since 2007
DFG SPP 1374



Functional biodiversity research explores drivers and functional consequences of biodiversity changes. Land use change is a major driver of changes of biodiversity and of biogeochemical and biological ecosystem processes and services. However, land use effects on genetic and species diversity are well documented only for a few taxa and trophic networks. We hardly know how different components of biodiversity and their responses to land use change are interrelated and very little about the simultaneous, and interacting, effects of land use on multiple ecosystem processes and services. Moreover, we do not know to what extent land use effects on ecosystem processes and services are mediated by biodiversity change.

The large-scale and long-term project Biodiversity Exploratories addresses the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They comprise a hierarchical set of standardized field plots in three different regions of Germany (Hainich, Schwäbische Alb, Schorfheide Chorin) covering manifold management types and intensities in grasslands and forests. Since 2007, they have served as a joint research platform for ~40 simultaneous projects involving over 300 people studying various aspects of the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem processes through monitoring, comparative observation and experiments (Fischer et al. 2010).

Within the Biodiversity Exploratories, the Weisser group is involved in several individual projects.

Local Management Team:

We are responsible for the management of the Hainich-Dün exploratory. In our field station in Mülverstedt, near Bad Langensalza in Thuringia, our team of one postdoc and four further members is responsible for the maintenance of the 50 grassland and 50 forest sites and acts as the focal point for all stakeholders and all scientists working on the plots.


In the Arthropods core project, we work together with the group of Prof. Nico Blüthgen, TU Darmstadt, to monitor arthropod communities and to measure arthropod-mediated ecosystem processes, such as herbivory, predation, seed and dung removal. Arthropods, in particular insects, have been monitored on a total of 300 grassland and forest plots in the three Biodiversity Exploratories Schorfheide-Chorin, Hainich and Schwäbische Alb since 2008 by various methods. We study how the arthropod communities respond to increasing land use intensity (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014a, b, Simons et al. 2014a, b) and investigate the consequences of any change in the arthropod community on arthropod-mediated processes (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014c). Our results can help to guide management decisions and conversation strategies (Simons & Weisser 2017). The long-term datasets collected by the Arthropod core project contribute significantly to the overall synthesis of how land use affects diversity (e.g. Allan et al. 2014, Gossner et al. 2016, Penone et al. 2019, Bae et al. 2019) and we are collaborating with other research projects within the Biodiversity Exploratories, such as MetacommuniTree, BarCoding, TreeScape, FuncNet and many others. Currently we could show that arthropod communities declined between 2008 and 2017, both in grasslands and forests (Seibold et al. 2019). For a summary and recommendations for land-use and conservation management, please click here).


Our group is also responsible for the coordination of the BELongDead experiment that takes place in the 30 “VIP” (very intensive plots) in the three Biodiversity Exploratories. Initiated by Ernst-Detlef Schulze of the Max-Planck-Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, logs (diameter 30-40cm, length 4m) of 13 different tree species were placed in triplicate in each of the plots in 2008. Since then we study insect colonization of these logs using emergence traps. Other groups study fungi, mites, other organisms or log decomposition, e.g. DOC flow. This unique experiment allows disentangling the effect of tree species from the effect of the surrounding forest in shaping the communities using deadwood and also decomposition.


Local management team
Manager:  Dr. Anna Franke, Dr. Juliane Vogt (Parental leave)
Mechatroniker: Matthias Groß,
Technical Staff: Christin Schreiber, Michael Ehrhardt

Postdoctoral: Dr. Rafael Achury, Dr. Didem Ambarli
PhD: Pascal Edelmann
Technical Staff: Julia Füchtenschnieder, Marco Lutz