Biogeographical Modelling

Prof. Dr. Björn Reineking


Foto: WSL Bellinzona

Fire regimes and forest dynamics

In many regions of the world, fires are a major driver of forest dynamics. Understanding the environmental determinants of forest fires is essential for an effective and efficient fire management. In this context, we are interested to (a) quantify the relative importance of different environmental factors (e.g. weather, forest structure, topography) on the fire regime, and to (b) better describe the feedbacks between emergent fire regimes and vegetation dynamics.

Cooperation: Harald Bugmann; Marco Conedera; Patrick Weibel

Publications: Schumacher et al. (2006)


Climate change and species invasions

Over the last decades, the expansion of non-native evergreen broad-leaved woody plants (e.g. Trachycarpus fortunei, Cinnamomum glanduliferum) has been witnessed in the Ticino, Switzerland. This spread has been attributed to a change in climatic conditions, in particular milder winter temperatures. In the long term, with continued climate change, the invasive spread of these species could substantially alter the composition of the forest, with far reaching consequences for regional forestry and biodiversity.

The aim of this project area is (a) to project likely long-term invasion dynamics of evergreen broad-leaved species in the temperate zone, and (b) to assess the relative importance of different species traits (e.g. drought resistance, shade tolerance) for a species’ long-term invasion potential.

Cooperation: Gian-Reto Walther; Harald Bugmann


Species distribution modelling

Species distribution models have become a key tool to quantify the habitat requirements of individual species, to project future habitat distributions, and to assess the relative importance of different aspects of global environmental change. We are especially interested in methodological challenges for species distribution modelling, as they arise e.g. from small data sets, autocorrelation or collinearity.

Cooperation: Boris Schröder; Carsten Dormann

Publications: Reineking & Schröder (2006); Dormann et al. (2007)


Process-based simulation models and data analysis

Process-based simulation models play a key role in ecology: They integrate knowledge about processes acting at different levels of organization, from individuals to populations and communities. They also promise a sound generalisation of dynamics observed in specific case studies. However, the improvement of these models through comparison with data is hampered by a lack of standard techniques. In this project area we seek to build upon recent advances in Bayesian statistics towards a coherent framework for confronting process-based simulation models with data.

Cooperation: Tamara Münkemüller


Species traits and community dynamics

Ecological theory suggests that environmental variability can promote coexistence, provided that species occupy differential niches. Using a generic, individual-based simulation model of succulent plant communities, we could demonstrate that trade-offs in allocation provide a sufficient basis for niche differentiation, given realistic levels of heterogeneity in resource supply (i.e. water). Our model provides a mechanistic basis for the link from species traits to community composition at given environmental conditions. It thereby contributes to an understanding of the forces shaping plant communities – an understanding that is critical to mitigate the threats of environmental change to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Publications: Reineking et al. (2006)


Foto: Hylastes ater (c) Torsten Bittner

Bark beetle outbreak dynamics

Bark beetle outbreaks are of high socio-economic relevance since such events may cause severe damages to a wide array of economically important tree species. Here we focus on the emergence of spatio-temporal outbreak patterns of this biotic forest disturbance at a landscape scale. The life history of bark beetles is highly sensitive to temperature and therefore susceptible to climatic change. Thus, bark beetle outbreak dynamics are likely to change and predictions of severity and frequency of such events are challenging. A better understanding of the population dynamics would support the development of effective management strategies.

With a strategic individual-based model we aim to analyse emergent dispersal, aggregation and infestation patterns. In our model the dispersal distance and aggregation strength of individual beetles are subject to evolution. Thereby, we can determine optimal dispersal and aggregation parameters and identify the basic processes that are relevant to explain the observed infestation patterns. Results of this project will be integrated into the bark beetle module of the forest landscape model LandClim.

Cooperation: Alexander Kubisch, Emanuel A. Fronhofer

Contact: Klara Dolos

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