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Information for Researchers No. 3 | 10 January 2019
Infrastructure Priority Programme “Exploratories for Large-Scale and Long-Term Functional Biodiversity Research” (SPP 1374)

In the framework of the Infrastructure Priority Programme „Exploratories for Large-Scale and Long-Term Functional Biodiversity Research“, established in 2006, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) invites the submission of research grant proposals.

Research in the Biodiversity Exploratories encompasses comparative, experimental and theoretical approaches, as well as scientific syntheses, addressing the following issues:

  • relationships of land use and land-use intensity with all facets of biodiversity, from the genetic to the community level;
  • consequences of changes in land use, land-use intensity and biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems, communities, populations and for ecosystem services.

The first decade of Biodiversity Exploratories research has contributed to an in-depth understanding of land use – biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationships. It revealed strong effects of land-use intensity on many facets of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in grasslands and forests and many similarities, but also pronounced differences, between study regions (link to publication list see below).

A more mechanistic understanding of land use – biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationships is an important ambition for the new phase. The common research design and joint efforts of all involved projects provided an unprecedented density of information, samples, data and time series available to create added value with further research. Moreover, new joint multi-site experiments in grasslands and forests will be available for work toward further mechanistic insights. In addition to projects from the fields of the life and natural sciences, work on social-ecological aspects will also be welcome (see below for more information on design, experiments and encouraged types of research).

This call is addressing research groups with expertise in investigating land-use effects on biodiversity, and of the functional and societal consequences of biodiversity changes. The DFG will fund empirical projects addressing these topics using comparative or experimental approaches. Other projects, including theoretical ones, or social-ecological ones on the societal background of land-use decisions or on the provisioning of and demand for ecosystem services are encouraged, too. Such projects should clearly relate to and use Biodiversity Exploratories’ data, and aim at conceptual and mechanistic advances. All proposals, new proposals as well as renewal proposals for Biodiversity Exploratories projects, must clearly describe how they will contribute to a mechanistic understanding of the studied processes, and how the planned research fits into the Biodiversity Exploratories’ framework, uses the common design, and complements existing research.

To create added value, it is essential that all research projects make use of the common research design. This involves three study regions, the so-called Exploratories. In each Exploratory, 500 plots in forests and 500 plots in grasslands were initially surveyed, and their land use, soil, and vegetation were inventoried. Out of these 3,000 plots, 50 forest plots and 50 grassland plots were selected in each Exploratory (150 grassland plots and 150 forest plots overall) and established for intensive research. These so-called experimental plots represent the gradient of land-use intensities in the study regions. To contribute added value to the joint data base, all proposed research projects need to use all experimental plots in grasslands, in forests, or both. For particularly labour-intensive investigations, the use of a predefined subset of plots (3 x 25 or 3 x 9 of the 150 grassland or forest plots; see website) may be planned. Proposed research may also make use of more than 300 of the initially inventoried 3,000 plots.

New manipulative multi-plot experiments will be established for the new phase, both in forests and in grasslands, and will be open for joint use by all new projects. The rationale and design of these new experiments is detailed at the website (link see below). Of course, further experiments are also welcome. These should be of split-plot nature replicated in many plots along the land-use intensity gradient, as this will reveal how experimental treatment effects differ among sites of different land use and biodiversity.

Before submitting a proposal, investigators should consult Fischer et al. (2010), Basic and Applied Ecology, 11: 473–485, for a detailed description of the rationale and the design of the Exploratories, and the Exploratories’ website for further information (link see below). New projects are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the large amount of data collected in the Exploratories over the last twelve years. These data are managed in the Biodiversity Exploratories Information System (BExIS). Publicly available data (and metadata of not yet publicly available data) can be explored upon registration at the BExIS website (link see below).

The starting date proposed for all new projects is 1 March 2020. The duration of the projects should be 36 months, and cannot exceed this period. Successful applicants and their team members are expected to collaborate according to the rules of procedure of the Biodiversity Exploratories, to attend the annual assembly, and to actively participate in workshops.

We ask you to send a very short summary of the intended research (applicant(s), preliminary title, plus a maximum of 5 lines of text) no later than 10 February 2019 by email to the speaker and the scientific coordinator of the Biodiversity Exploratories (contacts see below). To allow for mutual information and coordination among applicants these short summaries will be compiled and, in one password-protected file, made available to all applicants named in these summaries.

On 27 February 2019, there will be an information event open to all potential applicants. This event will take place from 2 pm to 5 pm at the HKK Hotel in Wernigerode. Presentations on the rationale, design and research of the Biodiversity Exploratories will be followed by a discussion of open questions. A summary of important information points from this event will be available on the project website soon after the event.

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 30 April 2019. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 16 April 2019 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 1374” from the current list of calls. Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. In addition to submitting your proposal via elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

The review colloquium for the Priority Programme will be held from 25 to 28 June 2019, attendance of applicants is envisaged for the 27 June 2019.

Further Information

Further information about research infrastructure and current activities in the Biodiversity Exploratories Schorfheide-Chorin, Hainich and Schwäbische Alb can be found at:

The website of the Biodiversity Exploratories Information System (BExIS) can be found at:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

Questions with regard to scientific contents should be directed to the speaker and scientific coordinator of the Biodiversity Exploratories:


Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum Frankfurt

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:


This text is available at Interner Linkwww.dfg.de/foerderung/info_wissenschaft/2019/info_wissenschaft_19_03.
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