Systemische Naturschutzbiologie

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Dipl. Biol. Florian Schwarzmüller

Prior academia:

I did my Abitur in 2002 at the Martin-Luther Schule in Rimbach Odw. and started studying biology at the Technical University in Darmstadt in fall 2003.
In September 2010 I graduated with distinction on the topic "Dynamic stability and interaction strengths in small food-web motifs".
Since November 2010 I'm employed at the Georg-August University of Göttingen at the "Systemic Conservation Biology" group of Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brose and started my PhD in Biodiversity and Ecology in April 2011. In April 2012 I started working in the research unit entitled "networks on networks" (DFG FOR 1748).

Research interests:

Global change at different ecological scales

There is virtually no place on earth that has not been impacted by anthropogenic activity. Sala et al. 2002 proposed that the major drivers of global biodiversity loss are global warming, nutrient enrichment and habitat fragmentation. To this day, many studies have reported the effect of these drivers on species survival, showing evidence of dramatic extinction risks. However, our knowledge of how these drivers actually interfere with biodiversity is still limited. Mostly, this is because the different drivers of global change are often studied in isolation and without regard to other ecological or organisational scales. Warming studies, for example, reported direct influences of increasing temperature on metabolism and feeding rates of individuals but how this relates to population dynamics is still vague. Nutrient enrichment is reported to affect population growth rates and has been shown to destabilize predator-prey interactions but the effects on whole food webs are often ambivalent and, thus, more difficult to predict. Finally, habitat fragmentation is reported to reduce biodiversity at the ecosystem level but the underlying processes determining single population dynamics and their interactions are still unknown.
In general, ecological experiments and observational studies report valuable patterns but their relevance is often underestimated because it is difficult to conclude how lower-level effects scale up to effects on the ecosystem/biodiversity level.
Theoretical ecology and ecosystem modelling can help to bridge the gap between empirical measurements on lower scales and the forecasting of global change effects on entire ecosystems.
During my PhD, I have been working on a variety of topics at different ecological scales to investigate the effect of global change drivers on species survival, population dynamics and community stability (see recent projects). I am using ecological modelling and microcosm experiments to (1) estimate parameters (2) develop testable predictions and (3) test ecologically relevant predictions in experiments.
Over the course of my PhD I conducted several bioenergetic modelling projects using C++ and became fluent in R for experimental analyses and graphics. More recently, I also worked with agent based models (ABMs) using NetLogo. Furthermore, I have experience in experimental work with soil invertebrates, feeding experiments and population time series.


Recent Projects:

Nutrient enrichment

Enrichment destabilizes consumer-resource interactions ("paradox of enrichment") but natural ecosystems seem to have multiple features that buffer against this instability. One of the features are the so called "weak interactions" (McCann et al. 1998). In a microcosm experiment, I tested the effect of enrichment on a soil food-chain and how this was altered by adding a weak-interacting species, the earthworm.
Related publications [3], Conference contributions [1] [2]


Global warming influences species metabolism, growth and feeding rates. The interactive influence of these changes on population dynamics, however, remains uncertain. As a result, uncertainty about stability responses to warming remains correspondingly high. A newly established global data base enables us to parameterize bioenergetic models and develop predictions about warming effects on ecosystems and their stability. These predictions can then be tested in laboratory microcosm experiments.
Related publications [1] [2], Conference contributions [3]

Habitat fragmentation

The way in which we use land for agriculture and forestry and the increasing human population leaves only small and fragmented remnants of natural ecosystems. This is not only a challenge for conservationists but also for ecological theorists as most of their assumptions are based on large and well-mixed populations. A research unit, entitled "networks on networks" (DFG FOR 1748), of which I have been a part of since April 2012, tackles the characteristics of meta-populations in patch networks.
Conference Contributions [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


Conference Contributions:

    [8] Schwarzmüller, F., Guill, C., Brose, U.: "Networks on networks"- Spatially extended food-web models, Poster presentation at the "FoodWeb 2013" meeting, November 12-15 2013, Gießen, Germany

    [7] Schwarzmüller, F., Guill, C., Brose, U.: The role of body-size in dispersal networks., Oral presentation at the "Structure and dynamics of meta-food webs" workshop, September 16-18 2013, Bielefeld, Germany

    [6] Schwarzmüller, F., Guill,C., Brose, U.: "Networks on networks": complex food-web dynamics in a fragmented world, Invited oral presentation at the INTECOL 2013, August 18-23 2013, London, UK

    [5] Schwarzmüller, F. & Brose, U.: "Networks on networks" - a fully allometric model on population dynamics in space., Oral presentation at the 7th annual meeting of the Specialist Group on Macroecology of the Gesellschaft für Ökologie, 2013, Göttingen, Germany

    [4] Schwarzmüller, F. & Brose, U.: "Networks on networks" - a fully allometric model on population dynamics in space., Oral presentation at the BES Annual Meeting, December 17-20 2012, Birmingham, UK

    [3] Schwarzmüller, F., Rall, B.C., Guill, C., Lang, B., Brose, U.: Warming up the system.,Oral presentation at the BES Annual Meeting, September 12-14 2011, Sheffield, UK

    [2] Schwarzmüller, F., Eisenhauer, N., Brose, U.: 'Trophic whales' as biotic ecosystem buffers against external stressors, Oral presentation at the GfÖ Annual Conference, September 05-09 2011, Oldenburg, Germany

    [1] Schwarzmüller, F., Eisenhauer, N., Brose, U.: 'Trophic Whales' as Biotic Buffers: Weak Interactions Stabilize Ecosystems against External Stressors, Poster presentation at the "Functions and Services of Biodiversity" meeting, June 20-22 2011, University of Göttingen, Germany