Core project 5: Plant diversity and plant-related processes

Scientific investigators:

Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer

Dr. Daniel Prati

Deborah Schäfer

Ralph Bolliger

Judith Hinderling

Christoph Zwahlen

(Uni Bern)

This project studies:

  • the diversity of higher plants, mosses, lichens and fungi
  • the productivity of grasslands and
  • in experiments the effect of dispersal limitation and disturbance



The major aims of this project are:

1. to assess the effect of land use on the diversity of plants and lichens in grassland and forest as well as on plant pathogenic fungi in grassland,

2. to measure functional and phylogenetic diversity of grassland plants cultivated under standardized conditions,

3. to monitor above- and belowground grassland productivity and nitrogen content as important ecosystem processes, and

4. to manipulate plant diversity experimentally by seeding, disturbance, or plant removal to test the consequences of changed plant diversity for ecosystem processes and how these depend on land use.

The repeated monitoring of diversities and ecosystem processes will further allow us to estimate the stability and resilience of communities, and to relate changes in plant diversity and composition to changes in other taxa. In addition, our project will provide important baseline information for other projects and allow assessing the effect of taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic plant diversity, and grassland productivity on ecosystem processes and the diversity of other taxa.

 Methods Grid plots
Plant Diversity
 Forest vegetation
one releve in spring and autumn, 20 x 20 m x 
  yearly repeated x
Grassland vegetation one releve in summer, 4 x 4 m x 
   yearly repeated x
Vegetation height
species number-Areal-relationx
Seed bank
Functional Diversity 
traits from BIOLFLOR-Database,
Morphological traits, 
dispersal traits, pollination traits
Genetic DiversityAFLP and microsatellites of selected speciesx
Seeding experiment
Seeding of grassland species from the regional species pool to test dispersal limitationx
 Seeding of selected tree species in fenced and unfenced subplots of EPs to test dispersal limitation (planned)  x
biomass and SLA measurement to study the effect of diversity on productivityx
Green house studygermination success
Parasites and Herbivoresidentification of parasites and Herbivore damage on thistlesx
Disturbance experiment in grassland and forestSimulation of trapping and dryness in different intensities to study the effect of disturbance on the stability of ecosystem with varying diversityx
Population biology of selected species Quantifying population density,  herbivory, pathogen load and pollinator limitation on selected plant speciesx


Project in previous phases

Further project contribution of Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer: BEO, Synthese, SADE

Further project contribution of Dr. Daniel Prati, Deborah Schäfer, Judith Hinderling: SADE
Previous project contribution of Dr. Daniel Prati: QuantGen

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