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Department of Biogeography

Prof. Dr. Carl Beierkuhnlein

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Kreyling, J*: Biodiversity and climate change – of loss and insurance
invited Talk, University Vienna: Colloquium Vegetation Science, Wien: 2012-03-22 - 2012-03-23

Recent climate change constitutes a growing stressor for ecosystems. Diversity of the vegetation is an important insurance for the preservation of functionality, while increasingly being threatened itself by climate and global change. Consequently, it is urgent to increase our understanding of impacts of climate change and causal relations between climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, which will eventually allow for the development of adaptation strategies for ecosystem management. Three basic methods can be applied in this context: field observations, experiments, and modeling. Here, I present selected examples of my research on the interaction between different aspects of climate change and biodiversity using all three methods. I focus on biodiversity as a key factor of the vegetation at various levels, from within-species diversity to species richness, functional diversity and spatial diversity at the landscape scale. Concerning climatic parameters, I see a need to explore the response of the vegetation to climatic variability, extreme events and shifts in winter climate besides trends in mean conditions. Overall, the examples provide evidence for the importance of winter climate change and within-species variability, two aspects which have not yet received adequate attention. Further investigations of within-species variability in direct comparison to across-species variability under climatic pressure will explore the ecological relevance and the potential use of within-species variability as adaptation tool against adverse effects of climate change. Overall, I argue that only a broad combination of methods can allow for general insights into functional importance and vulnerability of biodiversity under changing climatic conditions.
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