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Dr. Lars Opgenoorth

Phone: 06421 28-22080

Email: lars.opgenoorth[at]uni-marburg.de

Room: C 2063

Research Interests

Biogeography, Ecology and Evolution or in other words: biodiversity research. For me this is the most interesting and one of the most urgent reserch agendas of our time. The enormous complexity of biological systems - from the (epi)genome to ecosystems, from individual organisms to full biomes, craves a broad range of research approaches and methods, covering broad temporal and spatial scales. Thus in my research I integrate historical biogeography and evolutionary approaches with ecological research as I want to understand what drives speciation and adaptation. My focus is on high mountain areas as they contain large parts of the global biodiversity, as well as on forest ecosystems, as it puzzles me how long livinig organisms are able to cope with the rather rapid environmental changes. Finally, it is my aim to make basic research relevant for practitioners. Thus in many of my projects interaction with stakeholders is an important component.

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Forest Trees - Ongoing projects

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.

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.

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.

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 is funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

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, www.tiptree-project.eu ).

Genetic Biodiversity research  in mountain forests of Burma

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 is funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography of Insects - Ongoing projects

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.

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).

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 am contributing to chapters 1 (setting the scene) and 3 (status and trends of biodiversity). www.ipbes.net


34. Ammer, Annighöfer, Kreyling, Ohse, Berger, Ewald, Feldmann, Fichtner, Fischer, Gossner, Häberle, Heer, Heinrichs, Huth, Krämer, Meyer, Mölder, Müller, Mund, Opgenoorth, Schall, Scherer-Lorenzen, Seidel, Seidl, Thomas, Vogt, Wagner (in review) What we don't know yet - An agenda for future ecological research in European temperate forests.

33. RichardsAlonso, Becker, Bossdorf, Bucher, Colome-Tatche, Durka, Engelhardt, Gaspar, Gogol-Doring, Grosse, van Gurp, Heer, Kronholm, Lampei, Latzel, Mirouze, Opgenoorth, Paun, Prohaska, Rensing, Stadler, Trucchi, Ullrich, Verhoeven (2017) Ecological plant epigenetics: Evidence from model and non-model species, and the way forward. bioRxiv.

32. Heer, Behringer, Piermattei, Bassler, Fady, Jehl, Liepelt, Lorch, Piotti, Vendramin, Weller, Ziegenhagen, Buntgen, Opgenoorth (2017) Linking dendroecology and association genetics: Stress responses archived in tree rings associate with SNP genotypes in Abies abla (Mill.).  bioRxiv.

31. Miehe, Schleuss, Seeber, Babel, Biermann, Braendle, Chen, Coners, Foken, Gerken, Graf, Guggenberger, Hafner, Holzapfel, Ingrisch, Kuzyakov, Lai, Lehnert, Leuschner, Liu, Ma, Miehe, Mosbrugger, Noltie, Opgenoorth, Schmidt, Spielvogel, Unteregelsbacher, Wang, Willinghofer, Xu, Yang, Zhang, Wesche (2017) The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan Highlands: Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem. bioRxiv. DOI:

30. Schmidt, Böhner, Brandl, Opgenoorth (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, Winter, Hotes, Opgenoorth (2017) It's not (all) about the money - supporting IPBES through challenging times. Frontiers of Biogeography 9 (1).

28. Brändle, Sauer, Opgenoorth, Brandl (2017) Genetic diversity in the alpine flatworm Crenobia alpina. Webecology 17(29), 29.

27. Wan, Feng, Jiang, Mao, Duan, Miehe, Opgenoorth (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, Ullrich, Liepelt, Rensing, Zhou, Ziegenhagen, Opgenoorth (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, Opgenoorth, Miehe (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, Li, Dong, Adams, Miehe, Opgenoorth, Mao (2015) Evolutionary origin and demographic history of an ancient conifer (Juniperus microsperma) in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Scientific Reports 5.

22. Gossner, Brändle, Brandl, Bail, Müller, Opgenoorth (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, Bässler, Essbauer, Schex, Müller, Opgenoorth, Brandl (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, Hotes, Mooney (2014) IPBES: Biodiversity panel should play by rules. Nature 506, 159.

17. Miehe, Miehe, Böhner, Kaiser, Hensen, Madsen, Liu, Opgenoorth (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, Rösner, Müller, Pfeiffer, Stadler, Brandl, Opgenoorth (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, Opgenoorth, Miehe, Zhang, Wan, Zhao, Jia, Liu (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, Opgenoorth, Höll, Bastrop (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, Peng, Li, Liu, Miehe, Opgenoorth (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, Opgenoorth, Martens, Miehe (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, Lücke, Opgenoorth, Huck, Ziegenhagen (2010) Genetic support for periglacial survival of juniper populations in Central Europe. The Holocene 20 (6), 887-994.

8. Opgenoorth, Vendramin, Mao, Miehe, Miehe, Liepelt, Liu, Ziegenhagen (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, Opgenoorth, Schoch, Miehe (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, Miehe, Wil, Opgenoorth, La Duo, Tsering Dorgeh, Liu (2007) An inventory of forest relicts in the pastures of Southern Tibet (Xizang A.R.,China). Plant Ecology, 194 (2), 157-177.

4. Miehe, Schlütz, Miehe, Opgenoorth, Cermak, Samiya, Jäger, Wesche (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, Cermak, Miehe, Schoch (2005) Isolated Birch and Willow Forests in the Govi Gurvan Sayhan National Park. Erforschung biologischer Ressourcen der Mongolei, 9, 247-258.

2. Cermak, Opgenoorth, Miehe (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.



Scientific background

Since 2009 Senior Scientist at the Department of Ecology in the working group of Prof. Dr. Roland Brandl

2005-2009 Research fellow at the Department of Conservation Biology in the working group of Prof. Dr. Birgit Ziegenhagen

2004 Research assistant at the Department of Biogeography in the working group of Prof. Dr. Georg Miehe


Grants and Scholarships

2017 H2020, Opgenoorth, Heer 4 years, ~ 250.000 €.

2016 DFG, Opgenoorth, 3 years, 345.000 €.

2016 DFG, Miehe/Nauss/Opgenoorth, 3 years ~ 420.000 €.

2016 H2020, Opgenoorth,Ziegenhagen 4 years, 196.000 €.

2015 sDiv, Opgenoorth/Heer, 25.000 €.

2014 DFG, Heer/Opgenoorth/Rensing, 1 year, 26.000 €.

2013 DFG, Opgenoorth, 3 years, 24.000 €.

2013 DFG, Opgenoorth, 3 years, 160.000 €.

2012 ERA-NET BiodivERsA, Opgenoorth, 3 years, 160.000 €

2010 BMBF, Opgenoorth/Brandl, 6 years, 323.000 €.

2009 European network of Excellence Evoltree, mobility scholarship.

2005 DAAD, research scholarship.

2004 DAAD, research scholarship.

2001 The German National Merit Foundation, research scholarship.

1996-2003 The German National Merit Foundation, Scholar.


Zuletzt aktualisiert: 11.08.2017 · Lars Opgenoorth

Fb. 17 - Biologie

Fb. 17 - Biologie, Karl-von-Frisch-Straße 8, D-35043 Marburg
Tel. +49 6421/28-23499, Fax +49 6421/28-22052, E-Mail: Fb-17Biologie@uni-marburg.de

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