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Baltic uplift islands

Relative effects of local and regional factors as drivers for plant community diversity, functional trait diversity and genetic structure of species on Baltic uplift islands (DFG 2015-2018)

Scientists involved: Dipl.-Geogr. Dirk Hattermann, apl. Prof. Dr. Lutz Eckstein, Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen), Dr. Markus Bernhardt-Römermann ( Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena), Dr. Walter Durka and M.Sc. Alice Theisen (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Halle), Prof. Dr. Sara Cousins (University Stockholm)

Coordinator: apl. Prof. Dr. Lutz Eckstein

Duration: 2015-2018

Funded by: DFG


Project description:

To better understand the progressing biodiversity loss of many ecosystems, including their species and the limitation of associated ecosystem functioning, a deeper knowledge of the underlying mechanisms is necessary. In particular, the composition, the genetic structure and the functional aspects of plant communities are affected.


In the context of this interdisciplinary project, together with the Friedrich-Schiller-University-Jena and the Helmholtz Centre for Environemtal Research, we want to know how local and regional factors influence species diversity, functional diversity (FD) and genetic diversity (GD) of plant communities on Baltic uplift islands.


Functional diversity describes the range and value of species and organismic traits that influence ecosystem functioning, i.e. resource dynamics, stability and productivity of an ecosystem.


Little is known about the complex relationships of landscape structure, functional diversity and (genetic) diversity of plant communities on multiple spatial scales and different levels of organismic organization. Biological processes determining the composition of species communities and their genetic structure are partly identical. Therefore, genetic diversity and species diversity appear to respond synchronously to the same environmental influences (species diversity- genetic diversity correlation-hypothesis). Further fundamental research about the driving factors of these multifaceted structures is urgently needed.


In the context of our workpackage we selected uplift islands of different sizes in three archipelagos along the Swedish baltic coast to analyse

 i) the effects of human land-use on the aspects of diversity of island plant communities,

ii) the contribution of various habitat types on species composition and functional diversity,

iii) how functional diversity and species diversity of plant communities are related, and

iv) what role filter mechanisms, such as habitat structure, abiotic conditions, isolation and competition play for the successful establishment of mainland species on the islands and how functional diversity is affected.


The continental uplift islands in Sweden represent an ideal study system (natural laboratory) for our investigations, since these

a) are well defined and comparable based on their area and age, physical properties and habitat characteristics and well-known land-use history,

b) are disconnected from the mainland (as a potential source of colonialization) by an inhospitable matrix of water, and

c) the basic determinants of island floristic diversity are well described by the theory of island biogeography.


Through this multi-scale approach and the synthesis of GIS-based landscape metrics with the different aspects of functional diversity and landscape genetics, we hope to gain new insights in the functioning of plant communities and the mechanisms of species assembly. In a long-term, we want to contribute to a better evaluation of the sensitivity of local species pools against changing environmental conditions and answer open questions in the fields of functional ecology and population genetics.