Duration: since 2007
Funding: DFG SPP 1374
Contact: Wolfgang.Weisser[at]


Functional biodiversity research explores drivers and functional consequences of biodiversity changes. Land use change is a major driver of changes of biodiversity and of biogeochemical and biological ecosystem processes and services. However, land use effects on genetic and species diversity are well documented only for a few taxa and trophic networks. We hardly know how different components of biodiversity and their responses to land use change are interrelated and very little about the simultaneous, and interacting, effects of land use on multiple ecosystem processes and services. Moreover, we do not know to what extent land use effects on ecosystem processes and services are mediated by biodiversity change.

The large-scale and long-term project Biodiversity Exploratories addresses the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They comprise a hierarchical set of standardized field plots in three different regions of Germany (Hainich, Schwäbische Alb, Schorfheide Chorin) covering manifold management types and intensities in grasslands and forests. Since 2007, they have served as a joint research platform for ~40 simultaneous projects involving over 300 people studying various aspects of the relationships between land use, biodiversity and ecosystem processes through monitoring, comparative observation and experiments (Fischer et al. 2010).

Within the Biodiversity Exploratories, the Weisser group is involved in several individual projects.

Local Management Team:

We are responsible for the management of the Hainich-Dün exploratory. In our field station in Mülverstedt, near Bad Langensalza in Thuringia, our team of one postdoc and four further members is responsible for the maintenance of the 50 grassland and 50 forest sites and acts as the focal point for all stakeholders and all scientists working on the plots.


In the Arthropods core project, we work together with the group of Prof. Nico Blüthgen, TU Darmstadt, to monitor arthropod communities and to measure arthropod-mediated ecosystem processes, such as herbivory, predation, seed and dung removal. Arthropods, in particular insects, have been monitored on a total of 300 grassland and forest plots in the three Biodiversity Exploratories Schorfheide-Chorin, Hainich and Schwäbische Alb since 2008 by various methods. We study how the arthropod communities respond to increasing land use intensity (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014a, b, Simons et al. 2014a, b) and investigate the consequences of any change in the arthropod community on arthropod-mediated processes (e.g. Gossner et al. 2014c). Our results can help to guide management decisions and conversation strategies (Simons & Weisser 2017). The long-term datasets collected by the Arthropod core project contribute significantly to the overall synthesis of how land use affects diversity (e.g. Allan et al. 2014, Gossner et al. 2016, Penone et al. 2019, Bae et al. 2019) and we are collaborating with other research projects within the Biodiversity Exploratories, such as MetacommuniTree, BarCoding, TreeScape, FuncNet and many others. Currently we could show that arthropod communities declined between 2008 and 2017, both in grasslands and forests (Seibold et al. 2019). For a summary and recommendations for land-use and conservation management, please click here).


Our group is also responsible for the coordination of the BELongDead experiment that takes place in the 30 “VIP” (very intensive plots) in the three Biodiversity Exploratories. Initiated by Ernst-Detlef Schulze of the Max-Planck-Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, logs (diameter 30-40cm, length 4m) of 13 different tree species were placed in triplicate in each of the plots in 2008. Since then we study insect colonization of these logs using emergence traps. Other groups study fungi, mites, other organisms or log decomposition, e.g. DOC flow. This unique experiment allows disentangling the effect of tree species from the effect of the surrounding forest in shaping the communities using deadwood and also decomposition.


Local management team
Manager:  Künast Robert, Dr. Anne Franke (Parental leave)
Mechatroniker: Matthias Groß
Forester: Ulrich Pruschitzki
Technical Staff: Christin Schreiber, Michael Ehrhardt

Postdoctoral: Dr. Rafael Achury, Dr. Didem Ambarli
PhD: Pascal Edelmann
Technical Staff: Julia Füchtenschnieder

