The Three Exploratories

Functional biodiversity research will be conducted in three exploratories in Germany:

Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin in the State of Brandenburg

National Park Hainich and its surroundings in the State of Thuringia and

Biosphere Reserve Schwäbische Alb in the State of Baden-Württemberg.


Basic hierarchic design

1000 Grid Plots

Each exploratory comprises a large number of study plots differing in their intensity of investigation. Because the first phase of the project considers only grassland and forests, a grid of a very large number of study points (in total 1000 plots per exploratory) were chosen in these ecosystems. On these plots, the number and abundance of plant species as well as land use types and intensity were recorded. In addition, a soil sample from each plot are analysed.

Acoustic monitoring, spotting and trapping are used to assess the diversity of birds, bats, and other mammals in the selected forests and grassland.


100 Experimental Plots (EPs)

After this first assessment, one hundred more intensively studied plots (50 in forest, 50 in grassland per each exploratory) were selected in 2007 to represent broad gradients of land use intensity ranging from near-natural, protected sites to intensively used ecosystems. These intensively studied plots contain instrumentation to measure soil and air temperature and soil humidity, and have a appropriate size for experimental manipulations.

On these intensively studied plots, the diversity of further taxa is assessed, including bees, Ichneumonidae and other Hymenoptera, Heteroptera, Diptera, Chrysomelidae, Curculionidae, Carabidae and xylobiontic beetles. These taxa are assessed using various collection methods and types of traps (suction sampler, sweep nets, malaise traps, fogging). In addition, the pollinator nets for grassland plants and forest understorey plants are quantified by repeated collecting pollinating insects on individual plants.

For the intensively studied plots, we study associated ecosystem processes, such as standing biomass and growth in forests, annual net primary productivity in grasslands, soil respiration and carbon and nitrogen pools in different parts of plants. On a further subset 16 very intensively studied plots (VIPs), the microbial community and the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi are assessed with molecular markers.