• Project Summary

Biodiversity and supportive ecosystem processes maintained by tropical mountain ecosystems are threatened by the combined impacts of global warming and the conversion of natural to human-modified landscapes. In this long term German-Tanzanian research program we assess biodiversity and ecosystem processes along altitudinal and disturbance gradients on Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, Africa), capitalizing on its world-wide unique range of climatic and vegetation zones.

On a total of sixty study sites in both natural and human-disturbed ecosystems biodiversity (e.g. plants, soil arthropods, ants, bees, frogs, lizards, bats, birds), related ecosystem processes (decomposition, seed dispersal, pollination, herbivory, predation), and biogeochemical processes and properties of ecosystems (climate, soil properties and nutrient status, regulation of water and carbon fluxes, trace gas emissions, primary productivity, functional diversity) are analyzed. Further, in experimental gardens at different altitudes, transplant experiments will be performed to study species adaptability under modified climate conditions. By reanalyzing study sites with historical floral and faunal records we explore shifts in species distributions.

Overall, the data will allow us (1) to infer the influence of climate and anthropogenic disturbance on both biogeochemical processes and biodiversity, (2) to quantify biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships along elevational gradients, (3) to estimate resilience and adaptive potential of natural and modified ecosystems to global change, (4) to examine negative feedbacks of disturbance on local climate and ecosystem processes and (5) to quantify temporal shifts in species distributions due to climate and land use change.