Goal and background
In the framework of an initiative to advance biodiversity research in Germany, we established three exemplary large-scale and long-term research sites (funded by the German Research Foundation). They are termed Biodiversity Exploratories, in contrast to mainly descriptive observatories. The exploratories sustain the scientific infrastructure to develop the intellectual framework needed to address critical questions about changes in biodiversity and to evaluate the impacts of those changes for ecosystem processes. Thus, in the exploratories biodiversity and ecosystem research will be merged at a large scale and with a long-term perspective.
In the first phase 2006-09 the exploratories addressed the relationship between land-use intensity, biodiversity change, and ecosystem functioning for selected taxa. In 2008 the exploratories integrated further contributing projects proposed by the German research community. Thus, the biodiversity exploratories serve as a stimulating research platform for the whole German biodiversity research community.
Relevance of functional biodiversity research and open questions
Changes in land use and its intensity are major determinants of biodiversity. Currently, biodiversity experiences a general decline due to ongoing large- and small-scale changes in land use. However, while the relationship between land use and biodiversity is well-established for some taxa including studies on the effects on genetic diversity, it is not for others. Also, it is not known how diversities of different taxa are related to each other, and whether they, and their genetic diversities respond similarly to variation in land use. Recent model experiments with manipulated plant species diversity demonstrated negative effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning and services. Other model experiments with manipulated microbial, fungal, animal, and genetic diversity are further exploring functional consequences of biodiversity change, and they appear to confirm the observations made with plants. However, for natural systems the functional importance of biodiversity is unclear because of the overriding effects of different management strategies. Therefore, research in real landscapes on feed back loops between landscape change, diversity of genes, species and biological interactions, and ecosystem services through combinations of monitoring approaches and measurements of functional diversity with designed experiments will be conducted.
- To understand the relationship between biodiversity of different taxa and levels
- To understand the role of land use and management for biodiversity
- To understand the role of biodiversity for ecosystem processes