Causes and consequences of biodiversity change


We are a research group based at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany.

Human activities, including land use intensification, nitrogen enrichment and climate change are dramatically altering the Earth’s ecosystems. We are investigating (i) how these drivers influence the assembly and reassembly of ecological communities and (ii) the impact of these changes upon the ecosystem functions and services that people depend upon for their well-being.

The focus of this research is on plant communities, but other taxa (mainly microorganisms and invertebrates) are also studied. Our research is conducted in a wide range of ecosystem types, though with an emphasis on temperate grasslands and forests.

Much of our work is based upon the synthesis of data from large ecological projects including The Biodiversity Exploratories, whose administrative office is also located at Senckenberg.

Within this broad research topic our work can be classified into three main themes:

Multifunctional landscapes

This is the largest research area in which we investigate how biodiversity and other landscape features affect the provision of multiple ecosystem services (multifunctionality) at the landscape scale. By combining this work with social science data, we are also establishing how well landscapes deliver services to stakeholders and simulating how biodiversity and land use change would alter ecosystem service supply to multiple stakeholder groups. This may help in identifying land management and governance options.

Much work is conducted within the large-scale and long-term Biodiversity Exploratories project, in which researchers have gathered uniquely comprehensive data on multitrophic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning for 150 grassland and 150 forest sites. Our work has expanded this by detailing the surrounding social system for the first time.

Variations of multifunctionality based on different combinations of ecosystem services and different multifunctionality scenarios. Neyret et al. 2021.

Example publications:

Manning P, van der Plas F, Soliveres S, Allan E, Maestre FT, Mace G, Whittingham MJ, Fischer M. (2018) Redefining ecosystem multifunctionality. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2, 427-436.

van der Plas F, Manning P, et al. (2016) Biotic homogenization can decrease landscape-scale forest multifunctionality. PNAS, 113, 3557-3562.

van der Plas F, et al. & Manning P (2019) Towards the development of general rules describing landscape heterogeneity-multifunctionality relationships. Journal of Applied Ecology, 56, 168-179.

Neyret M, et al. & Manning P (2021) Assessing the impact of grassland management on landscape multifunctionality. Ecosystem Services (52).

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

In this research theme we investigate the relationship between global change drivers, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, with an emphasis on data synthesis from multiple experiments and the application of research findings from this field to the management of forests and agroecosystems.

Relationship between plant species richness and various ecosystem functions in German (Jena experiment) and US (BioDIV, Cedar Creek) biodiversity experiments containing all plots (all dots and red lines) and only realistic plots (black dots and lines). Jochum et al. 2020.

Example publications:

Jochum, M. et al. & Manning P (2020). The results of biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments are realistic. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Craven D, et al. & Manning P (2018) Multiple facets of biodiversity drive the diversity-stability relationship. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2, 1579–1587.

Manning P et al. (2019) Transferring biodiversity-ecosystem function research to the management of ‘real-world’ ecosystems. Advances in Ecological Research, 61, 323-356.

Plant traits and plant-soil interactions

In this fundamental ecology theme, we investigate how plant communities influence soil communities and how these changes feedback to alter aboveground ecosystem properties. We focus on plant traits as a means of making this work mechanistic and general.

Boeddinghaus et al. 2019, Graphical abstract

Example publications:

Boeddinghaus RS et al. & Manning P (2019). Plant functional trait shifts explain concurrent changes in the structure and function of grassland soil microbial communities. Journal of Ecology. 107, 2197-2210.

Manning P et al. (2015) National scale grassland soil carbon stocks are predicted from simple measures of climate, soil and plant traits. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52, 1188-1196.