Elevation gradients

common garden experiment

The Functional Ecology Laboratory studies the ecology and evolution of plant-animal-microorganism interactions, including aspects of soil ecology, herbivory, community ecology, chemical ecology, and ecological gradients. The current SNF-funded project deals with the following research topic:

Attracting bodyguards: testing macro-evolutionary trends of belowground plant indirect defenses and effects on plant fitness

To ward off herbivore attack, plants have evolved a whole array of defense strategies, ranging from the evolution of sand-papery leaves to the production of toxic secondary metabolites, or the production of signals and rewards to attract natural enemies of the herbivores. In this context the project aims at unravelling the ecological and evolutionary forces that shape the diversity of plant physical and chemical traits governing plant-herbivore interactions. The steep elevation gradients of the Alps are used as natural experiments to dissect biotic and abiotic factors that shape variation in community composition. To address these questions the study relies on a combination of field observations, common garden experiments, laboratory bioassays, and metabolomics and phylogenetic analyses. Taken together, the research will provide information on how communities are maintained in space and time and what the effects of climate change are on biodiversity.

research database P3 of SNF