Welcome Hao Tang!

A couple of months ago our team was joined by the new PhD-student Hao Tang from China. Hao did his Master at the Sichuan Agricultural University and studied how rice can be used to remove heavy metals from contaminated soil. He is now doing his PhD in Hamburg and spent the first few months over here to read a lot about salt marsh ecology. For his PhD-thesis he now picked the topic of carbon sequestration in salt marshes. He will build on the work of Peter Müller and focus on the effect of hydrology on carbon sequestration. In his first experiment he is going to transplant different salt marsh vegetation into mesocosms in our tidal basins at the university. He will then use different flooding treatments to simulate sea level rise and see how it affects plant, soil respiration and microbial activity. Furthermore, he is going to study how grazing affects soil hydrology and how this in turn affects carbon sequestration in different soil layers in the field.


New PhD student Hao Tang on his first field trip to our study site

New paper: Effects of grazing management on biodiversity across trophic levels

During my PhD when I went to conferences or met people at a statistics course they often remembered me as the person talking about horses and cattle all the time. Indeed, almost all the chapters of my PhD-thesis dealt with the question how grazing management with different livestock species and stocking densities affected some aspect of vegetation or other . However, I was not alone in this project and my colleagues Freek Mandema and Roel van Klink answered similar questions but with regard to birds and invertebrates in our grazing experiment in Noord-Friesland Buitendijks. After we all finished our PhDs the project was continued by Georgette Lagendijk and together we now published a new paper summarizing and integrating effects of the grazing treatments on biodiversity across trophic levels:

van Klink, R., Nolte, S., Mandema, F.S., Lagendijk, D.D.G., WallisDeVries, M.F., Bakker, J.P., Esselink, P., Smit, C. (2016): Effects of grazing management on biodiversity across trophic levels–The importance of livestock species and stocking density in salt marshes. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 235, 329–339. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2016.11.001


The middle block of the grazing experiment at Noord-Friesland Buitendijks.

Ni hao Shanghai! – Research trip to Fudan University

This summer I have been on a research trip to the Fudan University in Shanghai China. I was invited by Prof. Jihua Wu and Prof. Bo Li to spend a month at the Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering.


Entrance gate to FUDAN University (Shanghai) Jiangwan Campus.

It was a very interesting trip indeed! PhD-student Zaichao Yang helped me to collect quite some cool data in the Dongtan marsh on Chongming Island (in a very short time!). Being used to our Wadden Sea marshes over here, I soon found out that the Chinese marshes are very different. The vegetation diversity is very low, there are crabs everywhere and the soil is very different, too. The soil, or to be more precise the organic carbon in the soil, was also the main focus of the study we did together. Within the southern part of the marsh, which is grazed by cattle, Zaichao established exclosures in 2014. He already collected a lot of data and compared accretion rates and the soil fauna community between the grazed and ungrazed treatment.


Grazing exclosure in the southern part of the Dongtan salt marsh.

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Open position:

How about doing a PhD on salt marsh bio-geomorphology in Hamburg?

This is very exciting news for me! Pending final approval of external funding we are going to start a project this autumn to study bio-geomorphology of Wadden Sea salt marshes. The idea is to setup morphodynamic models of a salt marsh which include the effect of vegetation. This has been previously done for other marsh systems, but there are no models available for Wadden Sea mainland salt marshes. Additionally, effects of heterogeneous vegetation patterns on sediment deposition and accretion are poorly understood. For example, models thus far mostly focused on homogeneous low marshes, but vegetation structure strongly differs between marsh zones and forms heterogeneous patterns. Most importantly, models also generally assumed that vegetation is static, while morphological marsh development is indeed also a main driver of vegetation succession, leading to changes in vegetation properties which in turn might also affect sediment dynamics.

In this project, we want to improve morphodynamic marsh models by integrating feedback loops between sediment and vegetation dynamics for salt marshes in the Wadden Sea. These models will be better able to predict marsh response to different climate change scenarios provided by other projects within the DFG priority program ‘Regional Sea Level Change and Society (SeaLevel)’.

Within this project there is one open position for a PhD-student who will be mainly working in Hamburg. The study site will be situated in the Wadden Sea National Park Schleswig Holstein. Furthermore, a one year stay at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) in the research group of Prof. Stijn Temmerman is planned for data analysis.

