Session 1: Plant-animal interactions across natural and human-induced environmental gradients

[ Short title: Species interactions and environmental gradients ]

Chair: Ingo Grass, Eike Lena Neuschulz

Plant-animal interactions are a key element of biodiversity. Mutualistic (e.g., seed dispersal, pollination, plant-ant) and antagonistic (e.g., herbivory, seed predation) relationships between plants and animals are particularly important for the structure and stability of species communities. Anthropogenic impacts, such as the intensification of land-use, climate change, and biotic invasions are of particular concern for the future of plant-animal interactions. Environmental gradients, whether natural or human-induced, have the potential to alter and even disrupt plant-animal interactions. Understanding how mutualistic and antagonistic interactions may vary across natural and human-induced environmental gradients is therefore essential for predicting the effects of global change on interacting species in tropical ecosystems. In recent years, increasingly sophisticated methods have been developed to understand patterns in plant-animal interactions and community structure. Amongst others, these include the study of food webs and interaction networks, functional trait-based approaches, community phylogenetics and stable isotope analysis. This session will gather scientists to discuss the newest research developments in the field of plant-animal interactions, building on a diversity of different methodological and analytical approaches. The session will aim at: 1) Synthesizing current knowledge on mutualistic and antagonistic plant-animal interactions across natural and human-induced environmental gradients. 2) Highlighting the merits and challenges associated with new methodological and analytical approaches. 3) Predicting the consequences of global change for the future of plant-animal interactions and ecosystem functioning in tropical ecosystems.

Session 2: Applied molecular ecology in the tropics

[ Short title: Applied molecular ecology ]

Chair: Emma Morgan, Pablo Orozco Ter Wengel
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Molecular tools are becoming increasingly important in ecology, allowing us to understand the diversity present in tropical systems. In tropical biodiversity hotspots, molecular ecology can be used to quantify and understand the vast biodiversity, to identify species and to monitor the effects of anthropogenic habitat destruction. Forest fragmentation can disrupt gene flow and alter genetic connectivity of plant and animal populations, as well as changing the community structure. This session aims to compile work on how genetics can be used in ecology to practically aid the management of species and ecosystems in the tropics.

Session 3: Ecological factors influencing wildlife health

[ Short title: Ecological factors influencing wildlife health ]

Chair: Marco Tschapka, Simone Sommer

Habitat changes influence species composition, abundance, genetic diversity and distribution patterns of animal and plant assemblages, which in turn may have direct impact on the health of the involved organisms. There is growing evidence that changes in the environment may affect also the conditions for parasite and pathogen reproduction, mutation rate and transmission. Particularly the highly diverse host species assemblages of the tropics often experience drastic changes in response to habitat destruction, with some species being very resilient or even profiting in the often drastically modified environments, while more specialized species often go locally extinct. Moreover, human encroachment on former wildlife habitats modifies the contact probability between wildlife, livestock and humans. All these changes affect the associated pathogen ensembles, ranging from bacteria and viruses to metazoic endo- and ectoparasites, which ultimately may also have an impact on wildlife and human health. The proposed symposium intends to present various aspects of the intricate relations between habitat changes and intrinsic factors of animal populations on one side and prevalence patterns of pathogens sensu lato and health patterns of hosts on the other side. Contributions may be specific case studies with tropical background but also especially research trying to pinpoint general relations between the ecological or genetic background and infection patterns of hosts, vectors, and reservoir populations. We particularly aim for presenting interdisciplinary studies integrating ecological, genetic, pathogenic and epidemiological aspects.

Session 4: Tropical Wetland Ecology

[ Short title: Tropical Wetland Ecology ]

Chair: Pia Parolin, Leandro V. Ferreira, Florian Wittmann

Wetlands in fresh and salt water are exceptionally important landscape units in tropical regions. They are inhabited by flood tolerant species, but also by species which immigrate from the adjacent uplands. They concentrate a large part of regional biodiversity. Flooding tolerance and adaptations of floodplain species are closely linked to the mosaic of environmental conditions as created by inundation dynamics. Knowledge about species composition, distribution, and diversity is extremely scarce. In the changing world, scanning of emerging threats and opportunities to biodiversity conservation becomes even more important. The present symposium aims at highlighting the status quo of organismic and functional diversity research, at discussing the most important environmental conditions which influence the responses and adaptations of the organisms inhabiting wetlands, and the constraints induced by climatic global changes and by anthropogenic impacts.

