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Dr. Lars Opgenoorth | opgenoorth@uni-marburg.de | www.opgenoorth.org | phone +49 6421 2822080 |

Global Change Ecology - Ongoing projects

DFG research unit 2358 | The Mountain Exile Hypothesis: How humans benefited from and re-shaped African high altitude ecosystems during Quaternary climate changes

High altitude ecosystems are still widely perceived as natural and anthropogenic transformation is generally considered to be concentrated on lower elevations and late. However, recent studies challenge this view and for quaternary environmental science and prehistory, the question where humans retreated to during the driest intervals of the last 20 ka when lowlands may have become uninhabitable is still demanding. Based on previous own and third-party research and a total of four reconnaissances to the study area as part of the preparation of this research unit, we challenge the initially stated long-held belief. Given the higher humidity of the African mountains archipelago, the afro-alpine environments are a potential glacial refuge not only for plants and animals, but also for humans. Among others, this idea is backed up by the facts that As a consequence, we postulate not a late but early afro-alpine occupation expressed as the “Mountain Exile Hypothesis”. Hence, the research unit will focus on reconstructing the natural and the anthropogenic history of this afro-alpine environment in space and time and the identification and quantification of the natural and anthropogenic drivers and processes that shaped the ecology evolution of the research area.

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Forest Trees - Ongoing projects

DFG LocalAdapt | Local adaptation of Nothofagus pumilio along the latitudinal gradient of the Andes

The goals of this study are to identify the genetic and phenotypic basis of local adaptation, and to determine the spatial scale at which demographic history, natural selection, gene flow, and major environmental drivers affect genetic diversity and local adaptation in N. pumilio. In addition, this study wants to test whether local adaptation along major environmental gradients evolved convergently among the southern beech and seven tree species from Europe including beech and oak. For these purposes, we will link genetic variation in a set of ~1,000 candidate genes with dendrophenotypes to quantify the genomic response of individuals and populations to environmental differences along two clines. The first cline is the latitudinal gradient along the Andean main ridge that will allow investigating pathways influenced by cues of the light regime e.g. circadian clock related genes. The second cline is an east-west gradient that at the same time is an elevational and consequently temperature as well as precipitation gradient that will allow investigating pathways linked to these climatic parameters. In addition, we will investigate the response of trees to stress events unlinked to these gradients, namely ENSO related climatic variability and pest outbreaks (Paritsis et al. 2009). In a next step, our results will be compared to currently ongoing studies with identical experimental design conducted in seven European tree species that among others include the relatively closely related Fagus sylvatica and Quercus robur as well as the very distantly related conifer Picea abies

LOEWE Nature 4.0  | Comprehensive nature conservation monitoring through networked sensors and integrated data analysis

The overall goal of Nature 4.0 is to develop a prototype of a sensor based monitoring system of interaction networks in forests. Beginning with the sensor-based phenotyping of trees such as the quantification of their primary production including fruit production and ending with sensor based assessments of detritivor activitiy, Nature 4.0 will develop new monitoring approaches and test available sensors on different platforms such as UAVs, robots, but also mounted on animals such as deer and birds. This prototype of a comprehensive monitoring system will be developed in the Marburg Open Forest and is meant as the basis for range-wide monitoring schemes to provide spatially explicit, highly resolved real time data for managers and conservationists but also for basic research in evolutionary ecology and forestry, e.g. in association genetics.

H2020 EpiDiverse | Epigenetic Diversity in Ecology, European Training Network (ETN)

EpiDiverse will train a new generation of multidisciplinary epigenetic experts capable of using, managing and translating high-resolution genomic and bioinformatic tools to study the role of epigenetics in ecology. This is the core motivation of the interdisciplinary EpiDiverse research: to push the field of plant ecological epigenetics by applying high-resolution epigenomics research tools and ecological field sampling and experimental designs to a diverse set of ecologically relevant natural study systems, with the ultimate aim to expose the contribution of epigenetic variation to the adaptive capacity of plants. To achieve this goal, EpiDiverse brings together state-of-the-art know-how of leading epigenetics researchers in molecular genetics, ecology and bioinformatics with the capacity of life sciences companies for the generation and analysis of high-throughput epigenetic sequencing data within large-scale ecological study designs.

