Biodiversität und PflanzensystematikProjekte und Förderung

CRC 1211 Atacama Desert Population Genomics

Living at its dry limits! Within the framework of the DFG funded Collaborative Research Center (CRC1211) this project aims to explore spatio-temporal gene-flow between plant populations over the entire Atacama Desert, ranging from small populational scale to landscape-scale. Our preliminary data shows that vegetation growth and vegetation patterning of Tillandsia lomas at its dry limits in the Atacama Desert displays fine-scale response to various environmental parameters as a result of longterm evolutionary adaptation processes.

The CRC aims to pioneer the research on the mutual evolutionary relationships between Earth surface processes and biota. The target areas are arid to hyper-arid systems, where both biota and Earth surface process are severely and predominantly limited by the availability of water.

Ron Eric Stein is working on this project as PhD. Since her master thesis also Sarina Jabbusch is highly involved in this project, but primary working as PhD student in a project on Platanthera evolutionary history.

atacama crc1211

The project is funded by DFG.

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AgroBioDiv - Transforming Agriculture

AgroBioDiv is an interdisciplinary, participatory project funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg, blending expertise in the fields of biology and political science to foster biodiversity within larger landscapes. The project aims to develop integrated strategies and political instruments for increasing biodiversity in Baden-Württemberg through organic agriculture for long-term sustainability. The biodiversity of agricultural fields will be measured and observed with farmers and conservationists in various case study regions. Applying discourse analysis, the problem definition of biodiversity loss will be examined within local political processes through observation of meetings and interviews with decision-makers.

Laura Kellermann and Charlene Marek are working on this project as PhD student.

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The project is funded by Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg


Convergent Evolution in Plant Diversification

Life in general, and plants in particular, adapt to a new environment on evolutionary time scales. Studying adaptation is essential if we aim at understanding how life persists in the face of changing environments, a topic of immediate relevance in today’s world. Within the Brassicaceae family the tribe Arabideae is one of the most prominent tribes and it displays parallel and convergent evolution at best with roughly 500 species Within this DFG funded project we are using comparative genomic approaches to seek for genomic footprints of parallel evolution of the plants morphospace explaining convergent phenotypes and also selected complex traits.

With Mai 2022 Dr. Nora Walden has complemented our team.

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Cruciferous plants mosaic

The project is funded by DFG.


Orchid Landscape Genomics

In Germany more than 30% of the vascular plant species are endangered and often found only in protected areas. Here we focus on orchids from the genus Platanthera to unravel its evolutionary history, taxonomic richness, landscape genomics and its indicator value as environmentally sensitive organisms. We collaborate with state authorities and numerous collaborators from all over Europe to develop strategies for species´ and landscape management and protection.

Jonas Bleilevens is working on this project as PhD student focusing on landscape and species conservation aspects. Sarina Jabbusch is focusing on population biology, conservation genomics and evolutionary history of Platanthera within her PhD thesis and is continuing our project. 


The project is funded by Naturschutzfonds Baden-Württemberg.

Other selected projects

Other long-term projects are focusing on the genus Dianthus, being the result of one of the fastest plant radiations of the past 2 million years, and in particular unravelling the population decline and threat caused by global warming. We are focusing in particular on Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus), a critically endangered species from cliffs and rocky outcrops widely distributed in Central Europe and actually Alexandra Winizuk is working on this project as PhD student.

Our past research on the genus Hypericum has addressed questions on how non-sexual reproduction may serve as a genetic buffer and reservoir to freeze gene pools temporarily, and which than be activated under changing environmental conditions. Combining research ideas and evolutionary hypotheses on the long-term contribution of “frozen genotypes and phenotypes” to crucial adaptation to changing environments Ron Eric Stein is exemplying a new concept with the genus Hypericum (often apomictic) and epiarenic Tillandsia (long-living and often clonal) as study groups. This is part of Eric´s PhD thesis.

The enigmatic plant Cardamine bulbifera is reproducing vegetatively only. We are elaborating the evolutionary history of this plant, which may have originated in the Caucasus region and expanded and diversified into Central European woodlands, successful but without sex. The long-term project is actually being developed towards comparative evolutionary and ecological genomics.

The evolutionary significance of cold adaptation is studied in the genus Cochlearia and selected Arabis species. The Cochlearia project has been supported by Dr. Eva Wolf (Academy of Sciences Baden-Württemberg, Heidelberg) until the end of 2022 and is now integrated in our projects on convergent evolution and comparative genomics in Brassicaceae.

Various short-term projects most often target biodiversity and species-conservation issue of practical and immediate relevance. Selected taxa comprise aquatic plants such as Nymphaea candida and Nuphar pumila, canyon forest plants such as Anthriscus stenophylla with less then five populations in Baden-Württemberg, or the attractive litter meadow plant Gladiolus palustris. A recently started project., e.g., on local scale is aiming to rescue the last population of the attractive fern Osmunda regalis in the Neckar-Rhine river/Odenwald forest region by cultivation and re-introduction experiments. Also animals such as the Crested Newt (Triturus cristata) are in our focus of regional protection strategies to be developed, too. Here, our Botanical Garden is home to one of the last viable populations in the entire region.