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Interdisciplinary Symposium ‚The loss of species – a matter of biological timing‘


Stefanie Monecke (LMU Munich): Introduction

Noga Kronfeld-Schor (Tel Aviv University): Chronobiology of interspecific interactions in a changing world

Tom Shlesinger (Florida Institute for Technology, Melbourne, USA): Breakdown in spawning synchrony of corals

Barbara Helm (University of Groningen): Changing annual cycles of migratory birds

Tobias Kaiser (MPI Plön): Lunar and tidal rhythms in changing chronotypes

Susanne Renner (LMU Munich): Climate change and phenological mismatch in trophic interactions among plants, insects, and vertebrates

Nils Sören Häfker (University of Vienna): Rhythms of behavior: are the times changin’?

Gerlind Lehmann (Humboldt University of Berlin, NABU Berlin): Diversity of insects in nature protection areas

Information on Speakers:

Stefanie Monecke is a professor at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich. She studies the circannual reproductive cycle of European hamsters (Cricetus cricetus) and gets involved with the international hamster workgroup (IHWG), whose aim is to protect this critically endangered species. Since all over the continent wild populations collapsed in spite of protection measures she investigated alternative reasons for the decline and found a dramatic decline and profound delay in reproduction (Surov et al., 2016). Climate change and/or light pollution are able to affect the circannual timing of reproduction and act on a global scale; they might thus be potential reasons for the decline of formerly superabundant species. These result sparked Stefanie’s interest to organize a symposium on these silent threats, which might be the reasons for the global aspect of species decline.

Noga Kronfeld-Schor is Professor at Tel Aviv University and Chair of the Department of Zoology. She is a distinguished chronobiologist and an initiator of an informal consortium that studies "Wild Clocks". Throughout her career, Noga has studied timing and biological rhythms from a perspective of Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology. Her studies on a range of wild animal species focus on temporal niche use, on effects of light pollution on physiology and ecology, and on thermal biology. Key publications highlight partitioning of time as an ecological resource (Kronfeld-Schor and Dayan, 2003), further developed by a recent study on the potential of timing changes to temporarily mitigate thermal stress (Levy et al., 2019).

Tom Shlesinger is a postdoc at the Florida Institute for Technology and studies coral reefs biodiversity and coral reproduction. He continued the work of his father, who investigated the spawning time of corals in the northern gulf of Eilat, Red sea (Shlesinger and Loya, 1985). More than 30 years later, Tom showed that the initially very sharp peak in spawning time was either shifted or blurred into asynchrony in many species. Moreover, he showed that the coral species which have lost their spawning synchrony are the ones which are in decline (Shlesinger and Loya, 2019). As potential reasons climate change and light pollution are discussed.

Barbara Helm is Professor for Biological Rhythms of Natural Organisms at the University of Groningen (NL) and Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow (UK). Next to her active role in chronobiology, she is also a distinguished ornithologist and recent President of the European Ornithologists' Union (2013-2017). Because she has become increasingly aware of the disruption of biological rhythms in the Anthropocene, her research on annual cycles, daily cycles and migration of birds has increasingly focused on effects of climate change and light pollution. Understanding how an ancient, fundamental regulatory system, biological timekeeping, responds to rapidly altered environmental conditions, is at the core of her research.

Tobias Kaiser is a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and is one of the rare researchers studying circalunar rhythms. He focusses on the molecular basis of these rhythms and how evolution shapes circalunar clocks and produces timing adaptations for specific locations or habitats. Especially organisms living in the intertidal zones, as his model species Clunio marinus, are highly dependent on moon-driven cycles on different scales. Reproduction can only take place at the lowest low tides, i.e. low tides at full moon and new moon. Tobias showed that Clunio marinus populations from different locations are genetically adapted to the local pattern of the tides (Kaiser, 2014). In organisms which rely on such precise timing in relation to the full moon - new moon cycle, light pollution levels are substantial relative to the intensity of moonlight.

Susanne S Renner is professor at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich and an internationally eminently respectable botanist. She focusses on phylogeography and phylogenetics in flowering plants. Her recent work shed light on an interdisciplinary topic: the antagonistic and mutualistic species-species interactions of plants, insects and passerine birds. She reviewed the phenological mismatch or trophic asynchrony and estimated the impact of climate change on it (Renner and Zohner, 2018).

Nils Sören Häfker is a post-doc at the Max Perutz Labs/ University of Vienna. His initial training is in marine ecology, which he started to successfully combine as one of the first with molecular, chonobiological readouts (Häfker et al., 2017). He now further connects his ecological expertise with functional marine model system research. He is mainly interested to understand how biological rhythms in marine invertebrates interact with each other within and across species under naturalistic conditions and how climate change might impact on these interactions on a molecular mechanistic level. This mechanistic understanding is important in order to make valid future prediction how ecosystems might change in the sea, but also on land (Häfker and Tessmar-Raible, 2020).

Gerlind Lehmann is a professor at the Humboldt University Berlin and an internationally recognized insect researcher. Moreover, she is the spokesperson for the ecology section at the DZG. She coordinates the BMBF-funded project DINA "Diversity of Insects in Nature protected Areas". According to international assessment, it is one of the most important ongoing studies on insect decline. The project builds directly on the results of the Krefeld study (Hallmann et al., 2017), which reported a 75% decline in insect biomass. This loss has also a strong seasonal aspect since it is largest in summer, and has also been linked to light pollution. The study received a great deal of attention in the media, politically and also in scientific circles. The first interim results from this project are thus exciting for the planned symposium.

Häfker NS, Meyer B, Last KS, Pond DW, Hüppe L, and Teschke M (2017) Circadian Clock Involvement in Zooplankton Diel Vertical Migration. Current Biology 27:2194-2201.e2193.

Häfker NS, and Tessmar-Raible K (2020) Rhythms of behavior: are the times changin’? Current Opinion in Neurobiology 60:55-66.

Hallmann CA, Sorg M, Jongejans E, Siepel H, Hofland N, Schwan H, Stenmans W, Müller A, Sumser H, Hörren T, Goulson D, and de Kroon H (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLOS ONE 12:e0185809.

Kaiser TS (2014) Local Adaptations of Circalunar and Circadian Clocks: The Case of Clunio marinus. In Annual, Lunar, and Tidal Clocks: Patterns and Mechanisms of Nature's Enigmatic Rhythms, H Numata, and B Helm, eds, pp 121-141, Springer Japan, Tokyo.

Kronfeld-Schor N, and Dayan T (2003) Partitioning of Time as an Ecological Resource. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 34:153-181.

Levy O, Dayan T, Porter WP, and Kronfeld-Schor N (2019) Time and ecological resilience: can diurnal animals compensate for climate change by shifting to nocturnal activity? Ecological Monographs 89:e01334.

Renner SS, and Zohner CM (2018) Climate Change and Phenological Mismatch in Trophic Interactions Among Plants, Insects, and Vertebrates. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 49:165-182.

Shlesinger T, and Loya Y (2019) Breakdown in spawning synchrony: A silent threat to coral persistence. Science 365:1002-1007.

Shlesinger Y, and Loya Y (1985) Coral Community Reproductive Patterns: Red Sea Versus the Great Barrier Reef. Science 228:1333-1335.

Surov A, Banaszek A, Bogomolov P, Feoktistova N, and Monecke S (2016) Dramatic global decrease in the range and reproduction rate of the European hamster Cricetus cricetus. Endangered Species Research 31:119-145.


Stefanie Monecke
Barbara Helm
Kristin Tessmar-Raible