Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)

Nicola Lechner: PhD Student

Research

I am a PhD student in plant ecology focusing on the effects of increasing drought and extreme events in temperate ecosystems.

Within the water network Baden-Württemberg the project DRIeR looks at the drought impacts, processes and resilience of ecosystems in the context of increasing and extreme drought. The project is funded by the ministry of science, research and art of Baden-Württemberg. It is an interdisciplinary project with includes hydrological, social and ecological aspects of drought and consists of several working packages within the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg and the plant ecology group of Tübingen. We will conduct ecological experiments which look at the effects of drought and extreme events on different vegetation types. Droughts are rare climatic events and therefore cannot be observed easily. For a better understanding of drought events it is important to design manipulative field experiments.

To test the response of vegetation to decreasing precipitation we want to establish field experiments in forests and grasslands along a gradient of natural water availability on the Swabian Alb. To simulate different drought scenarios and test for ecosystem resistance and resilience we will establish rainout shelters which reduce precipitation approximately 30% and 70%. Three drought treatments (Resistance – permanent moderate drought, Resilience 1 – one-year extreme drought, Resilience 2 – two-year extreme drought) and one control treatment with one replicate each will be established in each experimental site. To control for the ecosystem response, vegetation assessments will be done every year. Additionally, biodiversity will be manipulated by removing plants from the experimental areas. We hypothesize that ecosystems on naturally dry sites will be more resistant to permanent drought than ecosystems on wetter sites. Additionally we hypothesize that ecosystems occurring on sites variable in water availability will show higher resilience to extreme drought than ecosystems with constant water supply.

Education

2016 – ongoing

PhD in Plant Ecology Group

2012 – 2015

Master in Geoecology, Master Thesis: Influence of habitat heterogeneity on plant species diversity in a native grassland community, University of Tübingen, Plant Ecology

2009 – 2012

Bachelor in Geoecology, University of Tübingen