H2020 GenTree | Optimising the management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources in Europe

The overall goal of GenTree is to provide the European forestry sector with better knowledge, methods and tools to improve the conservation and use of adapted and genetically diverse FGR in European forests in the context of global environmental change and evolving societal demands for a diversified range of forest products. To reach its goal, GenTree will try to make scientific, technological and
implementation breakthroughs in 1. The design of innovative strategies for conserving FGR in European forests; 2. Broadening the range of FGR used in European breeding programmes; 3. The integration of conservation and breeding strategies to provide a new framework for the development of adaptive forest management. GenTree will be funded under the EU H2020 program and will include cooperation partners from throughout Europe.

BEECHgenomes | Genomic variation in common beech: analysis of the adaptation and adaptability of a forest species of great ecological and economic importance threatened by climate change

Common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) is an important keystone forest species, representing more than 15% of Europe's forests and of great commercial importance. It is the subject of many high quality research programs in ecology, forest science, genetics and ecophysiology. Despite this, there is a glaring lack of genomic resources and knowledge on the genomic basis of adaptation in this species. The BEECHGENOMES project (2017-2020), funded as part of the France genomics call for projects, and led by INRA-URFM (Ivan Scotti), has three objectives: (1) to establish a reference genomic sequence for the common beech; (2) obtain high-density polymorphism data by a sequencing genotyping approach from a large sample (> 2000 trees) obtained across Europe; (3) identify patterns of local multi-scale adaptation, from the stand to the distribution area, including the massif and the region. The BEECHgenomes project has close ties with the ongoing H2020 program GenTree, e.g. Isabelle Lesure of my team is working as a PostDoc in GenTree and BEECHgenome analysing the beech genomic data of both projects.

SFGP | The Silver Fir Genome Project

The Silver Fir Genome Project aims to establish genomic resources for Abies alba (European Silver Fir). In association with the AForGeN working group, this project aims to follow the successful model of the PineRefSeq project. From funding to comparative analysis, this project is open to collaboration from any field, any institution, and any country.

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Forest Trees - Former projects

sEpiDiv | Towards understanding the causes and consequences of epigenetic diversity

Epigenetic Diversity is a so far hidden component of biodiversity with potentially far reaching ecological consequences. As most epigenetic investigations dealing with plants have been done with Arabidopsis thaliana so far, the ecological relevance can not be assessed yet. In the framework of the sDiv-sponsored workshops sEpiDiv I & II we will outline and review the most urgent questions of plant ecological epigenetics for a european research agenda. The new research consortium founded in the framework of sEpiDiv includes molecular biologists, ecologists and bioinformatitians. This project is funded by iDiv.

DFG Do long-lived conifers react to environmental stress by somatic epigenetic priming? Genomic methylation analysis at single-base resolution by means of exome capture and bisulfite sequencing in Norway spruce

In this study we aim to investigate the methylation profile of Picea abies to find out whether coherent changes in DNA methylation status occur dependent on environmental conditions (epigenetic priming). As a proof-of-principle, we aim to conduct targeted bisulfite sequencing in order to identify the methylation status of Picea abies for the complete exome. By using pairs of ortets and ramets that have been growing under different environmental conditions, we will determine whether methylation profiles differ in general between these pairs. Furthermore, we will use the recently published and annotated Picea abies reference genome to check á posteriori whether there are differences in methylation status in specific genes (e.g. related to circadian rhythms, bud phenology and stress) between otherwise genetically identical individuals. Significant changes would imply that gene methylation permits phenotypic changes within the life time of an organism. As the existing experimental setting is based on grafted ramets we will cross-check the methylation profile of tissue from the root stock and the graft stock in case that the first comparisons of ortet and ramet pairs produce coherent differences. This second step then is aimed at testing whether different methylation profiles are due to the influence of the root stock (see above). At the same time, this approach will allow the exploration of the methylation status in different tissues (needles vs. bark). This project was funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

BioDiversa TipTree | Scenarios for forest biodiversity dynamics under global change: Identifying microevolutionary scale tipping points driven by tree adaptive potential.

