How tree extinction affects the food web

The blue golden wasp Trichrysis cyanea is a foraging parasite in spider-hunting digger wasps, which use trap nests but also bee houses in China and Germany and build an important link in food webs. Photo: Felix Fornoff

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved research group 5281 “Multitrophic Interactions in a Forest Biodiversity Experiment in China”, or in short MultiTroph, led by Prof. Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein of the Institute of Science of Earth and Environment from University of Fribourg. The aim is to study the interactions between tree extinction and food webs in forests. Klein coordinates eight projects of the International Research Group on the world’s largest forest biodiversity experiment in China. Scientists from various German and Austrian universities are working closely with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Forestry University in China. The team will receive funding of around three million euros for four years in the first phase of the project from October 2022.

How many tree species does a forest need?

“Our goal is to understand what happens to food webs when tree species disappear or are introduced into the forest ecosystem,” says Klein. “How many species of trees does a forest need to function? What characteristics do these tree species need for the forest to cope with climate change? When do food webs collapse or shift so much that forest ecosystem services are negatively affected? »

Interdisciplinary research

Researchers from different disciplines collaborate in MultiTroph. Experts in soil science, botany, molecular biology, ecological networks, animal ecology and nature conservation are working on eight projects with different axes.

Scientists are studying the degradation of dead wood in China’s forest area. They also analyze the effects of trophic interactions, tree diversity and soil erosion on the stoichiometry of soils and plants. Another goal is the study of food webs between plants, herbivores and predatory insects, such as the linking of food webs between bees and flowers, and wasps and prey in nest structures. In addition, the research team is interested in trophic interactions at different stages of tree regeneration. The partial aspects will be combined to form a large food web.

Complement research data on forest biodiversity

“We are confident that our research group will critically complement existing research data on forest biodiversity and lead to a good understanding of multitrophic food webs in forests,” Klein said.

In addition to scientists from Freiburg, the project team consists of researchers from the University of Bayreuth, the Technical University of Darmstadt, the University of Göttingen, the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, the University of Hohenheim, University of Kiel, University of Tübingen, University of Würzburg, Paris Lodron University of Salzburg in Austria and Pennsylvania State University in the United States. On the Chinese side, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Forestry University/China are collaborating.

Overview of the facts:

  • Klein has headed the Chair of Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology at the University of Friborg since 2013. His research focuses on bees and crop pollination and the restoration of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.
  • Since 2015, Klein has been Vice President of the Ecological Society for Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GFÖ).
  • Klein is a member of the permanent senatorial committees of the DFG on fundamental questions of biodiversity and of the permanent senate committees of the DFG on key questions of genetic research and sits on several advisory boards for the state government of Baden-Württemberg.
/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author or authors. See in full here.