Session 5: Developing sustainable land use and functional monitoring systems for the Ecuadorian Andes to cope with environmental change effects - Towards Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)

[ Short title: Functional Monitoring and sustainable land use in ]

Chairs: Jörg Bendix, Erwin Beck

It is meanwhile undisputed that biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are threatened by environmental changes, particularly land use (LUC) and climate change (CC). However, the effects of LUC and CC on complex ecosystems of tropical high mountain biodiversity hotspots as the Andes of Ecuador are far from being well-understood. To mitigate adverse LUC effects, sustainable land use systems which are able to maintain biodiversity and functions of the undisturbed ecosystem as far as possible are needed but to date, the optimal composition of sustainable land us systems for tropical high mountain biodiversity hotspots is not known. Investigating potential effects of CC on diversity and functioning of the natural ecosystem in the complex terrain of the Andes needs longer-term observations (monitoring) along climate gradients and/or ecological experiments. To date, current monitoring systems are not suited to observed and detect changes in ecosystem functioning. Consequently, the development of science-directed monitoring and sustainable land use systems for tropical mountains as the Andes of Ecuador is urgently needed and must be based on basic research along altitudinal and disturbance gradients. Beyond basic research, as a contribution to the CBD goals regarding Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), interdisciplinary research programs working in countries of the Global South should transfer knowledge gained from basic research to application. Based on the experience of more than a decade of research on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and sustainable land use in the Andes of southern Ecuador, the DFG funded program PAK823-825 (“Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Monitoring and Research in South Ecuador”) strives for the development and the transfer of systems for sustainable land use and functional monitoring for the biodiversity hotspot of the tropical Ecuadorian Andes as a showcase for other high mountain areas in the tropics. A major issue of the program is to link basic research and knowledge transfer in these fields. In the session, the members of the consortium will report on: ? - the state and future projections of climate change; ? - land use change, especially defining and evaluating gradients of land use intensity ? - actual and potential future environmental change effects on diversity and ecosystem functioning; ? - experimental approaches to understand functionality in altitudinal and disturbance gradients; ? - borderline ecotones: Genesis, composition and impacts of climate and land use changes; ? - the development and implementation of sustainable land use systems; ? - the development and implementation of functional indicators; in/for the Andes of southern Ecuador

Session 6: Diversity, ecology and conservation of Madagascar’s unique nature

[ Short title: Madagascar- diversity, ecology & conservation ]

Chair: Jasmin Mantilla-Contreras, Ute Radespiel, Hantanirina Rasamimanana

Madagascar is globally known for its unique biodiversity and its high rate of endemism. All primates are endemic, 99% of the amphibians and over 92% of the reptiles are endemic. The flora of Madagascar is also special with more than 90% endemic vascular plant species. However, Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries and unsustainable land use has already resulted in the loss of over 90% of the natural vegetation. The current situation places Madagascar at the top of the agenda concerning biodiversity conservation. Main biodiversity threats include slash- and burn agriculture, deforestation (through charcoal production, mining, land use), habitat fragmentation, poaching and invasive species. Thus, it is fundamental to develop site adapted management strategies to save the remaining nature. We want to use this session to introduce and discuss new findings of diversity and ecological research. Moreover, we will discuss which conservation tools are most promising to save the remaining nature and its unique species. We welcome contributions that address biodiversity pattern, ecological relations, ecosystem functions and services, as well as ecological consequences of global change (e.g., climate change, invasive species or land use changes). Further, we welcome contributions that focus on management and conservation approaches regarding alternative resource use options, livelihood strategies and environmental education.

Session 7: Human-modified tropical forests – Impacts of forest degradation and biodiversity loss on tropical ecosystem functioning

[ Short title: Human-modified tropical forests ]

Chairs: Yit Arn Teh, Rebecca J. Morris

Human disturbance in the tropics is leading to massive changes in biodiversity and major shifts in ecosystem biogeochemistry, altering key processes such as net primary productivity, ecosystem respiration, biogeochemical cycling and fluxes of reactive trace gases. Yet despite studies of land-use change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem biogeochemistry of tropical forests, the links between these impacts have received less attention, challenging our ability to accurately model and predict the response of tropical ecosystems to current and future environmental forcings. In this session, we will explore what is known about the linkages between forest degradation and biodiversity loss, and investigate the consequences of these concomitant phenomena for ecosystem processes and trace gas exchange. We will identify key knowledge gaps and discuss means of addressing them, including inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary modes of problem solving. Contributions are particular welcome from those investigating plant-soil interactions; biosphere-atmosphere exchange; traits-based approaches to studying ecological processes; remote sensing approaches to quantifying biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; the role of fauna in modulating biogeochemical cycles and multi-trophic processes.

Session 8: Biogeochemistry and biodiversity of tropical forest ecosystems in a changing climate: Relating observations to modelling

[ Short title: Tropical forest responses to climate change ]

Chaira: Anja Rammig, Kirsten Thonicke, David Lapola

In which way changing climate conditions such as increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, higher temperatures or prolonged drought events affect tropical ecosystems is poorly understood. It is assumed that the increased atmospheric CO2 concentration alters eco-physiological processes in many ways such as stimulating photosynthesis, increasing water-use efficiency and changing carbon allocation patterns. How such changes manifest on the ecosystem level, in particular in tropical forests, and in which way they affect biodiversity is up to now not clear. Prolonged drought events lead to increased tree mortality and may in this way alter forest composition and structure. How such changes affect regional carbon budgets and feedbacks to the atmosphere is still an open question. Long-term, large-scale ecosystem-level data from the tropics are difficult to obtain and process-based modelling is often hampered by a lack of process-understanding. For developing process-based models further, we are interested in discussing findings from e.g. paleo data, isotope measurements, small-scale experiments or long-term observations as well as new modelling approaches concerning the effects of changing climate conditions on tropical forest ecosystems in this session. We are interested in fostering a close interaction between experimentalists and modelers to pave the way for improving our understanding of the ecological functioning of tropical forests, for assessing the impacts of global environmental change and for managing the future of these ecosystems.

Session 9: Land use change and land management - regional conflicts and sustainable development of tropical ecosystems

[ Short title: Land use change and sustainability ]

Chair: Gerhard Gerold, Hermann Jungkunst

In the context of global limited land resources, climate change (CC adaptation) and development of sustainable land use are main interdisciplinary research topics. Without consideration of future land use development in tropical terrestrial ecosystems to retain food supply and bioenergy, the competition about land, water and other natural resources will lead to a dramatic loss of biodiversity and ecosystems services. Modelling of land use change and its implication on ecosystem services needs better regional adaptation and knowledge of main drivers and ecological functions to simulate regional environmental changes and consequences in the tropical ecosystem (e.g. water balance, C-cycling and C-stocks, nutrient cycling, biodiversity). To understand socio-economic drivers in this context is important for modeling (scenario development) and recommendations for sustainable land management. In this session land use conflicts, their consequences on ecosystem services and possibilities for better land management by means of regional research areas ("hot spots of land use change") should be pointed out. New insights from regional analysis, modeling (LUC, ecosystem services) and interdisciplinary approaches are favoured.

Session 10: Past, present and future of tropical (wetland) ecosystems

[ Short title: Tropical ecosystems: past, present, future ]

Chair: Hermann Behling, Katherine Roucoux, Siria Biagioni

Wetlands and peatlands cover large areas of the tropics, make an important contribution to regional biodiversity, host large below-ground carbon stores, provide valuable ecosystem services, and are a source of natural resources. Our knowledge of these complex ecosystems and their temporal dynamics remains far from complete. The aim of this session is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for researchers working on tropical wetlands and peatlands at a range of different timescales and using a range of different approaches. Ecological research on natural and anthropogenic processes in tropical ecosystems is often focused on present-day states, investigating a time interval in which species live under essentially unchanging ecological and climatic conditions. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a thorough understanding of present-day ecosystems requires a longer-term perspective. For example, the mechanisms responsible for current trajectories of change in forest community composition; the geographical variation of biodiversity; the process of plant community assembly; the role of ecohydrological self-organization in sustaining peat accumulation; and the extent of early anthropogenic impacts in the tropics, are all topics which would benefit from a fuller understanding of the historical development of ecosystems. A long-term perspective on topics such as the resilience of below-ground carbon storage is also vital if we are to contribute to predicting future scenarios of climatic and environmental change on regional and global scales. The session welcomes contributions from palaeoecology (typically millennial to centennial timescales), modern ecology (present-day and long-term monitoring), and ecosystem modelling (projections of future change), especially where an interdisciplinary approach is taken. Studies using innovative methodologies, for example for integrating spatial and temporal analyses through remote-sensing, will be particularly welcome. Although our primary focus is on wetlands, because lakes and peats provide excellent potential for palaeoecological research, contributions relating to the long-term dynamics of other tropical ecosystems will also be very welcome.

Session 11: Biodiversity, biotic interactions and ecosystem processes along elevational gradients

[ Short title: Diversity and interactions along elevational gradients ]

Chairs: Katerina Sam, Marcell K. Peters

Elevational gradients, particularly those in the tropics, are among the most important centres, and generators, of biodiversity. They are excellent model systems for the study of the ecological and evolutionary determinants of diversity patterns, species traits, biotic interactions and related ecosystem processes across a wide array of environments in close geographic proximity. The combined impacts of global warming and conversion of natural to human-modified habitats are threatening biodiversity maintained by tropical mountain ecosystems with largely unknown consequences for ecosystem functionality. In this session we aim to bring together researchers who connect these aspects and address the functional consequences of climate and land use change along elevational gradients. We want to engage scientists working on these topics in different parts of the tropics [e.g. Mt. Wilhelm (Papua New Guinea), Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Mt. Cameroon (Cameroon)] and offer them the chance to share their latest results. An additional aim of the session is to stimulate future collaborative research across different elevational gradients to acquire a more general understanding of the drivers and threats of biodiversity and ecosystem processes on tropical mountains.

Session 12: Free Topics

Session 13: Managing oil palm landscapes for biodiversity and production: lessons from SE Asia

[ Short title: Managing oil palm for biodiversity and production ]

Chair: Edgar Turner, Teja Tscharnke

Oil palm cultivation has expanded dramatically over the last thirty years, with SE Asia being the major centre of production. More recently, oil palm cultivation has also increased in other regions of the tropics, particularly Central and South America and West Africa. A range of studies have demonstrated the dramatic negative impact that conversion of forest to oil palm plantations has on biodiversity. The majority of taxa show reduced abundance and diversity in oil palm compared to forest, with only widely-distributed, disturbance-tolerant species able to survive in plantations. Less attention has been given to the effects of this loss of biodiversity on ecosystem functions and services, or possible management solutions for balancing biodiversity conservation and production within oil palm landscapes. In this symposium, we will bring together researchers to present information on the impacts of oil palm expansion on the environment. We will particularly focus on studies investigating management solutions for biodiversity and healthy ecosystem functioning at the local and landscape scale within oil palm ecosystems. Our session will discuss the lessons that can be learnt from the wealth of research conducted in SE Asia and start to consider how this might be applied to emerging issues of oil palm in other regions. We will also consider what data and studies are currently lacking, to enable evaluation of the long term ecological effects of oil palm expansion globally.

Session 14: Tropical forest landscapes, from ecology to sustainable management

[ Short title: Tropical forest landscapes ]

Chair: Sven Günter, Patrick Hildebrandt

Forests in tropical landscapes are important hotspots of biodiversity and facilitators of socioeconomic development for rural livelihoods providing direct benefits to forest dependent people in form of timber or non-timber products. Additionally they have to fulfill multiple functions and ecosystem services for local users and remote beneficiaries. However, despite of enormous efforts realized by the international community and national authorities around the tropics, deforestation is still ongoing. Causes of forest loss are deeply linked with socioeconomic development and governance problems. Solutions have to consider interdependencies of ecological settings and socioeconomic demands on the landscape level, and integrate interests of users on different spatial scales. Sustainable use and conservation of forest resources requires deep understanding of ecological processes and their interactions with socioeconomic needs of forest dependent people. In this session we aim at giving insights into essential elements of landscape approaches combining ecological and socioeconomic viewpoints. Thus, we welcome contributions from both, ecological topics (e.g. landscape ecology, restoration ecology, landscape connectivity) and management perspectives (e.g. drivers of deforestation, participatory approaches, governance aspects, PES, silviculture, agroforestry, and conservation). Potential speakers should focus on specific aspects of landscape approaches and try to explain how they are linked to the development of sustainable management of tropical forest landscapes.

