Understanding and predicting multispecies assemblages and interactions in space and time

This research was supported by the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007– 2013) under REA grant agreement no. 624958 to Damaris Zurell.


Understanding and modelling biotic interactions and their dynamics are prerequisite for predicting community and biodiversity response to climate change and, thus, for designing strategies and policies to halt the loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. We investigate uncertainties in biodiversity response to climate change by improving and integrating existing approaches for modelling biotic interactions in large-scale multispecies assemblages, taking into account reciprocal effects between species and their abiotic and biotic environment as well as variations in biotic interactions across space and time, and considering macroecological constraints on species assemblages.

In brief, we will combine extensive empirical and theoretical analyses in order to define practical requirements and guidelines for the implementation of community assemblage predictions. we will implement algorithms for describing biotic interactions between species and functional groups, using a hierarchical Bayesian approach. Algorithms will be benchmarked using species assemblage data on birds, butterflies and plants, mainly from Switzerland but also from other parts of Europe. we will test the effects of different interaction mechanisms and data limitations on model performance using data from simulated communities we will combine our multispecies interaction models with macroecological models to predict species richness and species compositions for an ensemble of climate change scenarios.


  • Supervisor: Niklaus E Zimmermann, WSL, Switzerland
  • Laure Gallien, Michael Nobis, Heike Lischke, Rafael Wüest, WSL, Switzerland
  • Thomas Sattler, Marc Kéry, Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach/Switzerland
  • Bob O’Hara, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) Frankfurt/Germany
  • Tamara Münkemüller, Wilfried Thuiller, Laboratoire Ecologie d’Alpine (LECA) Grenoble, France