Subproject 01: Plant Physiology (1 PhD position)

Principle Investigators: Claudia Guimarães-Steinicke and Hannes Feilhauer, Leipzig University


Climate change will increase the occurrence of extreme events that trigger both species evolution and selective removal of not well-acclimated species. Plant biomass production is a key response indicator of plant community performance under unfavorable conditions. However, in biodiversity research, biomass is usually measured once or twice throughout the growing season, which may hide seasonal plant responses during and after extreme events. As physiological processes are closely related to plant biomass production, a comprehensive and continuous assessment of plant physiological performance can improve our understanding of immediate responses to and recovery after extreme events and, consequently, carbon assimilation of the plant community. Near-surface remote sensing technology offers a unique opportunity to assess these dynamic changes and the community condition in dense time series. 

In this subproject, we aim to understand (1) the physiological response of plants to extreme climate events at multiple levels – from plant organs to communities -, and (2) whether increasing plant diversity may lower the consequences of such extremes. For that, an assessment of fundamental physiological plant traits (via proximal sensing) such as leaf water content, leaf chlorophyll content, surface temperature, community structure, and leaf angles are required, as these data can provide a holistic understanding of plant responses to drought at different time scales (including resistance to and recovery from the event). We hence intend to 1) assess plant community responses to drought based on hydrological and structural-functional traits, (2) test plant community resistance and recovery in different dimensions of community stability, and (3) demonstrate how plant functional traits retrieved from remote sensing techniques can elucidate the role of biodiversity role in plant community resistance to and recovery after extreme events.

Available positions: 1 PhD student

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Contact: Dr. Claudia Guimaraes (