Stability of wildlife under global change and across levels of organisation

To understand how populations and communities react to global change we study how their traits and their stability are affected by disturbances.

Project details
Duration: 08/2018 - 07/2021
Third-party funded: yes
Involved Department(s): Dept Ecological Dynamics
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Viktoriia Radchuk (Dept Ecological Dynamics)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team: Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, Guillaume Chero (all: Dept Ecological Dynamics)
Consortium Partner(s): German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Current Funding Organisation: German Science Foundation (DFG)

Research Foci:

Understanding traits and evolutionary adaptations
Understanding the environmental context
Developing theories, methods, and tools


Human induced environmental changes destabilise population and community dynamics, and it is therefore important to understand what mechanisms actually contribute to the long term persistence of populations or communities. Our research focuses on understanding these mechanisms underlying the stability of a systemat the individual, population and community level.

At the individual level we focus on adaptive trait changes as one of the mechanisms enabling populations and species to cope with disturbances, such as climate change. In particular, we look at phenological and morphological traits across terrestrial animals.
At the population level, we investigate how non-linearity in the response of traits to climate can stabilise population dynamics. We do so by means of simulation models that reflect a range of life history strategies and explore different aspects of climate change. Another stability mechanism we are looking at is the demographic structure of the population (e.g. sex ratio, mean population age), in particular, how it affects the stability of cycling populations in small mammals.
At the community level, we study both the stability mechanisms (e.g. demographic stochasticity, dispersal), and the properties of disturbances. Understanding what types of disturbance, e.g. pulse disturbances, are most detrimental could help prioritise the conservation efforts in the Anthropocene.

Finally, we are interested in how stability mechanisms at one level of organisation may propagate and affect the stability of other levels of organisation. For example, we investigate to what extent the individual trait changes in response to ongoing climate change propagate and affect demographic rates and, eventually, population growth rate. This research is part of the sTraitChange project..

Selected Publications

Radchuk V, de Leander F, Sarmento Cabral J, Boulangeat I, Crwaford M, Bohn F, de Raedt J, Scherer C, Svenning JC, Thonicke K, Schurr FM, Grimm V, Kramer-Schadt S (2019): The dimensionality of stability depends on disturbance type. ECOL LETT 22, 674-684. doi:10.1111/ele.13226.

Radchuk V, Reed T, Teplitsky C, van de Pol M, Charmantier A, Hassall C, Adamík P, Adriaesen F, Ahola MP, Arcese P, Avilés JM, Balbontin J, Berg KS, Borras A, Burthe S, Clobert J, Dehnhard N, de Lope F, Dhondt AA, Dingemanse NJ, Doi H, Eeva T, Fickel J, Filella I, Fossøy F, Goodenough AE, Hall SJG, Hansson B, Harris M, Hasselquist D, Hickler T, Joshi J, Kharouba H, Martínez JG, Mihoub J-B, Mills JA, Molina-Morales M, Moksnes A, Ozgul A, Parejo D, Pilard P, Poisbleau M, Rousset F, Rödel MO, Scott D, Senar JC, Stefanescu C, Stokke BG, Kusano T, Tarka M, Tarwater CE, Thonicke K, Thorley J, Wilting A, Tryjanowski P, Merilä J, Sheldon BC, Møller AP, Matthysen E, Janzen F, Dobson FS, Visser ME, Beissinger SR, Courtiol A*, Kramer-Schadt S* (2019): Adaptive responses of animals to climate change are not universal and are likely insufficient. NAT COMMUN 10, 3109. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10924-4.