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Stefan Dullinger: Mountain plants on the move


Biologist Stefan Dullinger is studying how plants in the mountains defy climate change - or not. By using his research to show how biodiversity is faring in the local Alps, he hopes to contribute a part to its protection.

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Microdynamics of mountain plants in climate change

Plants and animals try to avoid climate change by retreating to cooler environments, this procedure is called microdynamics. A strategy that reaches its limits where cooler environments are hardly or not at all available in accessible surroundings. This is particularly true for mountain plants, which already grow at the highest alpine and nival altitudes.

Stefan Dullinger, Professor of Vegetation Science at the Faculty of Life Sciences, is tracking down these so-called microdynamics of mountain plants with a combination of long-term observation data, remote sensing methods, experiments and computer simulations.


Demography of the Alpine flora

As "lobbyists of non-human organisms", as he and his team could be called, Stefan Dullinger is investigating the possible effects of climate change on the biodiversity of mountain habitats at the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research and at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in his ERC project MICROCLIM. On the one hand, by documenting the occurrence at specific sites. And on the other, by collecting data on how fast plants grow, how many seeds they yield, what their mortality rate is. These data add up to an archive, a "demography of plants" in other words.

Making the world a better place

Even as a child, Stefan Dullinger could have imagined becoming a biologist, but he never took the direct route. Today, he enjoys working as a researcher primarily because he is happy that what he is doing is a meaningful task. And it gives him the feeling that, with his results, he can make at least a small contribution to making the world a better place.


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© Katharina Rossboth