Project groups

PROJECT AREA B: BIODIVERSITY DYNAMICS AND CLIMATE

The research in Project Area B focuses on analysing the consequences of climate change on distribution ranges of species, on the dynamics of biocenoses as well as on human, animal and vegetal health, as modelling and forecasting these consequences is of particular significance in the framework of climate-related studies (Thomas et al. 2004, Thuiller 2007). Until now, the climatic and ecological needs of only a few species have been comprehensively analysed, and whether most species are indeed able to track the shifting climate is still open to debate (Higgins et al. 2003a). The primary goal of our interdisciplinary approach is, therefore, to formulate prognoses about species dispersal capacities with respect to climate-driven range shifts. Special attention is paid to non-indigenous species whose importance is rapidly increasing as a result of globalisation and climate change (Suarez and Tsutsui 2008). A new emphasis is also placed on analysing the impact of climate change on organisms that cause or transmit diseases, or host pathogenic germs (Garner et al. 2006, Rezza et al. 2007). Beyond the species level, the reaction of species communities (biocenoses) to climate change might have dramatic consequences for ecosystems. For instance, most Ecosystem Services are not provided by single species but by species communities. Thus climate-driven changes in biocenoses also need to be analysed thoroughly. Investigations will be carried out through 1) a retrospective analysis of organismsal response to past climate-change events (Pfenninger et al. 2007), 2) macro-ecologic approaches based on functional traits (Kerr et al. 2007), 3) ecologic niche models, and 4) modelling of migration and dispersal capacities (Higgins et al. 2003a, b, Will & Tackenberg 2008).

The findings of Project Area B form the basis for establishing prognoses regarding the extent of range shifts of both single species and biocenoses. In addition, the results obtained will help to predict the impacts of climate change on Ecosytem Services. In close cooperation with Project Area F, recommendations will be drawn up for implementing changes in national and international policies. Recommendations will also consider climate-driven ecosystem changes in the conception of large-scale protected areas – a prerequisite for sustainable protection of Earth’s biodiversity.