In a joint Pan-European project with collegues from France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden we screen the ecological and geographical margins of widespread keystone forest trees from different ecoregions to identify where recent environmental changes have provoked adaptational shifts to water stress, temperature regime, storm/fire freuqeuncy, and pest outbreaks. Using natural and controlled (reciprocal transplants, common gardens) populations from existing Pan-European networks, we will generate large arrays of genomic polymorphisms using innovative genomic approaches. The goal is to test the existence and evaltuate the magnitude of tipping points for tree population dynamics at micro-evolutionary scales. In close cooperation with Martin Lascoux from Uppsala and Beppe Vendramin from Italy we focus on Picea abies in its entire range including populations from Sweden, Germany (Nationalpark Bayerischwer Wald), and Italy. (funded by ERA-NET BiodivERsA).

DFG Genetic Biodiversity research  in mountain forests of Myanmar

The Inselbergs of Burma likely have played a central role in the speciation processes of the montane and alpine biota of the southeastern Himalaya. In this projekt we investigate this role in an island biogeographical context by means of plant diversity transects. I contribute to the overall project by doing population genetic investigations on selected plant taxa. Several expeditions to the remote mountain forests in northern Burma in close cooperation with Burmese partners have been done to collect the valuable plant material. This research was funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Insects - Ongoing projects

DFG Phylogeography of Ground Beetles as a human-independent paleoenvironmental proxy in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

One of the most challenging tasks in paleoecology is to disentangle climate signals from human disturbance signals. Ground beetles are
one of a few bioindicator groups that are independent of human influence and still highly sensitive to environmental change. Using phylogeographic and phylogenetic analysis of extant primarily-wingless ground beetles in combination with subfossil beetle remains, provides a new proxy for paleoenvironments that is human-independent, spatially explicit and coherent. This method was established in the Himalayan-Tibetan Orogen and will be transferred to the African Highlands. This research is funded as WP7 in the DFG FOR 2358.

DFG Phylogeny and biogeography of the extant ground beetle fauna as a new tool to unravel the Himalayan-Tibetan orogenesis 

The uplift of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen (HTO) has significantly influenced the global climate and due to its massive elevations and river incisions of the worlds largest mass elevation it likely played a significant role as a speciation pump. Almost every publication that deals with speciation, phylogeography and population genetics in High Asia refers to these connections. However, so far no spatially and timely highly resolved specification of the uplift events is available. Even regarding the overall picture of the HTO uplift there are significantly different opinions in the geosciences. In this project we utilize the fact that primarily wingless ground beetles are an ideal paleoecological tool as they are extremely species rich and immobile and are abundantly available throughout the HTO. By using dated phylogenies of extant ground beetle species we can date when a specific location has been uplifted to its current height and climatic conditions. Joachim Schmidt and I therefore use the phylogeography and phylogenies of Pterostichini to unravel the geological and climatological History of High Asia (e.g. see paper in 2011 in QSR and 2012 in PLOSone). This research is funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Insects - Former projects

BMBF SuLaMa: Participatory research to support sustainable land management on the Mahafaly Plateau in southwestern Madagascar (SuLaMa)

The goal of the overall project is to better understand the relationships and effects on interactions of ecosystems and their biological diversity with in situ land management on the Mahafaly Plateau, Madagascar. This region is challenged by increasing population pressure, poverty, and effects of climate change. SuLaMa intends to provide land use alternatives for a sustainbale improvement of the livelihoods of the local people. In our subproject we focus on the role that soil biodiversity plays in this dry ecosystem. Since little is known so far about the soil biota in this region, we screen the soil biodiversity along a landuse gradient from the dry forests of the Tsimanampetsotsa National Park to the surrounding villages. Furthermore, the impact of different taxonomic groups on the nutrient turnover in the soils is in our focus. (funded by BMBF,  www.sulama.de)

