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The Research Unit focuses on functional interactions between communities of plants (producers), herbivores (primary consumers), predators (secondary consumers), and soil biota (decomposers) with regard to critical ecosystem services such as productivity, protection, nutrient cycling and storage. Environmental factors considered include direct and indirect anthropogenic impacts with global relevance such as land-use change (e.g. land abandonment, fragmentation, urban sprawl, eutrophication, trivialization of herbivore communities), natural disturbances (e.g. avalanches, landslides, fire) or climatic changes. Particular emphasis is given to sensitive natural, semi-natural and urban ecosystems, among many others wetlands, treeline ecotones and insubric ecosystems. Comparing history and modeling functional processes in and between these systems provides clues for predicting biodiversity changes, the evolution of ecosystems, and consequences for ecosystem services in the context of future global change.
The Unit has partners both within WSL and the wider scientific community. Stakeholders are mainly the forest and agricultural services, nature conservation, forest owners, regional and federal agencies.