Research & Projects

The two main foci of the ecosystem functioning and services lab in­vol­ve ac­qui­ring a bet­ter un­der­stan­ding and fos­te­ring of ex­ten­si­ve­ly ma­na­ged bio­di­ver­se sys­tems and ma­king in­ten­si­ve­ly ma­na­ged sys­tems more sustainable:  

  1. Extensive land use, land sharing and ecological restoration: testing the potential role of priority effects during assembly.
  2. Sustainable intensification: Improving the efficiency of nutrient-use in cropping systems by using functional diversity approaches.

Research topics

  • Testing priority effects (order of arrival of plant species and functional groups) in assembly as a potential tool for the restoration of biodiverse ecological communities.
  • Investigating the importance of weather conditions on the creation and persistence of priority effects during assembly of grassland plant communities. POEM project
  • Elucidating the mechanisms leading to priority effects during assembly.  POEM project
  • The role of nitrogen facilitation in ecosystem functioning and assembly – with particular focus on legume-non legume interactions
  • Using positive interactions (both between plants of different functional groups and in cropping systems) for the sustainable transformation of cropping and bioenergy systems. INPLAMINT projekt
  • Improving the integration and transfer of knowledge between ecology and policy at the science-policy interface.
  • Linking ecological know-how and knowledge based on the above topics with social and governance perspectives to help transform systems towards sustainability (including land sharing and land sparing).

Extensive land use, land sharing and ecological restoration – the potential role of priority effects during assembly

It does matter who is interacting with who and at what time point

Bio­tic in­ter­ac­tions that oc­cur at ra­ther small sca­les bet­ween func­tio­nal­ly-dis­tinct plant spe­cies can dri­ve how eco­sys­tems func­tion at lar­ger sca­les, both in terms of po­si­ti­ve bio­di­ver­si­ty ef­fects as well as af­fec­ting as­sem­bly of plant com­mu­nities. Thus the re­se­arch in the Tem­per­ton lab fo­cu­ses on achie­ving a bet­ter un­der­stan­ding of smal­ler sca­le plant-plant in­ter­ac­tions with a view to in­for­ming eco­sys­tem ma­nage­ment and eco­lo­gi­cal resto­ra­ti­on/​con­ser­va­ti­on. Our aim is pro­vi­de buil­ding blocks of know­ledge cont­ri­bu­ting to in­cre­a­sing the pre­dic­tive and ap­p­li­ca­ti­on po­ten­ti­al of eco­lo­gi­cal know­ledge. 

Long-term bio­di­ver­si­ty ex­pe­ri­ments ge­ne­ral­ly in­vol­ve ar­ti­fi­ci­al­ly as­sem­bled plant com­mu­nities and find strong po­si­ti­ve bio­di­ver­si­ty ef­fects on eco­sys­tem func­tio­n­ing, thus more spe­cies leads to mul­ti­ple func­tions in the eco­sys­tem. The re­le­van­ce of the­se ex­pe­ri­men­tal re­sults for na­tu­ral­ly as­sem­bling com­mu­nities in the real world, in­clu­ding the role of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­text, is an im­portant field in cur­rent eco­lo­gy and of high re­le­van­ce for sustaina­bi­li­ty. It is not yet cle­ar to what extent fin­dings from ex­pe­ri­ments are ap­p­lica­ble in na­tu­ral ha­bi­tats un­der­go­ing as­sem­bly with im­mi­gra­ti­on/emi­gra­ti­on, spe­cies sor­ting by en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­ti­ons, ma­nage­ment and his­to­ri­cal con­tin­gen­cy ef­fects. In the Tem­per­ton lab we test to what extent his­to­ry mat­ters in eco­lo­gy by stu­dy­ing prio­ri­ty ef­fects cau­sed by so­wing spe­ci­fic plant spe­cies and func­tio­nal groups whilst then al­lo­wing sub­se­quent na­tu­ral as­sem­bly. This research is of high re­le­van­ce to eco­lo­gi­cal resto­ra­ti­on, whe­re hu­man in­ter­ven­ti­on is slot­ted into the dy­na­mics of na­tu­ral sys­tems.

A key fo­cus is on root-root in­ter­ac­tions and the po­ten­ti­al role of priority effects du­ring as­sem­bly as a tool for eco­sys­tem ma­nage­ment and resto­ra­ti­on. In­cre­a­sin­gly, we are in­ves­ti­ga­ting the me­cha­nisms be­hind prio­ri­ty ef­fects (which oc­cur when spe­cies ar­ri­ving first at a site si­gni­fi­cant­ly af­fect fur­ther as­sem­bly), with a view to in­for­ming resto­ra­ti­on of de­gra­ded sites.  Prio­ri­ty ef­fects ge­ne­ral­ly last for qui­te a num­ber of ye­ars and can lead to al­ter­na­ti­ve sta­tes in ve­ge­ta­ti­on, thus being of high re­le­van­ce to the crea­ti­on of hig­her (beta) di­ver­si­ty at land­scape sca­les.

Sin­ce spe­cies-rich grass­lands and other open ha­bi­tats are cur­rent­ly par­ti­cu­lar­ly threa­te­ned by ha­bi­tat loss, both due to land use in­ten­si­fi­ca­ti­on and land aban­don­ment, we need in­cen­ti­ves for far­mers to con­ser­ve/res­to­re spe­cies-rich grass­lands and keep ex­ten­si­ve­ly ma­na­ging such ha­bi­tats. The sta­tus of gras­sy bio­mes does not cur­rent­ly re­flect its im­port­an­ce in terms of eco­sys­tem ser­vices they pro­vi­de world­wi­de. Being able to send plant com­mu­nities along spe­ci­fic de­si­red tra­jec­to­ries that in­crea­se pro­duc­tivi­ty and car­bon sto­r­a­ge whilst at the same time main­tai­ning or res­to­ring bio­di­ver­si­ty could form an in­cen­ti­ve for land ow­ners to go for both and food se­cu­ri­ty wi­t­hin an ex­ten­si­ve­ly ma­na­ged sys­tem.