?