Other interests

IPBES - Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service

As its older brother the IPCC - IPBES was initiated to become a tool for decision makers and the general public to learn about the global biodiversity crisis, its tipping points and possible ways out of this crisis. As the Chair of The International Biogeography  Society's special committee on IPBES I have been an observer to IPBES-1, 2, and 3 and been actively involved in the stakeholder process. Furthermore, I oversee the society's nominations for IPBES experts. Likewise, as a member of the German National IPBES ad hoc expert committee I also help facilitate the German nomination process. And finally I have been appointed a Lead Author for the Regional Assessment Asia/Pacific. There I have been contributing to chapters 1 (setting the scene) and 3 (status and trends of biodiversity). www.ipbes.net

Current members in my project teams

Dr. Isabelle Lesur - PostDoc in the H2020 Project GenTree
Dr. Martin Leberecht - PostDoc in the LOEWE project Natur4.0
Dr. Sylvia Hofmann - PostDoc in the Bale Mts Research Unit
Bárbara Diez Rodriguez - PhD student in the European Training Network EpiDiverse
Jill Sekely - PhD student in the DFG projet LocalAdapt
Mekbib Fekadu - PhD student in the Bale Mts. Research Unit
Yeshitla Merene Abebe - PhD student in the Bale Mts Research Unit

Former members in my project teams

Dr. Katrin Heer - PostDoc in the EraNet Biodiversa project TipTree
Dr. Jiabin Zou - Projects on genetics and epigenetics of Picea
Dr. Joachim Schmidt - PostDoc in the Bale Mts Research Unit
Roman Fricke - Research associate in the BMBF project SuLaMa
Elmar Utesch - Technical assistant in the DFG project Hight Times in high Asia


*(co)first, (co)senior or corresponding authorships

50. Avanzi, Heer, Buentgen, Leonardi, Opgenoorth, Piermattei, Urbinati, Vendramin, Piotti (accepted in Heredity) Individual reproductive success in Norway spruce natural populations depends on growth rate, age and sensitivity to temperature.

49. Solé-Medina, Heer, Opgenoorth, Danusevicius, Notivol, Kaldewey, Robledo-Arnuncio, Ramírez-Valiente (in review in AoB PLANTS) Genetic variation in early fitness traits across European populations of silver birch (Betula pendula).

48. Castagneyrol, Valdés-Correcher, Bourdin, Barbaro, Bouriaud, Branco, Csóka, Duduman, Dulaurent, Eötvös, Ferrante, Fürjes-Mikó, Galman, Gossner, Harvey, Howe, Kaennel-Dobbertin, Koricheva, Löveï, Lupaștean, Milanović, Mrazova, Opgennoorth, Pitkänen, Popović, Roslin, Scherer-Lorenzen, Sam, Tahadlova, Thomas, Tack (accepted in Citizen Science: Theory and practice) Can School Children Support Ecological Research? Lessons from the ‘Oak Bodyguard’ Citizen Science Project.

47. Bittner, Bliedtner, Grady, Gil-Romera, Martin-Jones, Lemma, Mekonnen, Lamb, Yang, Glaser, Szidat, Salazar, Rose, Opgenoorth, Miehe, Nauss, Zech, Zech (in review in Journal of Paleolimnology) Revisiting afro-alpine Lake Garba Guracha in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia - rationale, chronology, geochemistry, and paleoenvironmental implications.

46. Estravis-Barcala et al. (accepted in Journal of Experimental Botany) Molecular bases of responses to abiotic stress in trees.

45. Martinez-Sancho et al. (in review in Scientific Data) The GenTree Dendroecological Collection, tree-ring and wood density data from seven tree species across Europe.

