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The role of biodiversity and species traits in modulating the impacts of climate extremes in plant communities.

Discrete climate events such as heat waves and droughts can have a disproportionate impact on ecosystems relative to the temporal scale over which they occur. The ultimate impact on the plant system is thought to depend on community properties such as the number of species and the species characteristics, although the few existing studies show contradicting results. Aided by experience gained on both climate extreme and biodiversity experiments throughout my scientific carreer, we propose a project to (i) predict the impact (damage) of heat waves and/or droughts based on the dominant plant interactions in an ecosystem and the species-specific traits; (ii) determine the potential of biodiversity in buffering negative effects of climate extremes; (iii) assess the risk of a possible acceleration of the spread of non-native plant species in a climate with more extreme events. Research will be conducted both on an experimental site and in the field, using an established method forcreating droughts and a state-of-the-art technique for imposing heat waves. The project will increase understanding of ecosystem functioning, the importance of biodiversity and the significance of individual species, with relevance for fundamental ecology (e.g. improving ecosystem models) and nature conservation (e.g. identifying potentially vulnerable ecosystems).
Date:1 Oct 2011 →  30 Sep 2014
Disciplines:General biology, Plant biology