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Vegetation, Climate and Soil: 50 Years of Global Ecology

  • Siegmar-W. BreckleEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Progress in Botany book series (BOTANY, volume 80)

Abstract

In this essay, more than 50 years of studies on a broad spectrum of ecological topics is reviewed. Many research questions in desert ecology, in tropical ecology and in stress ecophysiology were studied, mainly in the field but often completed by analysis in the lab.

To keep in mind the complexity of ecological systems, it was necessary to go into detail with very specific approaches but always keeping in mind a synthetic view. More and more it became clear that the biodiversity in many ecosystems plays an important role for the future. Vegetation, climate and soil are interwoven in ecosystems; the rapid developments in science – as well as the fast development of methods, techniques and data pools – are a big challenge. Many aspects of global ecology have been studied in the last 50 years. Some examples are demonstrated here. This essay will remain a rather historical treatise. It will give examples of experimental and field work. It will be a look back with great gratitude on what was able to be achieved and experienced.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Scientific curiosity has to be animated, by parents and by teachers. To both, I say thanks.

If university faculties offer excursions for students, they firstly have to be attractive and secondly worth the price. If, during the time of study, it is possible to join about ten 2-week excursions (soil science, botany, geography, geology, limnology, palaeontology, ethnology, zoology), then this is the most intensive learning process and best way of scientific mediation – though also a strain. I say thanks.

Personally, I would like to mention and acknowledge a few scientists and university teachers: Prof. Hermann Aldinger, Stuttgart (geology); Prof. Max Bense, Stuttgart (philosophy); Prof. Hellmut Bredereck, Stuttgart (organic chemistry); Prof. Heinz Ellenberg, Göttingen (ecology); Prof. Theodor Förster, Stuttgart (physical chemistry); Prof. Helmut Gams, Innsbruck (botany); Prof. Josef Goubeau, Stuttgart (inorganic chemistry); Prof. Emil Greiner, Ludwigsburg (physics); Prof. Helmut Heuberger, Innsbruck (geography); Prof. Johannes-Erich Hiller, Stuttgart (crystal chemistry); Prof. Herfried Hoinkes, Innsbruck (climatology); Prof. Karl Ilg, Innsbruck (ethnology); Prof. Helmut Kinzel, Vienna (ecophysiology); Prof. Hans Kinzl, Innsbruck (geography); Prof. Hermann Lautensach, Stuttgart (geography); Dr Werner Marten, Blanes (entomology); Prof. Wolfgang Meckelein, Stuttgart (geography); Prof. Otto Pflugfelder, Stuttgart-Hohenheim (zoology); Prof. Arthur Pisek, Innsbruck (ecophysiology of plants); Prof. Hans Pitschmann, Innsbruck (botany); Prof. Herbert Reisigl, Innsbruck (botany); Prof. Ernst Schlichting, Stuttgart-Hohenheim (pedology); Prof. Maximilian Steiner, Bonn (pharmacognosy); and Prof. Heinrich Walter, Stuttgart-Hohenheim (geobotany/ecology). I say thanks.

Additionally, I have to thank all of those colleagues who have been very cooperative in joint projects and other joint ventures or were visiting guests for some time; not all can be named: Prof. Otar Abdalaze (Tbilisi); Prof. Okmir Agakhanjanz (Minsk); Prof. Roland Albert (Vienna); Prof. Wilhelm Barthlott (Bonn); Prof. Kamal H. Batanouny (Cairo); Dr Rasik Bhadresa (Tehran, London); Prof. Martyn Caldwell (Logan); Dr Liliya Dimeyeva (Almati); Dr Eskandar Firouz (Tehran); Prof. Helmut Freitag (Kassel); Prof. Helena Freitas (Coimbra); Prof. Jan Greszta (Kraków); Ian C. Hedge (Edinburgh); Prof. Paul Keßler (Leiden); Prof. Michael Keusgen (Marburg); Prof. Ajmal Khan (Karachi); Prof. Christian Körner (Basel); Prof. Ulrich Kull (Stuttgart); PD Dr Thomas Littmann (Halle); Prof. Gia Nakhutsrishvili (Tbilisi); Prof. Clas Naumann (Bonn); Dr Takajoshi Nishio (Utsunomiya); Prof. Nathalia Ogar (Almaty); Dr Tatsuhiro Ohkubo (Utsunomiya); Prof. Muazzez Önal (Istanbul); Dr Rodolpho Ortiz (San Ramón); Prof. Barry Osmond (Canberra); Prof. Münir Öztürk (Izmir); Prof. Fabricio Queirolo (Antofagasta); Dr Daud Rafiqpoor (Bonn); Dr Hamer Salazar (Costa Rica); Prof. Ernst-Detlef Schulze (Bayreuth/Jena); Prof. Zoldan Varga (Debrecen); Prof. Yoav Waisel (Tel Aviv); Prof. Per Wendelbo (Gothenburg); Prof. Christian Wissel (Leipzig); Dr Walter Wucherer (Greifswald); and Prof. Aaron Yair (Jerusalem).

Special thanks are due to Ian C. Hedge for long years of intense cooperation and for his help in smoothing this text.

Without the help of funding agencies – mainly the DFG (German Research Foundation), BMBF (German Ministry of Education and Research), AERC (Arid Ecosystem Research Center, Jerusalem), GTZ-CCD (Bonn), BMBL (German Ministry of Agriculture), DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), MURL-NRW (Ministry for the Environment, State of North Rhine–Westphalia), VW Foundation, Schimper Foundation and University of Bielefeld – it would have been impossible to have carried out these projects and studies. To them I say many thanks.

I never tried to publish in nature or science or sought impact factors. But often, over the years, we received complimentary comments. Senckenberg’s director (Dr Mosbrugger) wrote concerning our Field Guide Afghanistan book: “a marvellous book, even if there are no impact- or Hirsch-factors improved, this book has certainly a much longer value than most of the Nature or Science papers”. I say thanks.

All co-workers in the (relatively small) department of ecology; all assistants; all candidates for doctoral theses (approximately 20), for diploma theses (approximately 130) and for the teacher’s examination (approximately 25); and all Arbeits-Beschaffungs-MaÔnahme (ABM; “job creation scheme” in English) people and technical assistants (especially Irmingard Meier and Anja Scheffer) were a good and reliable team. I say thanks.

This scientific curiosity is shared with my wife, Uta Breckle. She formed the framework of the family and was always of indispensable help in every decade, together with my three children (Hans, Rolf and Margit). To them I say the most important thanks.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Formerly Department of Plant EcologyUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

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