Session 15: German and European tropical ecology and biodiversity research in Peru:

[ Short title: Tropical ecology and biodiversity research in Peru ]

Chairs: Lily O. Rodriguez, Reiner Zimmermann

Fomenting scientific cooperation with Peru in the fields of biodiversity, environmental technology and marine research has recently reached the agenda of the Germany Ministry of Science and Education (BMBF). A number of working groups from Germany and other European countries are actually doing biodiversity and tropical ecology research, some for already quite extended periods. However, there is little interaction between these groups and the potential for synergistic effects through coordinating research questions and using existing field facilities remains unexplored. Therefore, we plan a symposium that gathers representatives of different research groups, in order to obtain an overview of the current status and to explore options for future collaborations and a link to the country needs for policy-making.

Session 16: Patterns and processes of species dominance in tropical forests

[ Short title: Species dominance in tropical forests ]

Chair: Gabriel Arellano, Manuel J. Maca

The coexistence of so many rare species is a major question in tropical plant ecology. However, this session will focus on the other side of the coin: species that dominate different tropical forests at different scales, the so-called oligarchic species. A first question to be answered is: Why some species widely dominate tropical forests across different assemblies, whereas many other species are just sparsely distributed? Oligarchic patterns have been widely reported across the tropics, and particularly discussed in ecology during the last decade. Dominant and oligarchic species tend to concentrate on certain families and genera, suggesting that there are some species features creating dominance. However, it is not clear which specific mechanisms provide the superior fitness of these species. A certain number of hypotheses have been proposed, but still we are far from a categorical and clear answer. Regardless of the causes creating dominance, the great importance of common species has significant consequences for the soil nutrient cycling, ecosystem functioning, plant and animal inter-specific relationships, and finally for the use and management of tropical forests. It has been shown, for example, that half of the carbon in the Amazon is fixed by 184 species only (Fauset et al. 2015. Nature Communications 6: 6857). Further knowledge on these few species could provide great insights into the carbon cycle of such vast and complex ecosystem. Given the importance for the basic and applied ecology of dominance patterns in tropical ecosystems, this session will draw on examples from both perspectives. The specific objectives of the session are two-fold: 1) To describe patterns, processes, and mechanisms of dominance across the tropics. 2) To analyze the significance of this approach at both the species level and the community ecology level.

Session 17: Linking functional traits with ecosystem processes along tropical environmental gradients

[ Short title: Environmental gradients: traits and processes ]

Chair: Imma Oliveras, Masha van der Sande, Norma Salinas

Tropical ecosystems are of global importance, for instance for carbon sequestration and biodiversity. A better understanding of such ecosystem properties and processes may be gained by focusing on plant functional traits, which depend on various assembly processes and environmental conditions, and are therefore expected to affect ecosystem processes. However, the role of functional traits on different processes and their dependence on environmental conditions is yet poorly understood. For example, whereas defence mechanisms may be driven by traits such as leaf toughness, productivity may depend more on leaf chlorophyll concentration. Moreover, the effect of traits on these processes may change along environmental gradients, such as disturbance intensity, altitude, or rainfall, and along spatial scales. These gradients represent natural laboratories to evaluate the role of functional diversity on ecosystem processes. For example, traits may well predict ecosystem processes at small spatial scales (e.g., < 1 ha), but be less important across large spatial scales where environmental conditions may most strongly determine ecosystem processes. In this session we aim to gather insight of ongoing research, to work towards a better understanding of the role of functional traits on ecosystem processes along environmental gradients.

Session 18: Knowing the unknown, Making the most of scant data on rare species and ecosystems

[ Short title: Knowing the unknown ]

Chair: Alice C Hughes

When it comes to ecological research of rare species, and rare and inaccessible ecosystems it can be difficult to get enough data to really understand the system understudy in sufficient detail to make any recommendations for future management. In this symposia we will explore different approaches to dealing with small quantities of data, and small sample sizes in a number of different ecosystems and taxa, including frontier research using entirely novel approaches. Presentations will touch upon the use of robust modelling approaches provide powerful insights to understand various biotic phenomina at a range of spatial and temporal scales. The aim of the symposia is not only to illustrate various casestudies from terrestrial and marine systems, but also to explore a variety of techniques to acquire new perspectives on these systems and to inform management conservation and research in a variety of conditions. The symposia will feature 6 speakers (four confirmed so far: total session 2 hours) before a discussion on developing new approaches to usefully analyse scant data, before discussing and exploring potentially new approaches, and to provoke and stimulate new ideas of how to usefully deal with the challenge of using scant data in rigorous and powerful ways.