Allan, E., Bossdorf, O., Dormann, C. F., Prati, D., Gossner, M. M., Tscharntke, T., Blüthgen, N., Bellach, M., Birkhofer, K., Boch, S., Böhm, S., Börschig, C., Chatzinotas, A., Christ, S., Daniel, R., Diekötter, T., Fischer, C., Friedl, T., Glaser, K., Hallmann, C., Hodac, L., Hölzel, N., Jung, K., Klein, A. M., Klaus, V. H., Kleinebecker, T., Krauss, J., Lange, M., Morris, E. K., Müller, J., Nacke, H., Pašali?, E., Rillig, M. C., Rothenwöhrer, C., Schall, P., Scherber, C., Schulze, W., Socher, S. A., Steckel, J., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Türke, M., Weiner, C. N., Werner, M., Westphal, C., Wolters, V., Wubet, T., Gockel, S., Gorke, M., Hemp, A., Renner, S. C., Schöning, I., Pfeiffer, S., König-Ries, B., Buscot, F., Linsenmair, K. E., Schulze, E.-D., Weisser, W. W., & Fischer, M., 2014. Interannual variation in land-use intensity enhances grassland multidiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(1): 308-313. doi:10.1073/pnas.1312213111

Birkhofer, K., Gossner, M. M., Diekotter, T., Drees, C., Ferlian, O., Maraun, M., Scheu, S., Weisser, W. W., Wolters, V., Wurst, S., Zaitsev, A. S., & Smith, H. G., 2017. Land-use type and intensity differentially filter traits in above- and below-ground arthropod communities. J Anim Ecol 86(3): 511-520. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12641

Birkhofer, K., Smith, H. G., Weisser, W. W., Wolters, V., & Gossner, M. M., 2015. Land-use effects on the functional distinctness of arthropod communities. Ecography 38(9): 889-900. doi:10.1111/ecog.01141

Blüthgen, N., Dormann, C. F., Prati, D., Klaus, V. H., Kleinebecker, T., Hölzel, N., Alt, F., Boch, S., Gockel, S., Hemp, A., Müller, J., Nieschulze, J., Renner, S. C., Schöning, I., Schumacher, U., Socher, S. A., Wells, K., Birkhofer, K., Buscot, F., Oelmann, Y., Rothenwöhrer, C., Scherber, C., Tscharntke, T., Weiner, C. N., Fischer, M., Kalko, E. K. V., Linsenmair, K. E., Schulze, E.-D., & Weisser, W. W., 2012. A quantitative index of land-use intensity in grasslands: Integrating mowing, grazing and fertilization. Basic and Applied Ecology 13(3): 207-220. doi:10.1016/j.baae.2012.04.001

Blüthgen, N., Simons, N. K., Jung, K., Prati, D., Renner, S. C., Boch, S., Fischer, M., Holzel, N., Klaus, V. H., Kleinebecker, T., Tschapka, M., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2016. Land use imperils plant and animal community stability through changes in asynchrony rather than diversity. Nature Communications 7: 10697. doi:10.1038/ncomms10697

Chisté, M. N., Mody, K., Gossner, M. M., Simons, N. K., Köhler, G., Weisser, W. W., & Blüthgen, N., 2016. Losers, winners, and opportunists: How grassland land-use intensity affects orthopteran communities. Ecosphere 7(11). doi:10.1002/ecs2.1545

Chisté, M. N., Mody, K., Kunz, G., Gunczy, J., & Blüthgen, N., 2018. Intensive land use drives small-scale homogenization of plant- and leafhopper communities and promotes generalists. Oecologia 186(2): 529-540. doi:10.1007/s00442-017-4031-0

Frank, K., Brückner, A., Blüthgen, N., & Schmitt, T., 2018. In search of cues: dung beetle attraction and the significance of volatile composition of dung. Chemoecology: 1-8.

Frank, K., Hülsmann, M., Assmann, T., Schmitt, T., & Blüthgen, N., 2017. Land use affects dung beetle communities and their ecosystem service in forests and grasslands. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 243: 114-122. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2017.04.010

Gossner, M., 2013. Die Bedeutung von großskaligen Biodiversitätsstudien an Arthropoden am Beispiel der Biodiversitätsexploratorien. Entomologie heute 25: 31-46.

Gossner, M. M., Falck, K., & Weisser, W. W., 2019. Effects of management on ambrosia beetles and their antagonists in European beech forests. Forest Ecology and Management 437: 126-133. doi:

Gossner, M. M., Floren, A., Weisser, W. W., & Linsenmair, K. E., 2013. Effect of dead wood enrichment in the canopy and on the forest floor on beetle guild composition. Forest Ecology and Management 302: 404-413.

