Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)


Herbaria provide long-term data crucial for tracing changes over a long period of time. The vast number of herbaria collections together with increasing digitization and the posibility for sequencing DNA from preserved plant material, make herbaria valuable resources for understanding ecological and evolutionary species responses to main drivers of global change e.g. industrialization causing increased pollution, increasing loss of habitat and changes in land use as well as climate change, and finally global trade and transport resulting in an increasing number of invasive species world‐wide (see also Using herbaria to study global change).

MSCA funded project on invasive Japanese knotweed

The project “Eco-evolutionary dynamics of biological invasions reconstructed from ancient DNA” funded by the EU H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, combines a targeted DNA sequencing approach and bioinformatics to generate historical DNA sequence information from herbarium specimens of Japanese knotweed (aka Reynoutria, one of the world’s 100 worst invasive weeds) and gain insights into the different stages of the invasion process. The project will examine the temporal and spatial dynamics and evolutionary changes contributing to species colonization and invasion of new ranges and offer a new perspective on how invasive species spread and proliferate.

BMBF funded project on the evolutionary history of Japanese knotweed

The project “Spatiotemporal dynamics of invasion in a global invader plant” funded by The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science employs herbarium genomics, target capture sequencing and herbarium phenotyping to gain an understanding of the genomic basis of plant invasion. The project aims to study genetic changes over time in the native and introduced range of Japanese knotweed and link it to putative changes in functional traits to decipher the molecular determinants of invasion success.

DFG project on the phenology of early flowering forest understory plants

The project 'Tracking long-term phenology and genetic diversity changes in the Biodiversity Exploratories: a comparison of contemporary plants and historical specimen'  within the DFG Priority Programme 1374 "Biodiversity Exploratories" combines field observations with mining of natural history collections to investigate how land use and climate change affect the flowering phenology of forest understory plants and whether there are long-term changes since the industrial revolution. In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Hernán Burbano, now at University College London, the evolution and genetic diversity of these forest plants is examined by contrasting DNA sequences of plant specimens.

Chemical defense in Japanese knotweed

The project 'Spatio-temporal changes in the production of secondary metabolites in Japanese knotweed' aims to analyse the dynamics in chemical defense of Reynoutria japonica, one of the most invasive plants in the world, since its introduction to Europe and North America. We designed a fast method to extract secondary metabolites from herbarium specimen leaves and will link temporal and spacial trends to environmental factors. The results help to understand the potential of adaptation in Japanese knotweed and contribute to the knowledge of plant-herbivore interactions.

Digitization of herbarium specimens

The Herbarium Tubingense has invested in new digitization technology to make our archival plant collections accessible for the use of broad-scale scientific research. Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation more than 8800 dried plants from the African region stored in the herbarium Tubingense have already been scanned. The images and records can be accessed via the largest international database JSTOR – Global plants. Herbarium Tubingense is also a co-partner of the digital database 'Virtuelles Herbarium Deutschland' that includes more than 15 Million scanned high resolution images and associated record information on dried plant specimens from 14 herbaria in Germany. More than 2000 seeds from one of our many special collections, the Karl Hummel collection, have been digitized. The images can be accessed via the academic library website of Tuebingen University (Pharmakognostische Sammlung Hummel).