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.