Plant Ecophysiology

Brueggemann flyer

The conditions under which plants exist are either seasonally or continually subjected to abiotic stress factors, such as periods of drought or low temperatures. To survive under such conditions, plants have to adapt themselves to their environment. Professor Wolfgang Brüggemann's main research focus concerns the adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus in plants. Making use of physiological and molecular biological methods, he analyses how plants function under extreme climatic conditions, for example how plants respond to drought. Brüggemann's objective is to determine whether the most successful of these adaptive mechanisms in cultivated and wild plants can be optimally used by humankind in the face of climate change.

Among others, he uses grasses of the genus Panicum (millets), which grow particularly well in savannas, as model systems. The millets can be used as aggregate fruits to supplement crops when the harvest yield is poor. These wild plants belong to the group of C4 plants, whose first photosynthetic product (oxaloacetic acid) contains not three, but four carbon atoms, thereby differentiating them from the majority of plants. They use both carbon dioxide and water more efficiently than C3 plants. Brüggemann uses genetic analyses to determine how the C4 metabolism developed in Panicum and which biochemical processes take place in its cells.

Climate change will very probably result in increasingly dry conditions for forests in central Europe. Brüggemann is investigating whether Mediterranean trees, which are both heat and drought resistant, are also sufficiently winter-hardy to be planted at locations in central European forests that are under particular threat from climate change to sustain these forests. In the course of this work, he studies photosynthesis in evergreen oaks and heads a collaborative BiKF project entitled "Forest of the Future". This project won the prize for innovation in 2009 as well as the Procter & Gamble Sustainability Award in both 2010 and 2011.

The module "Ecophysiology" in the "Ecology and Evolution" Master's Programme provides Brüggemann's students with the opportunity to study a broad spectrum of methods for analysing the features that plants need in order to survive in their specific climatic niche. In addition, this course offers students a general overview of biodiversity, a topic currently under discussion in many interdisciplinary and international research collaborations.

Brief Biography

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Wolfgang Brüggemann studied Biology at Düsseldorf University and then went on to study Chemistry at the University of Oldenburg, where he later completed his doctorate on salt-tolerant plantain species (halophytes). He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Marburg and Groningen (Netherlands), before joining the Department of Ecological Plant Physiology in Düsseldorf as senior postdoctoral researcher. In 1995 he completed his Habilitation in the field of botany on the subject of the adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus in the species Lycopersicon (tomatoes) to lower temperatures. In 1997 he was appointed professor on the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the Goethe University Frankfurt. His work is part of the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and Goethe University's Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiKF).


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Brüggemann
Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
(Biologicum, Flügel D)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42190