Biology of Species Interactions

We are interested in variation among individuals, populations and species of plants and animals, and how they interact in nature and under controlled experimental conditions. Describing and manipulating networks of interacting organisms we hope to get a better understanding of the structure, dynamics and functioning of ecological systems. Ultimately, we would also like to find out to which extent variation and interactions among organisms are mere coincidence or the result of underlying evolutionary processes.
We use a systems-biological approach to study the structure and dynamics of ecological systems from the level of single populations to multi-trophic communities. Our model ecosystems are naturally occurring or experimentally established grasslands and forests in Europe and China and in these we focus on plant–plant and plant–soil interaction webs as drivers of ecosystem functioning and evolution.

Former head of group: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid

Research themes

  • Population biology: Plant decision making; Plant growth and competition; Invasion biology; Ecology and genetics of small populations; Life-history evolution of clonal organisms; Transgene x environment interactions; Evolutionary plant genetics and epigenetics
  • Community ecology: Mechanisms of plant competition and coexistence; Plant–animal interactions; Community assembly; Community genetics and evolution
  • Ecosystems ecology: Biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships