Nico Blüthgen

Nico Blüthgen
Technische Universität Darmstadt | TU · Department of Biology (Dept. 10)

About

290
Publications
147,252
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17,561
Citations
Citations since 2017
122 Research Items
11754 Citations
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Publications

Publications (290)
Preprint
Understanding whether land use intensification causes regime shifts is of key importance for management, particularly if these shifts are associated with thresholds separating different ecosystem states and with hysteretic dynamics. Here we use a unique, long-term grassland database to identify thresholds in the response of 16 ecosystem functions a...
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The impact of local biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning is well established, but the role of larger-scale biodiversity dynamics in the delivery of ecosystem services remains poorly understood. Here we address this gap using a comprehensive dataset describing the supply of 16 cultural, regulating and provisioning ecosystem services in 150 Eur...
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1. Keystone species are disproportionately important for ecosystem functioning. While all species engage in multiple interaction types with other species, keystone species importance is often defined based on a single dimension of their Eltonian niche, i.e., one type of interaction (e.g., keystone predator). It remains unclear whether the importanc...
Preprint
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With higher frequency and intensity of droughts predicted for many tropical forests, understanding the responses of plants and animals to changed conditions will be increasingly important. Ants are considered ecosystem engineers in tropical rainforests due to their abundance and the diversity of functional roles they perform. Diets of rainforest an...
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Understanding ecosystem recovery after perturbation is crucial for ecosystem conservation. Mutualisms contribute key functions for plants such as pollination and seed dispersal. We modelled the assembly of mutualistic networks based on trait matching between plants and their animal partners that have different degrees of specialization on plant tra...
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Ecosystem functioning may directly or indirectly – via change in biodiversity – respond to land use. Dung removal is an important ecosystem function central for the decomposition of mammal faeces, including secondary seed dispersal and improved soil quality. Removal usually increases with dung beetle diversity and biomass. In forests, dung removal...
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Temporal trends in insect numbers vary across studies and habitats, but drivers are poorly understood. Suitable long-term data are scant and biased, and interpretations of trends remain controversial. By contrast, there is substantial quantitative evidence for drivers of spatial variation. From observational and experimental studies, we have gained...
Article
Species interaction networks are subject to natural and anthropogenic disturbances that lead to their disassembly, while natural regeneration or restoration efforts facilitate their reassembly. Previous models for assembling ecological networks did not include stochasticity at the level of population dynamics (e.g., demographic noise, environmental...
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Space and time promote variation in network structure by affecting the likelihood of potential interactions. However, little is known about the relative roles of ecological and biogeographical processes in determining how species interactions vary across space and time. Here, we study the spatiotemporal variation in predator–prey interaction networ...
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Regrowing secondary forests dominate tropical regions today, and a mechanistic understanding of their recovery dynamics provides important insights for conservation. In particular, land‐use legacy effects on the fauna have rarely been investigated. One of the most ecologically dominant and functionally important animal groups in tropical forests ar...
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Context Current diversity and species composition of ecological communities can often not exclusively be explained by present land use and landscape structure. Historical land use may have considerably influenced ecosystems and their properties for decades and centuries. Objectives We analysed the effects of present and historical landscape struct...
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Background How land use shapes biodiversity and functional trait composition of animal communities is an important question and frequently addressed. Land-use intensification is associated with changes in abiotic and biotic conditions including environmental homogenization and may act as an environmental filter to shape the composition of species c...
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In tropical forests, primary dispersal by animals is the most important form of seed dispersal. Dung beetles are secondary seed dispersers attracted to mammal feces. When they bury dung of frugivorous mammals, they move seeds to new sites, possibly protecting them from seed predation or pathogens, or moving to better micro‐climates and away from co...
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Background Ant colonies are plagued by a diversity of arthropod guests, which adopt various strategies to avoid or to withstand host attacks. Chemical mimicry of host recognition cues is, for example, a common integration strategy of ant guests. The morphological gestalt and body size of ant guests have long been argued to also affect host hostilit...
Article
Comprehension of the benefits involved in mutualisms is crucial to disentangle the role of interactions in the structure and functioning of populations, communities and ecosystems. In ant-plant mutualisms, benefits provided by plants to ants are immediately recognizable, but reverse benefits are less obvious, conditional and accumulate over longer...
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Tropical rainforests are among the most diverse biomes on Earth. While species inventories are far from complete for any tropical rainforest, even less is known about the intricate species interactions that form the basis of these ecological communities. One fascinating but poorly studied example are the symbiotic associations between army ants and...
Article
Climate change is enhancing the annual mean temperature and the risk for droughts and natural disasters. Hot and dry summers not only have a negative impact on forest performance, but also affect fundamental ecosystem processes such as litter decomposition and nutrient cycling and the organisms involved. Oribatid mites are sexually or parthenogenet...
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A new study shows that large mammals in an African savanna not only modify the vegetation but also strongly alter interaction networks between plants and pollinators. These insights raise fundamental yet unresolved questions about spatial dimensions of experiments, species interaction networks and ecosystems.
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Land-use intensification is a major driver of biodiversity loss. However, understanding how different components of land use drive biodiversity loss requires the investigation of multiple trophic levels across spatial scales. Using data from 150 agricultural grasslands in central Europe, we assess the influence of multiple components of local-and l...
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In the course of global climate change, central Europe is experiencing more frequent and prolonged periods of drought. The drought years 2018 and 2019 affected European beeches ( Fagus sylvatica L.) differently: even in the same stand, drought damaged trees neighboured healthy trees, suggesting that the genotype rather than the environment was resp...
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Biological control of pest insects by natural enemies may be an effective, cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic pesticides. The cosmopolitan parasitoid wasp species Bracon brevicornis Wesmael and B. hebetor Say (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) use lepidopteran species as hosts, including insect pests like Ephestia kuehniella or Ostr...
Article
Increased climate variability as a result of anthropogenic climate change can threaten the functioning of ecosystem services. However, diverse responses to climate change among species (response diversity) can provide ecosystems with resilience to this growing threat. Measuring and managing response diversity and resilience to global change are key...
Preprint
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The importance of keystone species is often defined based on a single type of interaction (e.g., keystone predator). However, it remains unclear whether this functional importance extends across interaction types. We conducted a global meta-analysis of interaction networks to examine whether species functional importance in one niche dimension is m...
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Decomposition, vegetation regeneration, and biological control are essential ecosystem functions, and animals are involved in the underlying processes, such as dung removal, seed removal, herbivory, and predation. Despite evidence for declines of animal diversity and abundance due to climate change and land-use intensification, we poorly understand...
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We explore the hypothesis that intraspecific trait variability can be per se beneficial for the plant when the curvature of the herbivore response to this trait is concave downwards. This hypothesis is based on a mathematical relation for nonlinear averaging (Jensen's inequality), leading to reduced herbivory when the trait distribution becomes bro...
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Intensive land use has been shown to alter the composition and functioning of soil communities. Due to their low dispersal ability, oribatid mites are particularly vulnerable to land-use intensification and species which are not adjusted to management-related disturbances become less abundant. We investigated how different land-use parameters in fo...
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Background Forests perform various important ecosystem functions that contribute to ecosystem services. In many parts of the world, forest management has shifted from a focus on timber production to multi-purpose forestry, combining timber production with the supply of other forest ecosystem services. However, it is unclear which forest types provi...
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• Reports of major losses in insect biodiversity have stimulated an increasing interest in temporal population changes. Existing datasets are often limited to a small number of study sites, few points in time, a narrow range of land‐use intensities and only some taxonomic groups, or they lack standardised sampling. While new monitoring programs hav...
Preprint
Full-text available
In the course of global climate change, central Europe is experiencing more frequent and prolonged periods of drought. The drought years 2018 and 2019 affected European beeches ( Fagus sylvatica L.) differently: even in the same stand, drought damaged trees neighboured healthy trees, suggesting that the genotype rather than the environment was resp...
Preprint
Reports of major losses in biodiversity have stimulated an increasing interest in temporal population changes, particularly in insects, which had received little attention in the past. Existing long-term datasets are often limited to a small number of study sites, few points in time, a narrow range of land-use intensities and only some taxonomic gr...
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Context Landscape and local habitat traits moderate wild bee communities. However, whether landscape effects differ between local habitat types is largely unknown. Objectives We explored the way that wild bee communities in three distinct habitats are shaped by landscape composition and the availability of flowering plants by evaluating divergence...
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Most organisms are defended against others, and defenses such as secondary metabolites in plants vary across species, individuals, and subindividual organs. Plant leaves show an impressive variability in quantitative defense levels, even within the same individual. Such variation might mirror physiological constraints or represent an evolved trait....
Data
Table of contents S1: Relation of seed removal rate with short-term precipitation S2: Details of herbivory measurements S3: Details of processing explanatory data S4: GLMM results in detail S5: Comparison of the mean effect sizes of short-term vs. medium-term land-use variables in grasslands S6: Process rates in detail S7: Effects of the vegetation...
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One of the largest species in its genus, Odontomachus davidsoni Hoenle, Lattke & Donoso, sp. nov. is described from workers and queens collected at lowland forests in the Chocó-Darién bioregion in coastal Ecuador. The workers are characterized by their uniform red coloration, their large size (16–18 mm body length), and their frontal head striation...
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Massive declines in insect biodiversity and biomass are reported from many regions and habitats. In urban areas, creation of native wildflower meadows is one option to support insects and reduce maintenance costs of urban green spaces. However, benefits for insect conservation may depend on previous land use, and the size and location of new wildfl...
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The study of mutualistic interaction networks has led to valuable insights into ecological and evolutionary processes. However, our understanding of network structure may depend upon the temporal scale at which we sample and analyze network data. To date, we lack a comprehensive assessment of the temporal scale‐dependence of network structure acros...
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Seed survival is of great importance for the performance of plant species and it is strongly affected by post-dispersal seed removal by either different animals such as granivorous species and secondary dispersers or abiotic conditions such as wind or water. The success of post-dispersal seed removal depends on seed specific traits including seed s...
