Jena Experiment



2002 – 2022
(current phase since 2016)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
(DFG), FOR 456, FOR 1451



The Jena Grassland Biodiversity Experiment (in short: The Jena Experiment) was set up in 2002 to study the effects of plant biodiversity on ecosystem processes. The experiment aims at understanding if, and why and how biodiversity affects variables at the ecosystem level.

The experiment is based on experiences from previous biodiversity experiments such as BIODEPTH or the CEDAR CREEK experiment started by David Tilman at the University of Minnesota, USA.

Plant diversity is manipulated on a 10ha field site nearby the Saale river within the city boundaries of Jena in Thuringia, Germany. From a species pool of 60 species plant communities of 1-60 plant species and 1-4 plant functional groups were sown on a former arable site. The experiment consists of a number of sub-experiments, the main experiment (species range 1-60 species in large plots), the dominance experiment (species range from 1-9 species, only dominant species) and the trait-based experiment (started in 2011). For details of the sub-experiments see the website and the paper by Christiane Roscher et al. (2004).

The Jena Experiment has a particular focus on element cycling and species interactions. Since 2002 the experiment yielded time-series data on a wide range of ecosystem processes, ranging from productivity, C-storage, and N- and P-cycling, herbivory, pollination and decomposition. Applied aspects include bioenergy production, varying management intensity, and the role of plant diversity for climate change adaptation. For all plant species a large number of demographic, morphological and physiological variables has been assembled. A particular strength of the research group is the complementarity of the approaches used by the different research groups. So far, several thousand variables have been measured in each of the diversity plots. Recent synthesis articles are by Scherber et al. (2010) on multi-trophic interactions and by Proulx et al. (2010) on the role of biodiversity for stability.

The Jena Experiment is a platform for functional biodiversity research. At present, participating core research groups are from Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and France. Please contact W. Weisser if you are interested in conducting research in the Jena Experiment.

The Weisser group was responsible for the database and is still involved in investigating the role of plant diversity for arthropod diversity and interactions between plants, their insect herbivores, insect pollinators and the natural enemies of herbivores and pollinators. In our most recent project, we also focus on the role of the plant microbiome for plant-insect interactions, in a cooperation with Stefanie Schulz and Michael Schloter of the Helmholtz Center Munic.


Weisser, W. W., C. Roscher, S. Meyer, A. Ebeling, G. Luo, E. Allan, H. Beßler, R. Barnard, N. Buchmann, F. Buscot, C. Engels, C. Fischer, M. Fischer, A. Gessler, G. Gleixner, S. Halle, A. Hildebrandt, H. Hillebrand, H. d. Kroon, M. Lange, S. Leimer, X. L. Roux, A. Milcu, L. Mommer, P. Niklaus, Y. Oelmann, R. Proulx, J. Roy, C. Scherber, M. Scherer-Lorenzen, S. Scheu, T. Tscharntke, M. Wachendorf, C. Wagg, A. Weigelt, W. Wilcke, C. Wirth, E.-D. Schulze, B. Schmid and N. Eisenhauer. 2017. Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning in a 15-year grassland experiment: patterns, mechanisms, and open questions. Basic and Applied Ecology 23:1-73. PDF

Further, on Forschung webpage:

in German (
or English (


Project Coordination
Speaker: Prof. Nico Eisenhauer
Coordinator: Dr. Anne Ebeling
Gardeners: Steffen Eismann, Steffen Ferber, Ute Köber, Katja Kunze (on maternity leave), Heike Scheffler, Silke Hengelhaupt

Project Database and Synthesis
Dr. Sebastian Meyer (Synthesis Postdoc)
Dr. Luo Guangjuan (Database manager)
Sven Thiel (Database programme)

Herbivory and multi-trophic interactions
Lionel Hertzog (Ph.D.-Student)