Gossner, M. M., Fonseca, C. R., Pašali?, E., Türke, M., Lange, M., & Weisser, W. W., 2014. Limitations to the use of arthropods as temperate forests indicators. Biodiversity and Conservation 23(4): 945-962.

Gossner, M. M., Getzin, S., Lange, M., Pašali?, E., Türke, M., Wiegand, K., & Weisser, W. W., 2013. The importance of heterogeneity revisited from a multiscale and multitaxa approach. Biological Conservation 166: 212-220. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.06.033

Gossner, M. M., Lachat, T., Brunet, J., Isacsson, G., Bouget, C., Brustel, H., Brandl, R., Weisser, W. W., & Mueller, J., 2013. Current near?to?nature forest management effects on functional trait composition of saproxylic beetles in beech forests. Conservation Biology 27(3): 605-614.

Gossner, M. M., Lade, P., Rohland, A., Sichardt, N., Kahl, T., Bauhus, J., Weisser, W. W., & Petermann, J. S., 2016. Effects of management on aquatic tree-hole communities in temperate forests are mediated by detritus amount and water chemistry. Journal of Animal Ecology 85(1): 213-226. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12437

Gossner, M. M., Lewinsohn, T. M., Kahl, T., Grassein, F., Boch, S., Prati, D., Birkhofer, K., Renner, S. C., Sikorski, J., Wubet, T., Arndt, H., Baumgartner, V., Blaser, S., Bluthgen, N., Borschig, C., Buscot, F., Diekotter, T., Jorge, L. R., Jung, K., Keyel, A. C., Klein, A. M., Klemmer, S., Krauss, J., Lange, M., Muller, J., Overmann, J., Pasalic, E., Penone, C., Perovic, D. J., Purschke, O., Schall, P., Socher, S. A., Sonnemann, I., Tschapka, M., Tscharntke, T., Turke, M., Venter, P. C., Weiner, C. N., Werner, M., Wolters, V., Wurst, S., Westphal, C., Fischer, M., Weisser, W. W., & Allan, E., 2016. Land-use intensification causes multitrophic homogenization of grassland communities. Nature 540(7632): 266-269. doi:10.1038/nature20575

Gossner, M. M., Pašali?, E., Lange, M., Lange, P., Boch, S., Hessenmöller, D., Müller, J., Socher, S. A., Fischer, M., & Schulze, E.-D., 2014. Differential responses of herbivores and herbivory to management in temperate European beech. PLoS One 9(8): e104876.

Gossner, M. M., Schall, P., Ammer, C., Ammer, U., Engel, K., Schubert, H., Simon, U., Utschick, H., & Weisser, W. W., 2014. Forest management intensity measures as alternative to stand properties for quantifying effects on biodiversity. Ecosphere 5(9): 1-111.

Gossner, M. M., Simons, N. K., Achtziger, R., Blick, T., Dorow, W. H., Dziock, F., Kohler, F., Rabitsch, W., & Weisser, W. W., 2015. A summary of eight traits of Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Orthoptera and Araneae, occurring in grasslands in Germany. Sci Data 2: 150013. doi:10.1038/sdata.2015.13

Gossner, M. M., Simons, N. K., Höck, L., & Weisser, W. W., 2015. Morphometric measures of Heteroptera sampled in grasslands across three regions of Germany: Ecological Archives E096?102. Ecology 96(4): 1154-1154.

Gossner, M. M., Weisser, W. W., Gershenzon, J., & Unsicker, S. B., 2014. Insect attraction to herbivore-induced beech volatiles under different forest management regimes. Oecologia 176(2): 569-580.

Gossner, M. M., Weisser, W. W., & Meyer, S. T., 2014. Invertebrate herbivory decreases along a gradient of increasing land-use intensity in German grasslands. Basic and Applied Ecology 15(4): 347-352. doi:10.1016/j.baae.2014.03.003

Gossner, M. M., Wende, B., Levick, S., Schall, P., Floren, A., Linsenmair, K. E., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Schulze, E.-D., & Weisser, W. W., 2016. Deadwood enrichment in European forests – Which tree species should be used to promote saproxylic beetle diversity? Biological Conservation 201: 92-102. doi:

