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Dr. Lisa Hülsmann - Persönliche Homepage

Organisationseinheit Waldressourcen & Waldmgmt
Bestandesdynamik und Waldbau
Adresse Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf

Raum Bi HL C 25
Kontakt Tel: +41 44 739 2862
Fax: +41 44 7392 215
Web / E-Mail


  • Mortality patterns of Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in Southern Switzerland based on data of the National Forest Inventory (NFI)
  • Natural forest dynamics of beech (Fagus sylvatica) in a Ukrainian primeval forest (Uholka-Schyrokyj Luh / Ukrainian Carpathians)
  • DATA-FOR: Completeness, consistency and plausibility of permanent plot data in the forest reserve database

PhD within the SNF Project: Predicting growth-dependent tree mortality: a key challenge for population ecology

Tree mortality - one of the key processes of population dynamics - is increasingly studied against the backdrop of future climate change. Nevertheless, mortality studies are complicated by the high temporal and spatial variability and the complex and interacting factors contributing to tree death. Empirical models are particularly valuable to investigate tree mortality since they improve our understanding of tree death, assist in management decisions and are key to reliably simulate future forest dynamics. In my thesis, I systematically assessed the state of the art in empirical tree mortality modeling, analyzed patterns of tree death and developed and evaluated robust mortality formulations based on extensive long-term datasets for incorporation in Dynamic Vegetation Models (DVMs).

(Figure from Hülsmann et al. 2016. Ecol Appl)

beech mortality in three European regions
The findings suggest that tree mortality models based on size and growth alone are suited to reliably predict tree death. Their relationship is dominantly reverse J-shaped, suggesting competition as the most dominant mortality agent in Central European forests. In turn, processes that amplify the mortality of large trees are only common in true old-growth forests. The results further emphasize the substantial value of inventory data for the calibration of mortality models since, in contrast to dendrochronological data, they provide stand-scale mortality rates. Additional climate and stand characteristics only weakly improved the accuracy of mortality models and were included for a few species only. I conclude that their predictions respond to water availability and stand density via the integrating vitality indicator tree growth. The climatic sensitivity of mortality models should be further investigated using data with annual resolution along wide and well-replicated environmental gradients. Empirical mortality models were found to be structurally suitable for incorporation in DVMs. To improve their performance, growth and mortality processes and their species-specific differences should be revisited jointly, with a particular focus on small trees and shade-tolerant species.


See also Scopus, Google Scholar & Research Gate.


Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., and Brang, P. 2017. How to predict tree death from inventory data – lessons from a systematic assessment of European tree mortality models. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. doi:10.1139/cjfr-2016-0224

Büntgen, U., Bagi, I., Fekete, O., Molinier, V., Peter, M., Splivallo, R., Vahdatzadeh, M., Richard, F., Murat, C., Tegel, W., Stobbe, U., Martínez-Peña, F., Sproll, L., Hülsmann, L., Nievergelt, D., Meier, B., and Egli, S. 2017. New Insights into the Complex Relationship between Weight and Maturity of Burgundy Truffles (Tuber aestivum). PloS one 12(1): e0170375. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170375

Hellmann, L., Agafonov, L., Ljungqvist, F.C., Churakova, O., Düthorn, E., Esper, J., Hülsmann, L., Kirdyanov, A.V., Moiseev, P., Myglan, V.S., Nikolaev, A.N., Reinig, F., Schweingruber, F.H., Solomina, O., Tegel, W., and Büntgen, U. 2016. Diverse growth trends and climate responses across Eurasia’s boreal forest. Environmental Research Letters 11(7): 074021. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/7/074021

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Commarmot, B., Meyer, P., Zimmermann, S., and Brang, P. 2016. Does one model fit all? Patterns of beech mortality in natural forests of three European regions. Ecological Applications 26(8): 2463-2477. doi:10.1002/eap.1388

Hülsmann, L., Geyer, T., Schweitzer, C., Priess, J., and Karthe, D. 2015. The effect of subarctic conditions on water resources: initial results and limitations of the SWAT model applied to the Kharaa River Basin in Northern Mongolia. Environmental Earth Sciences 73(2): 581-592. doi:10.1007/s12665-014-3173-1

Karthe, D., Malsy, M., Kopp, B. J., Minderlein, S., and Hülsmann, L. 2013. Assessing water availability and drivers in the context of an integrated water resources management (IWRM): A case study from the Kharaa river basin, Mongolia. Geo-Öko, 34/1-2, 5-26. Abstract


Hülsmann, L. 2016. Tree mortality in Central Europe:  Empirically-based modeling using long-term datasets. ETH Zürich, PhD Thesis. doi:10.3929/ethz-a-010881810

Hülsmann, L., Evers, J., Eichhorn, J. 2013. Mistelbefall im Hessischen Ried – Kiefernsterben durch die Mistel? AFZ/Der Wald, 68. Jg., 6, 27-29. PDF


Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Brang, P. Verständnis und Vorhersage der Baummortalität: Woran krankt die Forschung? Forstwissenschaftlichen Tagung, Freiburg (Germany), September 26-29, 2016.

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Brang, P. Keynote: Lessons to be learned from inventory-based tree mortality models - A model assessment. PROFOUND TG4 Workshop on Mortality Modeling, Novi Sad (Serbia), November 9-10, 2015.

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Meyer, P., Brang, P. Invited talk: Ein Modell für alle Fälle? Mortalitätsmuster der Buche in Naturwäldern in drei europäischen Regionen. NW-FVA, Göttingen (Germany), March 20, 2015.

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Brang, P. Impact of climate and site conditions on the growth-mortality relationship in European tree species. XXIV IUFRO World Congress, Salt Lake City (Utah, USA), October 5-11, 2014.


Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Cailleret, M., Brang, P. Making the most out of forest inventory data – A systematic assessment of 46 European tree mortality models. ECOSUMMIT, Montpellier (France), August 29 - September 1, 2016.

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Meyer, P., Brang, P. Lessons to be learned from empirical tree mortality models: A model assessment. GfÖ Annual Meeting, Göttingen (Germany), August 31 - September 4, 2015.

Hülsmann, L., Bugmann, H., Brang, P. Mortality patterns of beech trees: Do we need environmental variables for prediction? 16th Swiss Global Change Day, Bern (Switzerland), April 1, 2015.

Hülsmann, L., Geyer, T., Karthe, D., Priess, J., Schweitzer, C. 2012. Process-based hydrological modeling using SWAT: The effect of permafrost on water resources in the large-scale river catchment Kharaa / Mongolia. EGU General Assembly, Vienna (Austria), April 22-27, 2012.


10/2012 - 09/2016
PhD Student
WSL Birmensdorf / ETH Zurich
  PhD thesis: Tree mortality in Central Europe:  Empirically-based modeling using long-term datasets
02/2013 - 05/2015 Diploma of Advanced Studies ETH in Applied Statistics
ETH Zurich
10/2008 - 03/2012 Master Hydrogeology and Environmental Geoscience
University of Göttingen
  Master thesis: “Process-based hydrological modeling using SWAT: The effect of subarctic conditions on water resources in the large-scale river catchment Kharaa / Mongolia” in cooperation with the project “Integrated Water Resource Management in Central Asia: Model Region Mongolia” (IWRM-MoMo)
10/2005 - 09/2008 Bachelor Forest Science and Ecology
University of Göttingen
  Bachelor thesis: “Infestation of Mistletoe on Scots Pine in the Region Hessian Ried in Correlation with the Lowering of Groundwater Tables” in cooperation with the Northwest German Forest Research Station (NW-FVA)