Scientific approach: across-site comparisons of natural systems

The relationship between biodiversity and productivity, biogeochemical cycles and biotic interactions is in the centre of current ecological research. In contrast to grassland ecosystems, this relation has not been studied in depth in forests. There is a great need for studying the functional consequences of tree species diversity in forests, because Central European forestry is conducting a broad-scale conversion of monospecific into mixed stands. However, the consequences for ecosystem goods and services and system functioning are not understood.

The Research Training Group investigates the role of tree species diversity (1, 3 and 5 species) in broad-leaved deciduous forests of the Hainich National Park (Thuringia, Central Germany) for productivity, carbon sequestration, nutrient and water turnover, deep seepage, nitrate leaching, and biotic interactions among key organism groups as well as for ecosystem services.

An innovative focus will be set on canopy research by use of a mobile elevator van. The 10 working groups from the Faculties of Biology, Agricultural Sciences and Forest Sciences are experts in the fields of plant and animal ecology, soil sciences, ecological modelling and environmental economy, and have joined together in the Göttingen Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology (GCBE) and the Forschungszentrum Waldökosysteme (FZW) . The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Jena) has been integrated in the study program with a research task (age determination and sequestration of soil carbon) that cannot be provided by the University of Göttingen. The Research Training Group offers 14 PhD grants, 1 Postdoc grant, and 3 qualification grants for BSc graduates, and will include 6 additional PhD students with external financial support. The study and research program is structured into 3 subprograms: A – Biodiversity analysis and biotic interactions, B – Biogeochemical cycles, and C – Synthesis.