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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Dr. Michael Staab

Dr. Michael Staab

University of Freiburg
Ecology and Biodiversity
Junior Fellow
October 2017 - July 2018


Michael Staab studied biology and tropical ecology at the University of Würzburg from 2005 to 2010. Afterwards, he moved to the University of Lüneburg, where he received his PhD in ecology in 2014. Since this, he is a postdoc and lecturer (equivalent to assistant professor) at the University of Freiburg in the working group Nature Conservation and Landscape Ecology. In his teaching, he covers courses on different aspects of ecology, conservation biology, and ornithology. During his research, he has conducted field work in many tropical countries, with an emphasis on southeast China, where he is part of a long term research project on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning ( His current research focuses on multi-trophic interaction networks, where he tries to understand how species in different trophic levels interact with each other and what environmental factors influence those interactions. He is particularly interested in the effect of plant diversity on species and interactions in higher trophic levels and his research combines experimental with observational approaches. Furthermore, he is interested in the taxonomy and ecology of ants, which are among other arthropod groups, also the focal organisms of his work on interaction networks. More recently, he became interest in the various components of biodiversity. Thus, he will in his FRIAS project investigate the influence of plant phylogenetic diversity on other organisms.

Selected Publications

  • Binkenstein J, Klein AM, Assmann T, Buscot F, Erfmeier A, Ma K, Pietsch KA, Schmidt K, Scholten T, Wubet T, Bruelheide H, Schuldt A, Staab M (2017) Multi-trophic guilds respond differently to changing elevation in a subtropical forest. Ecography. online early. doi: 10.1111/ecog.03086.
  • Schuldt A, Fornoff F, Bruelheide H, Klein AM, Staab M (2017) Tree species richness attenuates the positive relationship between mutualistic ant-hemipteran interactions and leaf chewer herbivory. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284: 20171489.
  • Staab M, Fornoff F, Klein AM, Blüthgen N (2017) Ants at plant wounds - A little-known trophic interaction with evolutionary implications for ant-plant interactions. American Naturalist 190: 442-450.
  • Staab M, Bruelheide H, Durka W, Michalski S, Purschke O, Zhu CD, Klein AM (2016) Tree phylogenetic diversity promotes host-parasitoid interactions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283: 20160275.
  • Staab M, Blüthgen N, Klein AM (2015) Tree diversity alters the structure of a tri-trophic network in a biodiversity experiment. Oikos 124: 827-834.
  • Staab M, Ohl M, Zhu CD Klein AM (2014) A unique nest-protection strategy in a new species of spider wasp. PLOS ONE 9: e101592.

FRIAS Project

Is Tree phylogenetic Diversity affecting the Diversity of Arthropods and Microorganisms across Taxa and trophic Levels?

A central property of ecosystems is that within a community the diversity of plants as primary producers begets diversity in associated organisms. Diversity itself can be measured on many scales, from counting species (i.e. species richness) to quantifying functionality (i.e. traits) to using genetic sequences for quantifying the number of evolutionary lineages (i.e. phylogenetic diversity: PD). Species richness is the most commonly used measure for plant diversity, but might not be the most suitable: it is not the number of species per se but the number of different evolutionary lineages within a community that should have the highest impact on the diversity and composition of associated organisms. In the proposed project, I will test the hypothesis that plant PD is superior to species richness in explaining associated diversity by analyzing a large and unique dataset containing a robust plant phylogeny and many arthropod and microbial taxa from different trophic levels. The data were originally collected in a southeast Chinese forest and are replicated well over 27 sampling plots. I expect general and positive relationships between PD and associated diversity that are stronger than relationships with tree species richness. This has so far only been shown for structurally simple experimental grasslands and my study will extend such relationships to forests, helping to understand how diversity begets diversity across trophic levels in such complex ecosystems.