Consumers & functions

Dr. habil. Anne Ebeling, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena
PD Dr. Sebastian T. Meyer, Technical University of Munich

In our previous work, we could repeatedly show that plant diversity impacts higher trophic levels (see ‘State of the art’ section). However, we revealed large variability in consumer communities, herbivory and predation within and between years, regarding average values and their relation to plant diversity. Due to the relevance of invertebrates in grassland ecosystems and ongoing climatic changes, it is essential to understand the drivers of temporal variability and to identify buffering mechanisms (e.g. plant diversity). Using a combination of statistical analyses of long-term data series and targeted microcosm experiments, SP10 ‘Consumers and Functions’ aims to understand
(1) what causes temporal variability in consumer communities and associated functions and (2) whether plant diversity has a stabilising effect on properties of the invertebrate consumer community (species richness, abundance, biomass) and associated ecosystem functions (herbivory and predation).

Specifically, we want to investigate if high plant diversity leads to less temporal variation in consumer communities and thus contributes to a more stable provisioning of ecosystem functions under extreme environmental conditions, particularly under drought (WP1). We will also investigate which dynamics and properties of the consumer communities underlie these effects (WP2 and 3).