The interaction of diversity, stability and ecosystem functioning is one of the major topics in ecology. While it has received considerable attention on the level of species, our project deals with the interplay of trait diversity of aquatic communities and ecological dynamics. In particular, the project is focused on the short-term changes of trait diversity in phytoplankton communities in response to the ambient environment and its influence on ecosystem functioning. New techniques of flow cytometry allow to measure depth profiles of a multitude of phytoplankton traits at an unprecedented temporal resolution (every few hours), which will be used to monitor the trait diversity of phytoplankton communities at Lake Greifensee (Switzerland).

Using this framework, we will test the hypothesis that dynamic trait diversity is a key concept that links the environment to ecosystem functions through mechanisms such as ecological dynamics and adaptive flexibility. Our data-analysis will be complemented by mathematical modeling which provides a mechanistic underpinning of the interaction of external disturbances, the resulting ecological dynamics and adaptive changes in trait diversity, and the emerging ecosystem functions. The results of the project have potential impact for effective ecosystem management by providing insights into eco-evolutionary feedbacks between trait-diversity and the ecosystem-flexibility at short time scales.

The project is part of the nationwide Priority Program “DynaTrait” (http://www.dynatrait.de/, Schwerpunktprogramm 1704) consisting of 21 sub-project.