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Escape II

Effects of disturbance, seed addition and land-use intensity on plant community assembly and ecosystem functions in grassland

ESCAPE is part of the DFG Priority Programme 1374 „Exploratories for large-scale and long-term functional biodiversity research“. The project focuses on plant community (re-)assembly in relation to a range of different ecosystem functions, land-use intensity and plant diversity. A special emphasis is given to the resilience of these functions and relationships after disturbance and to effects of experimentally increased plant diversity on both. Therefore, we continue the monitoring of an established seed addition and disturbance experiment SADE in combination with complementing experiments and analyses. During the project phase (Escape I) and in close cooperation with the Botany core project, we successfully installed this large-scale experiment, which now serve as a unique experimental platform for joint research on the functional role of biodiversity within the grasslands of Biodiversity Exploratories.

In detail, we monitor vegetation trajectories the experimental treatments, assess effects of seed rain, analyse 13C and 15N isotopic abundances in and the quantity and quality of plant biomass, quantify nutrient retention and litter decomposition.

Our main hypotheses are that i) plant diversity has a positive effect on different ecosystem functions and their resilience after disturbance; ii) land-use intensity and/or its single components have strong direct and indirect effects on these functions (mediated by plant diversity); iii) community (re-) assembly and the recovery of ecosystem functions after disturbance depends on the functional richness of the local seed rain.


PIs: Prof. Dr. Kleinebecker, Prof. Dr. Norbert Hölzel und PD Dr. Ute Hamer (both WWU Münster)

Duration: 2017-2021

Funding: DFG


Nutrient-poor grassland on calcareous soil covered by a loess layer in the NP Hainich. (photo: Valentin H. Klaus)


Mowing of grasslands in the Hainich in June. (photo: Valentin H. Klaus)

Selected Publications (Escape I+II):

  • Freitag, M, Klaus VH, Bolliger R, Hamer U, Kleinebecker T, Prati D, Schäfer D, Hölzel N (2021) Restoration of plant diversity in permanent grassland by seeding: assessing the limiting factors along land-use gradients. Journal of Applied Ecology 58 (8):1681-1692
  • Klaus VH, Friedritz L, Hamer U, Kleinebecker T (2020) Drought boosts risk of nitrate leaching from grassland fertilisation. Science of the Total Environment 726: 137877
  • Djukic I, Kepfer-Rojas S, Schmidt IK, Larsen KS, Beier C, Berg B, Verheyend K, TeaComposition (among others: Kleinebecker T) (2018) Early stage litter decomposition across biomes. Science of the Total Environment 628-629: 1369–1394 [doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.01.012]
  • Boeddinghaus R, Marhan S, Berner D, Boch S, Fischer M, Hoelzel N, Kattge J, Klaus VH, Kleinebecker T, Oelmann Y, Prati D, Schäfer D, Schöning I, Schrumpf M, Sorkau E, Kandeler E, Manning P (2019) Plant functional trait shifts explain concurrent changes in the structure and function of grassland soil microbial communities. Journal of Ecology. Journal of Ecology 107: 2197–2210
  • Klaus VH, Hoever CJ, Fischer M, Hamer U, Kleinebecker T, Mertens D, Schäfer D, Prati D, Hölzel N (2018) Contribution of the soil seed bank to the restoration of temperate grasslands by mechanical sward disturbance. Restoration Ecology 26 (S2): 114–122 [doi:10.1111/rec.12626]
  • Klaus VH, Kleinebecker T, Busch V, Fischer M, Hölzel N, Nowak S, Prati D, Schäfer D, Schöning I, Schrumpf M, Hamer U (2018) Land use intensity, rather than plant species richness, affects the leaching risk of multiple nutrients from permanent grasslands. Global Change Biology 24 (7): 2828–2840 [doi:10.1111/gcb.14123]
  • Klaus VH, Schäfer D, Prati D, Busch V, Hamer U, Hoever CJ, Kleinebecker T, Mertens D, Fischer M, Hölzel N (2018) Effects of mowing, grazing and fertilization on soil seed banks in temperate grasslands in Central Europe. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 256: 211–217 [doi:10.1016/j.agee.2017.11.008]
  • Kleinebecker T, Busch V, Hölzel N, Hamer U, Schäfer D, Prati D, Fischer M, Hemp A, Lauterbach R, Klaus VH (2018) And the winner is … ! A test of simple predictors of plant species richness in agricultural grasslands. Ecological Indicators 87: 296–301 [doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.12.031]
  • Klaus VH, Schäfer D, Kleinebecker T, Fischer M, Prati D, Hölzel N (2017) Enriching plant diversity in grasslands by large-scale experimental sward disturbance and seed addition along gradients of land-use intensity. Journal of Plant Ecology 10 (4): 581–591 [doi:10.1093/jpe/rtw062]