Main research topics and selected grants

Main research topics

 Ecology and socio-economics of land-use change

Landuse Based on the guiding question ”How can we reconcile nature conservation, environmental protection, and human needs?”, we do both purely ecological as well as ecological-economic research, mostly at a landscape scale and by developing and analyzing spatial simulation models. On the ecological side, we are interested in the patterns and mechanisms driving biodiversity and ecological functions. In ecological-economic research, we specifically investigate ecological and socio-economic trade-offs under different land-use scenarios.

 Spatial plant ecology

Savanna Spatiotemporal plant patterns carry a lot of information on the mechanisms that formed these patterns. We mine this information with spatial pattern analysis and individual-based modelling. For instance, we disentangle interactions among species such as competition from interactions between species and their environment in forests. We also study the dynamics of plants and grazing systems in drylands. In savannas , this has led to the paradigm of patch dynamics as a mechanism to maintain tree‐grass co‐dominance.

 Scales, heterogeneity and neutral landscapes

Forest Ecological processes and patterns are scale-dependent and heterogeneous. We explore, develop and improve methods for scaling up, for including heterogeneity in spatial point pattern analysis and for individual- or agent-based modelling. We also create virtual laboratories that for instance generate neutral landscapes to provide tools for systematic analysis of ecological processes and patterns.

Selected Grants


  • LUSci - Integrative Land Use Science for Sustainable Development (under review)
    see LUSci
  • B10 - Landscape-level assessment of ecological and socioeconomic functions of rainforest transformation systems in Sumatra (Indonesia)
    see EFForTS, since 2012
  • B01 - Agricultural biodiversity and associated services across rural-urban landscapes - modelling studies
    see FOR2432 , since 2016
  • Population- and community-level plant trait variability in changing arid environments
    funded by Volkswagen foundation, since 2016
  • P2-6: Spatial scaling methods for ecological patterns
    within Research Training Group 1644 Scaling problems in statistics funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
    see P2-6, since 2010
  • P2-8: Understanding landscape moderation of biodiversity patterns
    within Research Training Group 1644 Scaling problems in statistics funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
    see P2-8, since 2010
  • P3-7: The Role of Heterogeneity in Spatial Plant Population Dynamics
    within Research Training Group 1644 Scaling problems in statistics funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
    see P3-7, since 2010


Previous Grants


  • Towards a mechanistic understanding of biodiversity and its functional consequences - the biodiversity exploratory additional modeling component - BEAM .
    within Biodiversity Exploratories funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • Integrated modelling of land-use changes at rainforest margins in Indonesia
    see ELUC , funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • IDESSA - An Integrative Decision Support System for Sustainable Rangeland Management in Southern African Savannas
    see IDESSA
  • Collaborative ecological modelling and experimentation to uncover the causes of bush encroachment in African savannas
    with David Ward funded by Volkswagen foundation, program of partnership
  • Ecology of arid savannas based on the patch dynamics paradigm by means of simulation modelling
    funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • The effects of land-use and structural heterogeneity on biodiversity: A new assessment method using cost-effective remote sensing and fine-scale pattern analysis - STRUCTURE
    within Biodiversity Exploratories funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • Modelling the role of complementarity, species identity, and neutrality for diversity maintenance in deciduous forests
    within Research Training Group 1086 The role of biodiversity for biogeochemical cycles and biotic interactions in temperate deciduous forests funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • Scales of bacterial interactions on the leaf surface
    within Research Training Group 1644 Scaling problems in statistics funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)
  • Profiling plants to predict success and longevity of climate change-induced invasions
    funded by German Science Foundation (DFG)