Grevé, M. E., Hager, J., Weisser, W. W., Schall, P., Gossner, M. M., & Feldhaar, H., 2018. Effect of forest management on temperate ant communities. Ecosphere 9(6): e02303. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2303

Kahl, T., Arnstadt, T., Baber, K., Bässler, C., Bauhus, J., Borken, W., Buscot, F., Floren, A., Heibl, C., Hessenmöller, D., Hofrichter, M., Hoppe, B., Kellner, H., Krüger, D., Linsenmair, K. E., Matzner, E., Otto, P., Purahong, W., Seilwinder, C., Schulze, E.-D., Wende, B., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2017. Wood decay rates of 13 temperate tree species in relation to wood properties, enzyme activities and organismic diversities. Forest Ecology and Management 391: 86-95. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2017.02.012

Kämper, W., Weiner, C., Kühsel, S., Storm, C., Eltz, T., & Blüthgen, N., 2017. Evaluating the effects of floral resource specialisation and of nitrogen regulation on the vulnerability of social bees in agricultural landscapes. Apidologie 48(3): 371-383. doi:10.1007/s13592-016-0480-4

Klaus, V. H., Kleinebecker, T., Prati, D., Gossner, M. M., Alt, F., Boch, S., Gockel, S., Hemp, A., Lange, M., Müller, J., Oelmann, Y., Pašali?, E., Renner, S. C., Socher, S. A., Türke, M., Weisser, W. W., Fischer, M., & Hölzel, N., 2013. Does organic grassland farming benefit plant and arthropod diversity at the expense of yield and soil fertility? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 177: 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2013.05.019

Köhler, G., Pašali?, E., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2015. Beech forest management does not affect the infestation rate of the beech scale Cryptococcus fagisuga across three regions in Germany. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 17(2): 197-204.

Kühsel, S., & Blüthgen, N., 2015. High diversity stabilizes the thermal resilience of pollinator communities in intensively managed grasslands. Nature Communications 6: 7989. doi:10.1038/ncomms8989

Kühsel, S., Brückner, A., Schmelzle, S., Heethoff, M., & Blüthgen, N., 2017. Surface area–volume ratios in insects. Insect Science 24(5): 829-841. doi:10.1111/1744-7917.12362

Lachat, T., Wermelinger, B., Gossner, M. M., Bussler, H., Isacsson, G., & Müller, J., 2012. Saproxylic beetles as indicator species for dead-wood amount and temperature in European beech forests. Ecological Indicators 23: 323-331.

Lange, M., Gossner, M. M., & Weisser, W. W., 2011. Effect of pitfall trap type and diameter on vertebrate by-catches and ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and spider (Araneae) sampling. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2(2): 185-190. doi:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2010.00062.x

Leidinger, J., Seibold, S., Weisser, W. W., Lange, M., Schall, P., Türke, M., & Gossner, M. M., 2019. Effects of forest management on herbivorous insects in temperate Europe. Forest Ecology and Management 437: 232-245. doi:

Mangels, J., Fiedler, K., Schneider, F. D., & Blüthgen, N., 2017. Diversity and trait composition of moths respond to land-use intensification in grasslands: generalists replace specialists. Biodiversity and Conservation 26(14): 3385-3405. doi:10.1007/s10531-017-1411-z

Marcus, T., Boch, S., Durka, W., Fischer, M., Gossner, M. M., Müller, J., Schoening, I., Weisser, W. W., Drees, C., & Assmann, T., 2015. Living in Heterogeneous Woodlands - Are Habitat Continuity or Quality Drivers of Genetic Variability in a Flightless Ground Beetle? PLoS One 10(12): e0144217. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144217

Meyer, S. T., Heuss, L., Feldhaar, H., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2019. Land-use components, abundance of predatory arthropods, and vegetation height affect predation rates in grasslands. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 270: 84-92.

Müller, J., Brunet, J., Brin, A., Bouget, C., Brustel, H., Bussler, H., Foerster, B., Isacsson, G., Koehler, F., & Lachat, T., 2013. Implications from large?scale spatial diversity patterns of saproxylic beetles for the conservation of European Beech forests. Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2): 162-169.

Müller, J., Wende, B., Strobl, C., Eugster, M., Gallenberger, I., Floren, A., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Linsenmair, K. E., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2015. Forest management and regional tree composition drive the host preference of saproxylic beetle communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 52(3): 753-762.