So, if you have an MSc-degree in ecology, geomorphology or another relevant field and would like to do your PhD with us in Hamburg, check the official job posting and send your letter, curriculum vitae, and copies of degree certificate(s) until 31.05.2016 to: stefanie.nolte@uni-hamburg.de


New paper online by Christian Butzeck:

Vegetation succession of low estuarine marshes is affected by distance to navigation channel and changes in water level

When I started to work at the University of Hamburg about two years ago, I also had the opportunity to discuss a lot of things with Christian Butzeck, the only other member of the group (then) interested in sediment dynamics. Christian worked on the marshes along the salinity gradient of the Elbe estuary and also investigated which factors determine the succession of the marsh vegetation. He found that in the salt and brackish zones, the area covered by high marshes increased substantially but decreased in the tidal freshwater zone, while that covered by low marshes decreased in all the salinity zones. The distance to the navigation channel was the main factor determining whether succession of low marshes would be progressive or regressive.

His findings were now published and can be found here:


Congratulations Christian!!

Elbe marsh

Project available for MSc student!

Does physiological integration enable Elymus athericus to colonize an unsuitable habitat?

The grass Elymus athericus is spreading in Wadden Sea salt marshes and outcompetes species-rich communities. We would like to investigate whether Elymus is able to invade apparently unsuitable habitats, because the mother plant is supporting daughter ramets via physiological integration through the rhizome. This will be done in a greenhouse experiment at the University of Hamburg. Plants from the island Schiermonnikoog were provided by co-supervisor Dr. Chris Smit (RUG).



Installing the experiment in the greenhouse (see Fig.), recording morphological and physiological plant parameters, 15N-labelling, measuring 15N-signature in plant material (mass-spectrometer).

For more information, just contact me:


Two new team members

This year we are going to investigate how livestock grazing affects vegetation diversity in salt marshes. This topic has already been widely studied; however, how livestock grazing might interact with other factors is often unknown. Therefore we are planning to include the factors scale and topography an study how they interact with the effect of livestock grazing on vegetation diversity. This research will be conducted within the framework of the INTERFACE project by two new team members, namely Jennifer Ahrens and Thea Wahlers.

The new team members: Jennifer Ahrens & Thea Wahlers

The new team members: Jennifer Ahrens & Thea Wahlers

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Coastal Ecology Workshop 2015

Last week we had the Coastal Ecology Workshop (CEW) in Westerhever, Germany. As always it was a great mixture of interesting talks, a nice, although rather foggy, excursion and lots of informal evening fun.

The participants of the Coastal Ecology Workshop 2015

The participants of the Coastal Ecology Workshop 2015

This year we had 43 participants from the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Germany, with most of the people coming from Germany. This could of course be due to the proximity of the venue and many participants from Hamburg, but was likely also due to the new project BEFmate, a collaboration of the Universities of Oldenburg and Göttingen. The presentations about the project were very interesting and gave a good overview about the experiment in which biodiversity effects on the marsh of Spiekeroog are investigated and compared to artificial islands installed in the Wadden Sea. Continue reading

New job = old job

Since March 2014 I worked at the Applied plant ecology group of Prof. Kai Jensen at the University of Hamburg. The position was funded via the INTERFACE project, for which we applied in 2013. Since my colleague Antonia Wanner left our group in the beginning of 2014 I took over managing the project together with my colleague Andreas Dänhardt of the Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science.

Now I got the opportunity to get a university position here within group. This means that I will be able to keep supervising the two PhD-students in the INTERFACE project, but I will also be able to start new projects and establish my own lab. I am really grateful for this opportunity! Already another PhD-student joined the team: Dennis Schulze just started a project investigating the effect of grazing on sediment deposition and accretion in salt marshes. However, next to more opportunities for research, the new position also brings some more teaching with it. But, I am looking forward to this too, as it will enable me to broaden my experience … and to find good students for projects.

So, thanks to everybody who supported me this far! Here’s to three more years in Hamburg!

The colleagues from the Applied plant ecology group and me at the Coastal Ecology Workshop 2014.

The colleagues from the Applied plant ecology group and me at the Coastal Ecology Workshop 2014.