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Research interests

Main research interests:

  • Links between biodiversity, functional diversity and ecosystem functions
  • Effects of biodiversity on climate change
  • Improving functional diversity in dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs)
  • Quantifying phenotypic plasticity of plant traits
  • Implementing phenotypic plasticity into DGVMs
  • Implementing plant dispersal into DGVMs

  • Quantifying the role of Amazon forests for continental atmospheric moisture recycling
  • Coupling Dynamic Global Vegetation Models and Moisture Recycling Models

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My work at PIK:

I am involved in the EU-funded project ROBIN (Role of Biodiversity in Climate Change Mitigation). Together with numerous institutions of Europe, Middle- and South America the project aims to investigate the role of biodiversity in mitigating climate change.


The main goal of my work at PIK is to enhance the functional biodiversity of the dynamic global vegetation model LPJmL. Me and my PIK internal colleagues Kirsten Thonicke, Werner von Bloh, Alice Boit, Anja Rammig and Fanny Langerwisch created a new subversion of LPJmL we call LPJmL-FIT (Flexible Individual Traits), enabling us to investigate how functional diversity influences ecosystem productivity and biomass.


Why is our work important?:

Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) are widely used tools to quantify ecosystem functions like primary production. They enable forecasts of how global vegetation will react to climate change. The problem with most DGVMs is that they ignore important features of natural vegetation which might enable for adaptation to disturbances. Features like phenotypic plasticity and biodiversity. In DGVMs for each biome a small amount of so called plant functional types (PFTs) is used as representatives of all different plant types existing within this biome. A typical PFT is e.g. called "the tropical broadleaved evergreen tree". Those PFTs have constant traits (constant parameter within the model) like wood density or maximum rooting depth which are often a rough average of the biome or are calibrated to the simulation climate of today. This means that most DGVMs simulate the vegetation of the Earth with monocultures on the biome level. PFT parameter are constant and no other phenotypes are available. Natural systems draw a quite different picture:

1) Traits of plants can be plastic (phenotypic plasticity) enabling individual plants to adapt to changing environmental conditions within their life span.

2) The variety plant organisms with different functional traits (functional diversity) enables the system to change its composition.

The amount of trait adaptability and functional diversity is comparable to the amount of tools within a toolbox of a household. The amount of tools (functional diversity) increases the probability to solve (adaptation) a random problem (climate change) within this household (ecosystem). Following this idea we created LPJmL-FIT. This subversion of LPJmL overcomes the established PFT-approach by simulating individual trees with individual flexible parameter combinations within their natural ranges. Therefore the simulation vegetation can adapt to changing environmental conditons. The model enables us to investigate the role of functional diversity and phenotypic plasticity for the simulated ecosystem functions like net primary production or biomass.

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