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There is widespread concern regarding declines in bee populations given their importance for the functioning of both natural and managed ecosystems. An increasing number of studies find negative relations between bee species richness and simplification of agricultural landscapes, but the role of land-use intensity and its relative importance compar...
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Functional redundancy can increase the resilience of ecosystem processes by providing insurance against species loss and the effects of abundance fluctuations. However, due to the difficulty of assessing individual species' contributions and the lack of a metric allowing for a quantification of redundancy within communities, few attempts have been...
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Recent reports of local extinctions of arthropod species 1 , and of massive declines in arthropod biomass 2 , point to land-use intensification as a major driver of decreasing biodiversity. However, to our knowledge, there are no multisite time series of arthropod occurrences across gradients of land-use intensity with which to confirm causal relat...
Article
The 150 grassland plots were located in three study regions in Germany, 50 in each region. The dataset describes the yearly grassland management for each grassland plot using 116 variables. General information includes plot identifier, study region and survey year. Additionally, grassland plot characteristics describe the presence and starting year...
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Context Insect herbivores comprise the majority of macroinvertebrate communities of temperate grasslands and act as drivers for important ecosystem functions. Landscape- and local-level land use may alter species pools and dispersal possibilities and act as local environmental filters, affecting insect trait composition. Objectives While environme...
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Climate change is projected to exacerbate the effects of anthropogenic disturbance, with negative impacts on ecosystem stability and functioning. We evaluate the additive and combined effects of chronic anthropogenic disturbance (CAD) and rainfall variation on the temporal stability of mutualistic EFN‐bearing plant‐ant networks in a Caatinga dry fo...
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Background: Mechanical defenses are very common and diverse in prey species, for example in oribatid mites. Here, the probably most complex form of morphological defense is known as ptychoidy, that enables the animals to completely retract the appendages into a secondary cavity and encapsulate themselves. The two groups of ptychoid mites constitut...
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Aim Intensification of land use strongly impacts plant communities by causing shifts in taxonomic and functional composition. Mechanisms of land‐use induced biodiversity losses have been described for temperate grasslands, but a quantitative assessment of species‐specific occurrence optima and maximum tolerance (niche breadth) to land‐use intensity...
Preprint
Full-text available
We explore the hypothesis that intraspecific trait variability can be per se beneficial for the plant when the curvature of the herbivore response to this trait is concave downwards. This hypothesis is based on a mathematical relation for non-linear averaging (Jensen's inequality), leading to reduced herbivory when the trait distribution becomes br...
Article
Army ants are among the top arthropod predators and considered keystone species in tropical ecosystems. During daily mass raids with many thousand workers, army ants hunt live prey, likely exerting strong top‐down control on prey species. Many tropical sites exhibit a high army ant species diversity (>20 species), suggesting that sympatric species...
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Type and intensity of land‐use vary in space and time and strongly contribute to changes in richness and composition of species communities. In this study, we examined land snail communities in forests and grasslands in three regions of Germany. We aimed to quantify the extent to which snail density, diversity, and community composition in forests...
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Multi-trophic interactions maintain critical ecosystem functions. Biodiversity is declining globally, while responses of trophic interactions to biodiversity change are largely unclear. Thus, studying responses of multi-trophic interaction robustness to biodiversity change is crucial for understanding ecosystem functioning and persistence. We inves...
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Local agri-environmental schemes, including hedgerows, flowering strips, organic management, and a landscape rich in semi-natural habitat patches, are assumed to enhance the presence of beneficial arthropods and their contribution to biological control in fruit crops. We studied the influence of local factors (orchard management and adjacent habita...
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Trade-offs and synergies in the supply of forest ecosystem services are common but the drivers of these relationships are poorly understood. To guide management that seeks to promote multiple services, we investigated the relationships between 12 stand-level forest attributes, including structure, composition, heterogeneity and plant diversity, plu...
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Full-text available
Trade-offs and synergies in the supply of forest ecosystem services are common but the drivers of these relationships are poorly understood. To guide management that seeks to promote multiple services, we investigated the relationships between 12 stand-level forest attributes, including structure, composition, heterogeneity and plant diversity, plu...
Article
1.In flowers with poricidal anthers, pollen is not freely accessible and legitimate access is restricted to bees capable of vibrating the anthers. Despite the protection of pollen provided by poricidal anthers, numerous illegitimate, non‐buzz‐pollinating flower visitors rob pollen. 2.We aimed to quantify the influence of functional groups of floral...
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Animal-plant interactions have a major influence on ecosystem structure and functioning. Understanding to what extent the temporal dynamics of interactions is determined by climate and disturbances is thus relevant to predict ecological and evolutionary outcomes in a changing world. Here, we assessed whether the temporal dynamics of ant-plant inter...
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Full-text available
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) provide animals with multiple cues about location, type, and condition of valuable resources such as food. In particular, odour cues are often essential for the localization and discrimination of resources with patchy distribution. Dung beetles (Scarabaeoidea) rely on such scented resources to locate food for their...