PhD: Assessing the role of fungus-mediated plant-soil feedbacks during secondary succession of tropical forests
School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography
I am keen to understand how multi-trophic species interactions contribute to shaping and maintaining biodiversity. In line with this goal, I studied the impact of predators on defensive traits of dragonfly larvae during my Bachelor’s research at Free University Berlin. My Master studies then took me from the University of Bayreuth to Panama, where I investigated the role of insect herbivores and predation pressure in structuring hyper-diverse tropical forest communities.
My PhD will be lifting my previous experiences to another level by going underground: The project aims at understanding the role of fungi-mediated plant-soil feedbacks during the regeneration of tropical forests. Soil-borne fungi may strongly influence the establishment success of tropical tree species and could thus drive successional species turnover in recovering forest ecosystems.
Secondary forests become increasingly prominent features of tropical landscapes, with their area widely exceeding that of mature forests even today. While secondary forests can restore biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihood security, and absorb vast quantities of CO2, they often recover slowly. Understanding how tropical forests regenerate after severe disturbance will improve restoration and reforestation efforts and may help to mitigate the effects of unsustainable land use.