44*. Opgenoorth et al. (in review in BMC Evolutionary Biology) Rewinding the Molecular Clock in the genus Carabus: Revisiting Andujar et al. 2012.

43. Qien Li et al. (in review in Frontiers in Plant Science) Molecular phylogeography and evolutionary history of the endemic species Corydalis hendersonii on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau inferred from chloroplast DNA and ITS sequence variation

42*. Gossend et al. (2019) Middle Stone Age foragers resided in high elevations of the glaciated Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. Science 365 (6453) 583-587.

41. Friess et al. (2019) Introducing Nature 4.0: A sensor network for environmental monitoring in the Marburg Open Forest. Biodiversity Information Science and Standards 3, e36389.

40. Mosca et al. (2019) A reference genome sequence for the European silver fir (Abies alba): a community-generated genomic resource. Genes, Genomes, Genetics.

39. Friess et al. (2019) Arthropod communities in fungal fruitbodies are weakly structured by climate and biogeography across European beech forest. Diversity and Distribution, 1-14. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12882

38. Avanzi et al. (2019) Disentangling the effects of spatial proximity and genetic similarity on individual growth performances in Norway spruce natural populations. Science of the Total environment.

37*. Heer et al. (2018) Detection of somatic epigenetic variation in Norway spruce via targeted bisulfite sequencing. Ecology and Evolution.

36*. Miehe et al. (2018) The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan Highlands: Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem. Science of the Total environment. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.164

35. Ammer et al. (2018) Key ecological research questions for Central European forests. Basic and Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1016/j.baae.2018.07.006

34. Karki et al. (2018) IPBES - Chapter 1 - Setting the Scene: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Asia Pacific Region. IPBES Secretariat, Bonn, Germany.

33*. Heer et al. (2018) Linking dendroecology and association genetics: Stress responses archived in tree rings associate with SNP genotypes in Abies abla (Mill.). Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.14538

32*. Heer et al. (2018) The diversifying field of plant epigenetics. New Phytologist 217 (3): 988-992.

31. Richards et al. (2017) Ecological plant epigenetics: Evidence from model and non-model species, and the way forward. Ecology Letters 20 (12): 1576-1590. doi: 10.1111/ele.12858

30*. Schmidt et al. (2017) Mass elevation and lee effect override latitudinal effects in determining the distribution ranges of species: Ground beetles from the Himalaya-Tibet Orogen. PLoSone 12(3): e0172939.

29*. Hof et al. (2017) It's not (all) about the money - supporting IPBES through challenging times. Frontiers of Biogeography 9 (1).

28. Brändle et al. (2017) Genetic diversity in the alpine flatworm Crenobia alpina. Webecology 17(29), 29.

27*. Wan et al. (2016) The Quaternary evolutionary history, potential distribution dynamics and conservation implications for a Qinghai-Tibet Plateau endemic herbaceous perennial, Anisodus tanguticus (Solanacae). Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2019

26*. Heer et al. (2016) Detection of SNPs based on transcriptome sequencing in Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst). Conservation Genetics Resources. DOI: 10.1007/s12686-016-0520-4

25*. Opgenoorth & Hotes (2016) IPBES is in the books: Pollination and scenario assessments are two steps to guiding policy makers in the global biodiversity crisis. Frontiers in Biogeography 8 (1).

24. Schmidt et al. (2015) Speciation, uplift, and climate change. – In: Miehe, G. & Pendry, C. (eds.): Nepal. An introduction to the natural history, ecology and human environment in the Himalayas. A companion to the Flora of Nepal. – Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

23. Shang et al. (2015) Evolutionary origin and demographic history of an ancient conifer (Juniperus microsperma) in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Scientific Reports 5.

22*. Gossner et al. (2015) Where is the extended phenotype in the wild? The community composition of arthropods on mature oak trees does not depend on the oak genotype. PLoSone 10 (1), e0115733.

21*. Müller & Opgenoorth (2014) On the gap between science and conservation implementation - a national park perspective. Basic and Applied Ecology 15 (2014), 373-378.

