Max Planck Society
Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Functional Biogeography
(Interdepartmental Max Planck Fellow Group)

Christian Wirth
Professor, University of Leipzig and
Max Planck Fellow

Phone: +49 (0)341-9738591

Jens Kattge
Group Leader

Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 6226

Group webpage
Webpage TRY database

Exploring plant biodiversity and its role in biogeochemical cycles

The Functional Biogeography Group aims to quantify, understand and scale global plant functional diversity in order to identify its imprint on biogeochemical cycles, and how it is affected by climate variation and global change.

The group is a collaboration of Max Planck Fellow Christian Wirth and the three departments at the Max Planck Institute. Christian Wirth is Professor at the University of Leipzig and Director of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). At our Max Planck Institute, the group is headed by Dr. Jens Kattge.

Easy-to-understand fact sheet of the group (pdf)


  • TRY: a global network of vegetation scientists aiming to provide a unified archive of plant traits, which promotes trait-based approaches in ecology and biodiversity science and supports the design of a new generation of global vegetation models.
  • German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig: iDiv promotes theory-driven synthesis and experiments and data-driven theory in biodiversity sciences, which provide the scientific foundation for sustainable management of the earth’s biodiversity.
  • Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties – towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index (BACI): BACI integrates spatial data and ground observations using machine learning methods to detect hotspots of changes in the terrestrial biosphere.
  • German Federation for Biological Data – GFBio: GFBio aims to provide a sustainable, service oriented, national data infrastructure facilitating data sharing and stimulating data-intensive science in the fields of biological and environmental research.
  • Biodiversity-Exploratories Information System 2 (BExIS++): BExIS++ coordinates the further development of the established Biodiversity-Exploratories Information System (BExIS) and the development of concepts and methods to foster long-term data preservation in biodiversity research.
  • Mobilization of trait data from digital image files by deep learning approaches: This project will develop and train deep-learning algorithms to recognize (a) traits in image files and (b) use the identified traits to recognize taxa in image files.

Selected publications

Garnier, E., Stahl, U., Laporte, M.-A., Kattge, J., Mougenot, I., Kühn, I., Laporte, B., Amiaud, B., Ahrestani, F. S., Bönisch, G., Bunker, D. E., Cornelissen, J. H. C., Díaz, S., Enquist, B. J., Gachet, S., Jaureguiberry, P., Kleyer, M., Lavorel, S., Maicher, L., Pérez-Harguindeguy, N., Poorter, H., Schildhauer, M., Shipley, B., Violle, C., Weiher, E., Wirth, C., Wright, I. J., Klotz, S. (2017). Towards a thesaurus of plant characteristics: an ecological contribution. Journal of Ecology, 105(2), 298-309. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12698.

Díaz, S., Kattge, J., Cornelissen, J. H. C., Wright, I. J., Lavorel, S., Dray, S., Reu, B., Kleyer, M., Wirth, C., Prentice, I. C., Garnier, E., Bönisch, G., Westoby, M., Poorter, H., Reich, P. B., Moles, A. T., Dickie, J., Gillison, A. N., Zanne, A. E., Chave, J., Wright, S. J., Sheremetev, S. N., Jactel, H., Baraloto, C., Cerabolini, B., Pierce, S., Shipley, B., Kirkup, D., Casanoves, F., Joswig, J., Günther, A., Falczuk, V., Rüger, N., Mahecha, M. D., Gorné, L. D. (2016). The global spectrum of plant form and function. Nature, 529, 167-171. doi:10.1038/nature16489.

Schrodt, F., Kattge, J., Shan, H., Fazayeli, F., Joswig, J., Banerjee, A., Reichstein, M., Bönisch, G., Díaz, S., Dickie, J., Gillison, A., Karpatne, A., Lavorel, S., Leadley, P., Wirth, C., Wright, I. J., Wright, S. J., Reich, P. B. (2015). BHPMF – a hierarchical Bayesian approach to gap-filling and trait prediction for macroecology and functional biogeography. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24(12), 1510-1521. doi:10.1111/geb.12335.

Kattge, J., Ogle, K., Bönisch, G., Díaz, S., Lavorel, S., Madin, J., Nadrowski, K., Nöllert, S., Sartor, K., Wirth, C. (2011). A generic structure for plant trait databases. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2(2), 202-213. doi:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2010.00067.x.

Kattge, J., Diaz, S., Lavorel, S.,Weiher, E., White, M., White, S., Wright, S. J., Yguel, B., Zaehle, S., Zanne, A. E., Wirth, C. (2011). TRY - a global database of plant traits. Global Change Biology, 17(9), 2905-2935. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02451.x.

Autumn colors near Jena, Germany (Photo: Corinne Sacher) Hibiscus flower (Photo: Angela Günther) Water, hills and forest: the Jenzig near Jena, Germany (Photo: Corinne Sacher)  Leaf litter: oak, beech and acer (Photo: Angela Günther) Moist temperate broadleaved forest in New Zealand: trees, shrubs, herbs, lichens and mosses… (Photo: Angela Günther)
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