I am a plant ecologist with a strong focus on a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in grasslands. I studied biology in Würzburg and did my PhD at the University of Bielefeld where I investigated plant competition in experimental sand ecosystems. This shaped my fundamentally mechanistic approach to science in which I try to understand ecological relationships with the help of targeted experiments. After two postdoctoral positions in Lancaster and Bayreuth, I took over as scientific coordination of the Jena Experiment field site, the largest grassland biodiversity experiment in Europe. After four years at the University of Jena I moved to the University of Leipzig in 2009 where I have been teaching and doing reserach ever since. When I teach, it is important to me to inspire enthusiasm for the complexity of our living environment and to give students a basic understanding of ecological relationships.
- since 03/2019
Professor, Leipzig University, Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity, Faculty of Life Sciences
- 04/2014 - 03/2019
Associate Professor, Leipzig University, Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity, Faculty of Life Sciences
- 11/2009 - 03/2014
Senior research scientist, postdoc, Leipzig University, Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity, Faculty of Life Sciences
- 03/2005 - 10/2009
Research scientist & scientific coordinator of the Jena Experiment, postdoc, Jena University, Institute of Ecology
- 11/2002 - 02/2005
Postdoc, Bayreuth University, Biogeography
- 01/2002 - 11/2002
Postdoc, Lancaster University Great Britain, Soil Ecology (Richard Bardgett)
- 07/1997 - 08/2001
PhD Dissertation at Bielefeld University, Germany (Title: Plant competition on inland dunes: Influence of water availability, nitrogen supply and the role of belowground processes)
- 11/1989 - 06/1996
Study of Biology at Würzburg University, Germany
- 07/1996 - 06/1997
Scientific assistant at Experimental and Systems Ecology, Bielefeld University
I am a plant ecologist closely tied to the field of biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationships in grasslands. I have a strong background in experimental and population ecology of plants with a particular focus on plant functional traits belowground. My publication portfolio includes over 100 well-cited papers in ecological journals. Much of my work focuses on the mechanistic explanation of the positive effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functions (BEF). However, we have not yet found conclusive evidence that the most commonly cited mechanism - resource complementarity - is truly a driver of positive BEF relationships. My current projects therefore focus on alternative mechanisms such as biotic interactions and facilitation. In addition, I believe that our overall mechanistic understanding in biodiversity research would benefit greatly from better exploration of the "hidden half" of the plant, which is why my recent projects focus primarily on roots.
- Root Economics space Understanding soil biodiversity: using the new functional framework for root traitsWeigelt, AlexandraDuration: 10/2020 - 09/2024Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität; iDiv Flex Pool
- Reciprocal relationships between plant diversity and ecosystem productivity (BEF-Loops)Weigelt, AlexandraDuration: 12/2019 - 06/2023Funded by: DFG Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftInvolved organisational units of Leipzig University: Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität
- sROOT: Root trait functionality in a Whole-Plant ContextWeigelt, AlexandraDuration: 11/2018 - 03/2020Funded by: DFG Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftInvolved organisational units of Leipzig University: Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität; iDiv Synthesezentrum (sDiv)
- Chemical and morphological traits as mediators of biotic interactions along plant diversity gradientsWeigelt, AlexandraDuration: 03/2020 - 04/2024Funded by: DFG Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftInvolved organisational units of Leipzig University: German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv); Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität
- The Jena Experiment: Above and Belowground complementarity in plantsWeigelt, AlexandraDuration: 01/2016 - 12/2016Funded by: DFG Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftInvolved organisational units of Leipzig University: Spezielle Botanik und funktionelle Biodiversität
- Barry, K.; van Ruijven, J.; Mommer, L. et al.Limited evidence for spatial resource partitioning across temperate grassland biodiversity experimentsEcology. 2019. 101 (1).DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2905
- Laughlin, D. C.; Mommer, L.; Sabatini, F. M. et al.Root traits explain plant species distributions along climatic gradients yet challenge the nature of ecological trade-offsNature ecology & evolution. 2021. pp. 1123-1134
- Weigelt, A.; Mommer, L.; Andraczek, K. et al.An integrated framework of plant form and function: the belowground perspectiveThe new phytologist. 2021. 232 (1). pp. 42-59DOI: 10.1111/nph.17590
- Mahecha, M.; Bastos, A.; Bohn, F. J. et al.Biodiversity loss and climate extremes - study the feedbacksNature. 2022. pp. 30-32
- van der Plas, A.; Schroeder-Georgi, T.; Weigelt, A. et al.Plant traits alone are poor predictors of ecosystem properties and long-term ecosystem functioningNature Ecology & Evolution. 2020. 4 (12). pp. 1602-1611
I am a plant ecologist with strong background in experimental ecology and biodiversity of grasslands and always try to share my fascination with these topics when I teach. Currently, I supervise 3 courses in the bachelor of biology and 2 courses in the master ecology and evolution. I love to teach plant species determination, but my primary goal is to pass on a general understanding of why and how plants grow at the places they grow, and how the interactions between different plant species or individuals affect species performance and ecosystem functioning. In practical classes I emphasize the basics of experimental ecology but most importantly hypothesis driven science and tailored experiments or observational studies.
11-BIO-209 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in terrestrial systems (Master)
This module offers detailed insight into the relationship between different facets of diversity and important ecosystem functions. In addition to the profound background on biodiversity sciences presented in the lecture, the course teaches experimental and analytical skills in the glasshouse, lab and field, data analysis and presentation and critical evaluation of scientific literature.
11-BIO-0523 Introduction to Ecology (Bachelor)
This module introduces the theoretical basis and applications of ecological concepts. The lecture covers the chapters of the classic Begon & Townsend book on Ecology. In the seminar we critically discuss individual examples of these same chapters based on scientific papers. The lab course covers the basics of scientific work from the research question, to practical implemantation and measurement to data analysis and presentation.
11-BIO-0635 Vegetation ecology and plant geographie (Bachelor)
Here we provide a global overview of the determinants of plant life and the resulting vegetation types and ecosystems. We place special emphasis on understanding vegetation processes and material cycles on a global scale. The practical course focuses on field methods and analytical procedures of descriptive and quantitative vegetation science.
11-BIO-0208 Systematic Botany and Vegetation Ecology (Bachelor)
As part of this course we offer some lectures on plant ecology but are mainly involved in the practical teaching during individual short excursions in the vacinity of Leipzig and the 1 week field course (Geländepraktikum). During the field course we teach plant determination but also some basic ecological field methods, hypothesis testing and data analysis.
This module consists of two seminars: (1) the workgroup seminar of the group Wirth/Weigelt and the group Müllner-Riehl where PhDs and postdocs from our groups and some invited guests present their latest findings; (2) a literature seminar in our group where we teach critical reading and discussion of scientific paper based on selected examples on changing, ecological topics.