DFG_Biodiversity_Exploratory_SchwaebischeAlb - Germany
Parent Site Name
The establishing Biosphere Reserve Schwäbische Alb covers more than 45,000 ha in the centre of the mountain range of the Schwäbische Alb in the state of Baden-Württemberg in SW-Germany. The Schwäbische Alb with its calcareous bedrock was formed during the tertiary, when the sediments of the Jurassic sea rose due to tectonic movements in the upper Rhine valley. The landscape is representative for a wide range of similar calcareous mountain ranges, which extend from the Franconian Alb in the NE to Swiss and French Jura mountains. It is characterized by a mosaic of forest and grassland, where grasslands generally have a relatively high proportion, mainly due to a many-century-long tradition of sheep herding. Forests range from natural old-growth beech forests over mixed forests to intensely managed spruce monocultures. Special forest types include park-like forests with many solitary trees created by century-long grazing, and untouched mixed forests in small canyons. Grasslands range from unfertilized pastures mainly grazed by sheep over unfertilized or moderately fertilized meadows to fertilized intensely used grassland. Forest and grasslands are interspersed with root crop fields, while hardly any cereals are cultivated in the area. The area has been characterized by low-intensity agriculture for many centuries.
General Characteristics, Purpose, History
Changes in land use and its intensity are major determinants of biodiversity. Currently, biodiversity experiences a general decline due to ongoing large- and small-scale changes in land use. However, while the relationship between land use and biodiversity is well-established for some taxa including studies on the effects on genetic diversity, it is not for others. Also, it is not known how diversities of different taxa are related to each other, and whether they, and their genetic diversities respond similarly to variation in land use. Recent model experiments with manipulated plant species diversity demonstrated negative effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning and services. Other model experiments with manipulated microbial, fungal, animal, and genetic diversity are further exploring functional consequences of biodiversity change, and they appear to confirm the observations made with plants. However, for natural systems the functional importance of biodiversity is unclear because of the overriding effects of different management strategies. Therefore, research in real landscapes on feed back loops between landscape change, diversity of genes, species and biological interactions, and ecosystem services through combinations of monitoring approaches and measurements of functional diversity with designed experiments will be conducted.
Affiliation and Network Specific Information