How do plant species respond to changing environmental conditions? This is the question that incites most of my scientific work.
I combine empirical data with process-based models to better understand patterns of species' trait and niche evolution, range shifts and phenotypic plasticity.
I am also interested in a better integration of monitoring and modeling of biodiversity to improve projections of future scenarios.
Phenological responses to environmental change
In the frame of the PASIT Project, together with Prof. Dr. Eike Lüdeling, Dr. Cory Whitney and our project partners, we aim at
advancing the understanding of climate change impacts on fruit and nut farming communities in Tunisia and Chile. To that end, we integrate phenological dormancy research and modeling of fruit and nut tree development with comprehensive socio-economic and behavioral data collection and analysis.
Improving biodiversity monitoring and modeling
Global biodiversity is declining rapidly, largely as a result of human activities.
Effective policy and adaptive management strategies in the face of global change
require well-designed biodiversity monitoring as well as the anticipation of future changes.
sMon Synthesis project of the iDiv,
Dr. David Eichenberg
Prof. Dr. Aletta Bonn
Prof. Dr. Florian Jansen
and Prof. Dr. Helge Bruelheide
we aim at combining and harmonizing exemplary datasets of different taxa and habitats
and to evaluate the potentials and limits for analysing changes in the state of biodiversity in Germany.
We are using Bayesian hierarchical modells to account for observer bias and
will derive perspective for future biodiversity monitoring programs in Germany.
In two other projects, we used synthetic data to test how well different biodiversity metrics
reflect changes in biodiversity metrics (Santini et al. 2017 Biological Conservation)
and how a set of novel modelling approaches for species range dynamics perform under different
assumptions for demographic and community processes (Zurell et al, 2016, Global Change Biology,
Doing some conceptual work, together with Dr. Wilfried Thuiller and co-authors we formulated
a road map for integrating eco-evolutionary processes into biodiversity models (Thuiller et al,
2013, Ecology Letters PDF.
Trait and niche evolution
Parts of the ERC project
TEEMBIO (Towards Eco-Evolutionary Models of
BIOdiversity, 2012-2016, FP7, led by Dr. Wilfried Thuiller) and
my former Marie-Curie project EMMA (Evolution Meets MAcroecology,
2010-2012, FP7) aim at investigating the dynamics of rapid adaptation and
niche evolution to assess the evolutionary potential of species
subjected to environmental change. Together with my collaborators, I
approach this topic from two angles: Coming from the process-based
side, we use simulation modeling on allelic adaptive dynamics (download Aladyn source-code) to investigate
how demographic parameters, populations genetics and abiotic
conditions affect the rate of adaptation. For these studies, I am
with Dr. Justin
On the other side, comprehensive distributional and phylogenetic
data allow us to infer patterns of past niche evolution across
different taxonomic scales. Together with
Boucher, Dr. Sébastien
Lavergne, Dr. Wilfried
Thuiller and Dr. Cristina
we develop new analytical pathways to test the hypothesis of niche
conservatism and quantify rates and modes of evolution.
Biotic interactions are important drivers of species coexistence and
community assemblage. I am interested (but not working a lot in this
field anymore) in how the intensity and mode of interactions depend
on abiotic conditions and the spatial distribution,
life-history-stage and morphological plasticity of interacting
The two studies on which I worked most are
(1) a neighbour-removal experiment along a climatic gradient in Israel
demonstrating the existence of onthogenetic shifts from positive to
negative interactions in two annual plant species (in the framework of
the GLOWA Jordan River
Project in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger:
Schiffers and Tielbörger, 2006, Journal of
(2) a semi-mechanistic simulation model fitted to experimental data
on the uptake of nutrient tracers showing how the interactive
effects of plants' spatial distribution and morphological plasticity
affect intra-specific competition intensity (in collaboration with
Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger ,
Prof. Dr. Britta Tietjen and
Prof. Dr. Florian Jeltsch , Schiffers et al, 2011,
Other studies focus on the integration of positive interactions
into ecological research and theory (Brooker et al. 2008, Journal of
Ecology, PDF), the
intensity of indirect interactions along climatic gradients (Defossez
et al, 2015, Oikos, PDF),
the influence of interspecific interactions on species range expansion rates
(Svenning et al. 2014, Ecography, PDF), and the integration of biotic interactions into
individual-based (Berger et al, 2008,
PPEES, PDF) and
macroecological models (Kissling et al, 2011, Journal of
katja.schiffers (at) gmail.com