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Project Title

Genetic diversity, contemporary evolution and the maintenance of biodiversity in changing alpine environments


Alpine biodiversity is threatened by climate change, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species. To manage the biodiversity crisis and maintain vital ecosystem function we need to understand the processes promoting and eroding genetic diversity and adaptive potential at the local and global levels of populations and species. The goal of BioChange is to use evolutionary and ecological parameters estimated in natural populations (genetic diversity, genetic constraints, adaptive capacity) and data on environmental change to build predictive models of biodiversity change. BioChange is a collaborative project involving multiple groups from ETH-Zürich, EAWAG and WSL.


Main applicant: Prof. Jukka Jokela, EAWAG
Co-applicants: Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul, ETH; Prof. Peter Edwards, ETH; Dr. Rolf Holderegger, WSL; Prof. Paul Schmid-Hempel, ETH; Prof. Ole Seehausen, EAWAG; Prof. Alex Widmer, ETH

Research Goals

3 points defining the study questions addressed by BioChange:

Work plan: 3 Phases

Phase 1: modeling expectations and patterns
Phase 2: data collection for parameterization of the models
Phase 3: Developing the predictive model for sustainable biodiversity management

Management: 3 Taskforces, 5 Leading Groups

Jokela (EAWAG) – Phase 1

Environmental data: Edwards, Ghazoul
Genetic data: Seehausen, Widmer, Holderegger
Statistical designs and modeling techniques: Schmid-Hempel, Jokela  

Holderegger (WSL) – Phase 2, Taskforce 1

Groups with experience on alpine plant systems (Ghazoul, Edwards, Holderegger, and Widmer) will focus on identifying relevant alpine plant systems that occupy suitable elevational gradients.  >> Poster (716 KB)

>>  Group Holderegger (Evolutionary Ecology group, Research Unit Ecological Genetics and Evolution, WSL)

>>  Group Ghazoul (Ecosystem Management group, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zurich)

>>  Group Edwards (Plant Ecology group, Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich)

Schmid-Hempel (ETH) – Phase 2, Taskforce 2

Groups with experience on alpine plant-pollinator interactions (Ghazoul, Widmer, Schmid-Hempel) will focus on the interaction of plants and their pollinators, and will especially focus on the neutral and adaptive genetic diversity expressed by key pollinator groups (e.g. bumblebee species) and plants (e.g. Silene).

Seehausen (EAWAG) – Phase 2, Taskforce 3

 Groups with experience on alpine aquatic systems (Seehausen and Jokela) will identify parallel systems on different trophic levels of aquatic systems. 

>> more info on Taskforce 3 (Irene Keller, EAWAG)

Ghazoul (ETH) – Phase 3

Model development: Seehausen, Ghazoul, Schmid-Hempel
Model testing: Jokela, Widmer
Developing guidelines: Edwards, Holderegger

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