Nolte, D., Schuldt, A., Gossner, M. M., Ulrich, W., & Assmann, T., 2017. Functional traits drive ground beetle community structures in Central European forests: Implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 213: 5-12. doi:

Parmain, G., Bouget, C., Müller, J., Horak, J., Gossner, M., Lachat, T., & Isacsson, G., 2015. Can rove beetles (Staphylinidae) be excluded in studies focusing on saproxylic beetles in central European beech forests? Bulletin of entomological research 105(1): 101-109.

Raupach, M. J., Hendrich, L., Kuchler, S. M., Deister, F., Moriniere, J., & Gossner, M. M., 2014. Building-up of a DNA barcode library for true bugs (insecta: hemiptera: heteroptera) of Germany reveals taxonomic uncertainties and surprises. PLoS One 9(9): e106940. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106940

Schneider, F. D., Jochum, M., Le Provost, G., Ostrowski, A., Penone, C., Fichtmüller, D., Güntsch, A., Gossner, M. M., König-Ries, B., Manning, P., & Simons, N. K., 2018. Towards an Ecological Trait-data Standard. bioRxiv. doi:10.1101/328302

Seibold, S., Gossner, M.M., Simons, N.K., Blüthgen, N., Müller, J., Ambarli, D., Ammer, C., Bauhus, J., Fischer, M., Habel, J.C., Linsenmair, K.E., Nauss, T., Penone, C., Prati, D., Schall, P., Schulze, E.-D., Vogt, J., Wöllauer, S. & Weisser, W.W., 2019. Arthropod decline in grasslands and forests is associated with drivers at landscape level. Nature. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1684-3

Simons, N. K., Gossner, M. M., Lewinsohn, T. M., Boch, S., Lange, M., Muller, J., Pasalic, E., Socher, S. A., Turke, M., Fischer, M., & Weisser, W. W., 2014. Resource-mediated indirect effects of grassland management on arthropod diversity. PLoS One 9(9): e107033. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107033

Simons, N. K., Gossner, M. M., Lewinsohn, T. M., Lange, M., Turke, M., & Weisser, W. W., 2015. Effects of land-use intensity on arthropod species abundance distributions in grasslands. J Anim Ecol 84(1): 143-154. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12278

Simons, N. K., Lewinsohn, T., Blüthgen, N., Buscot, F., Boch, S., Daniel, R., Gossner, M. M., Jung, K., Kaiser, K., Müller, J., Prati, D., Renner, S. C., Socher, S. A., Sonnemann, I., Weiner, C. N., Werner, M., Wubet, T., Wurst, S., & Weisser, W. W., 2017. Contrasting effects of grassland management modes on species-abundance distributions of multiple groups. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 237: 143-153. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2016.12.022

Simons, N. K., & Weisser, W. W., 2017. Agricultural intensification without biodiversity loss is possible in grassland landscapes. Nat Ecol Evol 1(8): 1136-1145. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0227-2

Simons, N. K., Weisser, W. W., & Gossner, M. M., 2016. Multi-taxa approach shows consistent shifts in arthropod functional traits along grassland land-use intensity gradient. Ecology 97(3): 754-764. doi:10.1890/15-0616.1

Wehner, K., Renker, C., Brückner, A., Simons, N. K., Weisser, W. W., & Blüthgen, N., 2019. Land?use in Europe affects land snail assemblages directly and indirectly by modulating abiotic and biotic drivers. Ecosphere 10(5): e02726.

Wende, B., Gossner Martin, M., Grass, I., Arnstadt, T., Hofrichter, M., Floren, A., Linsenmair Karl, E., Weisser Wolfgang, W., & Steffan-Dewenter, I., 2017. Trophic level, successional age and trait matching determine specialization of deadwood-based interaction networks of saproxylic beetles. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284(1854): 20170198. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0198

Wiesner, K. R., Habel, J. C., Gossner, M. M., Loxdale, H. D., Kohler, G., Schneider, A. R., Tiedemann, R., & Weisser, W. W., 2014. Effects of habitat structure and land-use intensity on the genetic structure of the grasshopper species Chorthippus parallelus. R Soc Open Sci 1(2): 140133. doi:10.1098/rsos.140133

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