Research Group Geoecology
Research of the Geoecology group focusses on past, present and potential future effects of environmental drivers on species, assemblages and ecosystems on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. We study topics as different as the ecology and biogeography of specialized species and organism-groups, such as aquatic macroinvertebrates inhabiting spring habitats, long-term ecosystem development and past and ongoing species distribution changes reconstructed from biotic indicators (e.g. diatoms, pollen, chironomids, cladocerans). The reconstruction of past climatic and other environmental changes based on biotic assemblages and stable isotope analyses of microfossils in natural archives is a further focus of our research group.
Our research is intrinsically interdisciplinary with close links to Palaeoecology and Ecology, Biogeography, Biogeosciences, Climate Change Research, and Quaternary Geology. Members of the Geoecology group teach in both Geosciences and Integrative Biology.
Environmental and ecosystem reconstruction
Research on environmental reconstruction in the Geoecology group focusses on using palaeoecological indicators in natural archives such as lake sediments to reconstruct past ecological and environmental change. Recent and ongoing projects assess, e.g., long-term ecosystem development, changes in carbon and nutrient cycling in lake ecosystems, early and recent human impacts on lakes and landscapes or past climatic changes based on biotic indicators. A particular focus is also on studying the response of ecological systems (e.g. species assemblages, species distributions, ecosystem states) in the modern environment to improve and quantify environmental reconstructions based on biotic indicators.
Recent examples of publications focusing on environmental and ecosystem reconstruction:
Samartin, S., O. Heiri, F. Joos, H. Renssen, J. Franke, S. Brönnimann & W. Tinner, 2017. Warm Mediterranean mid-Holocene summers inferred from fossil midge assemblages. Nature Geoscience 10:207-212.
Schilder, J., M. van Hardenbroek, P. Bodelier, E. P. Kirilova, M. Leuenberger, A. F. Lotter & O. Heiri, 2017. Trophic state changes can affect the importance of methane-derived carbon in aquatic food webs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284:20170278.
Jimenez, L., J. M. Conde-Porcuna, A. Garcia-Alix, J. L. Toney, R. S. Anderson, O. Heiri & C. Perez-Martinez, 2018. Ecosystem Responses to Climate-Related Changes in a Mediterranean Alpine Environment Over the Last 180 Years. Ecosystems doi.org/10.1007/s10021-018-0286-5:1-15.
Spring- and freshwater ecology
In the group "Spring- and Freshwater Ecology" we are especially interested in a profound unterstanding of the function of springs as a natural habitat. Springs are transitional habitats at the interface between surface water and groundwater, so called ecotones. Due to their special abiotic conditions they are considered unique habitats. Especially due to the use of spring water as a resource for drinking water the number of natural springs went down significantly during the past century. Thats why springs have to be considered endangered habitats. To add to that the ecology of apline springs has until now been only insufficiently investigated and exactly those springs are most affected by the Global Climate Change. More anthropogenic stress factors for springs and small freshwater streams are the contamination with pesticides and structural changes in the waterbodies. Especially the effects of pesticides on spring organisms have so far been only insufficiently investigated.