Research at our department is devoted to the analysis of patterns in biological diversity and to the ecological and evolutionary processes driving these patterns.

On the community level we are primarily interested in
(a) determinants of biodiversity along environmental gradients and
(b) consequences of anthropogenic habitats alteration on the composition of species assemblages.

The comparative approach is a backbone of our scientific interests. We contrast patterns and processes prevalent in species-rich animal assemblages of tropical forest ecosystems with those in far less diverse temperate-zone biomes. Thereby, we touch upon the dimensions of species, functional, and phylogenetic diversity. Much of our research in tropical ecology is centered around the field station La Gamba in Costa Rica.

On the population level we study requirements and dynamics of individual species, especially animals of conservation concern.

On the individual level, we address the significance of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity for the evolutionary ecology of organisms (e.g. with regard to micro-evolution and speciation).

Using selected phytophagous insects as main examples, we study the evolution of animal diversity, from the population level (phylogeography) across species to higher systematic levels (phylogeny). These studies open new insights into radiation processes in relation to historical factors as well as in co-evolutionary interaction with host plants.

Focal organisms range from insects (butterflies, moths, ants, beetles, dragonflies, etc.) to vertebrates (especially birds).

Recent publications

Päckert M, Favre A, Schnitzler J, Martens J, Sun YH, Tietze DT et al. “Into and Out of” the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Himalayas: Centers of origin and diversification across five clades of Eurasian montane and alpine passerine birds. Ecology and Evolution. 2020 Sep;10(17):9283-9300. Epub 2020 Aug 4. doi: 10.1002/ece3.6615

DVORAK MICHAEL, FESSL BIRGIT, NEMETH ERWIN, ANCHUNDIA DAVID, COTÍN JAVIER, SCHULZE CHRISTIANH et al. Survival and extinction of breeding landbirds on San Cristóbal, a highly degraded island in the Galápagos. Bird Conservation International. 2020 Sep;30(3):381-395. Epub 2019 Aug 19. doi: 10.1017/S0959270919000285

Letsch H, Balke M, Toussaint EFA, Narakusumo RP, Riedel A, Fiedler K. Transgressing Wallace’s Line brings hyperdiverse weevils down to earth. Ecography. 2020 Sep;43(9):1329-1340. 43. doi: 10.1111/ecog.05128

Hofhansl F, Chacon-Madrigal E, Fuchslueger L, Jenking D, Morera-Beita A, Plutzar C et al. Climatic and edaphic controls over tropical forest diversity and vegetation carbon storage. Scientific Reports. 2020 Mar 19;10(1):5066. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-61868-5