Plant Ecology

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Plants need favourable environmental conditions to thrive and reproduce in their habitats. In the long-term, however, they can only survive by means of seed dispersal because it is the only way that they can move to new habitats if land-use or climate changes occur. Professor Oliver Tackenberg conducts research to discover the environmental factors which affect the presence and distribution of plants. His objective is to determine the extent to which plant distribution is limited by climatic conditions or their ability to disperse. Seed dispersal analysis is therefore one focus of his research; he investigates it primarily with experimental and computer-simulation models. He uses his findings, for example, to predict whether plant species will be able to migrate rapidly enough to keep pace with current climate changes.

In order to estimate plants' potential to disperse, Tackenberg and his research group analyse the life history traits of hundreds of plant species and their seeds. Their samples cover over 80% of Middle European flora as well as seeds from African trees and grasses. Characterisation of seeds encompasses morphological analyses up to and including measurements of the seed's buoyancy or how fast it falls. For this purpose, Tackenberg has developed a laser light barrier device to perform exact measurements. Animals play an important role in the seed dispersal of many plants. Consequently, seeds that provide animals with an attractive source of food or those that adhere to animals' fur are also investigated. Moreover, the characteristics of vectors affecting plant dispersal have to be incorporated into the analyses, such as the speed of winds and currents as well as the distance travelled by animals which is measured by GPS. "To fully comprehend all the uncertainties surrounding seed dispersal, we have established many collaborations with, for example, wild-life biologists and meteorologists", Tackenberg explains. In addition to teaching up-to-date fieldwork and lab research methods, Tackenberg trains his students in statistical analysis, which they can employ in the ecological modelling of this comprehensive data. 

Brief Biography

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Subsequent to receiving a degree in Biology at the Münster and Marburg Universities, Oliver Tackenberg obtained his doctorate at the University of Marburg on the topic of the dispersal biology of plants. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Regensburg University, where he studied the link between the functional characteristics of plants and their spatial distribution. In 2007 he was appointed assistant professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt and in 2009 received his Habilitation from the Botany Faculty at the University of Regensburg for his research on functional ecology in plants. Tackenberg is a speaker in the "Biodiversity and Climate" Section at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiKF) of the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and of the Goethe University Frankfurt.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Oliver Tackenberg
Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13 (Biologicum, Flügel C)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42136
E-Mail: tackenberg@bio.uni-frankfurt.de
www.bio.uni-frankfurt.de