20. Müller et al. (2014) Relative heart size but not body size within population of two rodent species increases with elevation: reviving Hesse's rule. Journal of Biogeography 41 (12), 2211-2220.

19*. Hotes & Opgenoorth (2014) Trust and Control at the Science-Policy Interface in IPBES. BioScience, biu019.

18*. Opgenoorth et al. (2014) IPBES: Biodiversity panel should play by rules. Nature 506, 159.

17*. Miehe et al. (2014) How old is the human footprint in the world's largest alpine ecosystem? A review of multiproxy records from the Tibetan Plateau from the ecologists' viewpoint. Quaternary Science Reviews 86, 190-209.

16*. Opgenoorth & Faith (2013) The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), up and walking. Frontiers of Biogeography 5 (4), 207-211.

15*. Bacht et al. (2013) Are Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) populations of the low mountain ranges remnants of a broader distribution in the past? Journal of Ornithology 154 (1), 231-237.

14*. Miehe & Opgenoorth (2013) The End of the Forest on Top of the World. German Research 2/2013: 22–25.

13. Liu et al. (2012) Molecular bases for parallel evolution of translucent bracts in an alpine “glasshouse” plant Rheum alexandrae (Polygonaceae). Journal of Systematics and Evolution 51 (2), 134-141.

12*. Schmidt et al. (2012) Into the Himalayan Exile: The Phylogeography of the Ground Beetle Ethira clade Supports the Tibetan Origin of Forest-Dwelling Himalayan Species Groups. PLoSone 7 (9), e45482.

11*. Zhou et al. (2012) Molecular phylogeography and evolutionary history of Picea likiangensis in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau inferred from mitochondrial and chloroplast DNA sequence variation. Journal of Systematics and Evolution 50 (4), 341-350.

10*. Schmidt et al. (2011) Neoendemic ground beetles and private tree haplotypes: two independent proxies attest moderate LGM summer temperature depression of 3 to 4K for the southern Tibetan Plateau. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 1918-1925. Invited paper.

9. Michalczyk et al. (2010) Genetic support for periglacial survival of juniper populations in Central Europe. The Holocene 20 (6), 887-994.

8*. Opgenoorth et al. (2010) Tree endurance on the Tibetan Plateau marks the world's highest known tree line of the Last Glacial Maximum. New Phytologist, 185 (1), 332-342. Paper was highlighted in the editorial section of that New Phytologist edition.

7*. Opgenoorth (2009) Identification and characterization of nuclear microsatellites in Juniperus tibetica using next generation sequencing. Conservation Genetics Resources 1 (1).

6. Kaiser et al. (2009) Charcoal and fossil wood from palaeosols, sediments and artificial structures indicating Late Holocene woodland decline in southern Tibet (China). Quaternary Science Reviews, 28 (15-16), 1539-1554.

5. Miehe et al. (2007) An inventory of forest relicts in the pastures of Southern Tibet (Xizang A.R.,China). Plant Ecology, 194 (2), 157-177.

4. Miehe et al. (2007) Mountain forest islands and Holocene environmental changes in Central Asia: A case study from the southern Gobi Altay, Mongolia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 250 (1-4), 150-166. 

3*. Opgenoorth et al. (2005) Isolated Birch and Willow Forests in the Govi Gurvan Sayhan National Park. Erforschung biologischer Ressourcen der Mongolei, 9, 247-258.

2. Cermak et al. (2005) Isolated Mountain Forests in Central Asian Deserts. A Case Study from the Govi Altay, Mongolia. In: Broll, G. & Keplin, B.(Hrsg.) Mountain Ecosystems. Springer. 253-273.

1*. Cermak & Opgenoorth (2003) Dynamics of forest islands in the Govi Altay: microclimate and human impact. Berliner Paläobiologische Abhandlungen, 2: 28-29.

Zuletzt aktualisiert: 20.12.2019 · Lars Opgenoorth

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