Responses of plants and ecosystems to global environmental change

Physiological Plant Ecology
Plants are fundamental components of the earth system. Their ability to assimilate atmospheric CO2 and to transpire H2O drives the biogeochemical cycles in ecosystems and determines as such the provision of ecosystem goods and services that we as people depend on. In the Physiological Plant Ecology Group at ETH Zurich we investigate the physiological responses of plants to their environmental in order to understand how plants govern the function of ecosystems in a changing world. Our research operates at different scales that range from the leaf to the landscape level and links plant ecophysiology to plant population dynamics and ecosystem biogeochemistry.

Recent Publications

  • Lack of hydraulic recovery as a cause of post-drought foliage reduction and canopy decline in European beech
    Arend, Matthias; Link, Roman Mathias; Zahnd, Cedric; Hoch, Guenter; Schuldt, Bernhard; et al.
    New Phytologist   10.1111/nph.18065  MAY 2022
  • Mechanisms of woody-plant mortality under rising drought, CO2 and vapour pressure deficit
    McDowell, Nate G.; Sapes, Gerard; Pivovaroff, Alexandria; Adams, Henry D.; Allen, Craig D.; et al.
    Nature Reviews Earth & Environment  10.1038/s43017-022-00272-1  MAY 2022
  • Number of growth days and not length of the growth period determines radial stem growth of temperate trees
    Etzold, Sophia; Sterck, Frank; Bose, Arun K.; Braun, Sabine; Buchmann, Nina; Eugster, Werner; Gessler, Arthur; Kahmen, Ansgar; Peters, Richard L.; Vitasse, Yann; Walthert, Lorenz
    Ecology Letters  10.1111/ele.13933  DEC 2021
  • Effects of phenotypic variability on the oxygen and hydrogen isotope compositions of grains in different winter wheat varieties
    Cueni, Florian; Nelson, Daniel B.; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Isotopes In Environmental And Health Studies  10.1080/10256016.2021.2002855  NOV 2021
  • TreeNet – The Biological Drought and Growth Indicator Network
    Zweifel, R; Etzold, S; Basler, D; Bischoff, R; Braun, S; Buchmann, N; Conedera, M; Fonti, P; Gessler, A; Haeni, M; Hoch, G; Kahmen, A; Kochli, R; Maeder, M; Nievergelt, D; Peter, M; Peters, RL; Schaub, M; Trotsiuk, V; Walthert, L; Wilhelm, M; Eugster, W
    Frontiers In Forests And Global Change  10.3389/ffgc.2021.776905  NOV 4 2021
  • Climate Change Modulates Multitrophic Interactions Between Maize, A Root Herbivore, and Its Enemies
    Guyer, Anouk; van Doan, Cong; Maurer, Corina; Machado, Ricardo A. R.; Mateo, Pierre; Steinauer, Katja; Kesner, Luci; Hoch, Guenter; Kahmen, Ansgar; Erb, Matthias; Robert, Christelle A. M.
    Journal Of Chemical Ecology, 10.1007/s10886-021-01303-9, NOV 2021
  • Metabolic exchange between pathways for isoprenoid synthesis and implications for biosynthetic hydrogen isotope fractionation
    Ladd, S. Nemiah; Nelson, Daniel B.; Bamberger, Ines; Daber, L. Erik; Kreuzwieser, Juergen; et al.
    New Phytologist 10.1111/nph.17510  SEP 2021
  • Dynamic H-2 irrigation pulse labelling reveals rapid infiltration and mixing of precipitation in the soil and species-specific water uptake depths of trees in a temperate forest
    Kahmen, Ansgar; Buser, Till; Hoch, Guenter; Grun, Georges; Dietrich, Lars
    Ecohydrology 10.1002/eco.2322  SEP 2021
  • Carbon isotope composition of plant photosynthetic tissues reflects a Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) continuum in the majority of CAM lineages
    Messerschmid, Thibaud F. E.; Wehling, Judith; Bobon, Nadine; Kahmen, Ansgar; Klak, Cornelia; Los, Jessica A.; Nelson, Daniel B.; dos Santos, Patricia; de Vos, Jurriaan M.; Kadereit, Gudrun
    Perspectives In Plant Ecology Evolution And Systematics 10.1016/j.ppees.2021.125619  AUG 2021
  • Using plant physiological stable oxygen isotope models to counter food fraud
    Cueni, Florian; Nelson, Daniel B.; Boner, Markus; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Scientific Reports 10.1038/s41598-021-96722-9  AUG 27 2021
  • Precipitation isotope time series predictions from machine learning applied in Europe
    Nelson, Daniel B.; Basler, David; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 10.1073/pnas.2024107118  JUN 29 2021
  • Soil nutrient availability alters tree carbon allocation dynamics during drought
    Schonbeck, Leonie; Li, Mai-He; Lehmann, Marco M.; Rigling, Andreas; Schaub, Marcus; Hoch, Gunter; Kahmen, Ansgar; Gessler, Arthur
    Tree Physiology 10.1093/treephys/tpaa139  MAY 2021
  • Rapid hydraulic collapse as cause of drought-induced mortality in conifers
    Arend, Matthias; Link, Roman M.; Patthey, Rachel; Hoch, Gunter; Schuldt, Bernhard; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 10.1073/pnas.2025251118  APR 20 2021
  • Past and future snowmelt trends in the Swiss Alps: the role of temperature and snowpack
    Vorkauf, Maria; Marty, Christoph; Kahmen, Ansgar; Hiltbrunner, Erika
    Climatic Change  10.1007/s10584-021-03027-x Published: APR 2021
  • Flowering phenology in alpine grassland strongly responds to shifts in snowmelt but weakly to summer drought
    Vorkauf, Maria; Kahmen, Ansgar; Korner, Christian; Hiltbrunner, Erika
    Alpine Botany 10.1007/s00035-021-00252-z Published: APR 2021
  • On the use of leaf water to determine plant water source: A proof of concept
    Benettin, Paolo; Nehemy, Magali F.; Cernusak, Lucas A.; Kahmen, Ansgar; McDonnell, Jeffrey J.
    Hydrological Processes 10.1002/hyp.14073 Published: MAR 2021
  • Timing of drought in the growing season and strong legacy effects determine the annual productivity of temperate grasses in a changing climate
    Hahn, Claudia; Luscher, Andreas; Ernst-Hasler, Sara; Suter, Matthias; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Biogeosciences, 10.5194/bg-18-585-2021    JAN 27 2021

Publications 2020

  • A bottom-up quantification of foliar mercury uptake fluxes across Europe
    Wohlgemuth, Lena; Osterwalder, Stefan; Joseph, Carl; Kahmen, Ansgar; Hoch, Gunter; et al.
    Biogeosciences, 10.5194/bg-17-6441-2020  DEC 21 2020
  • Drivers and dynamics of a massive adaptive radiation in cichlid fishes
    Ronco, Fabrizia; Matschiner, Michael; Boehne, Astrid; Boila, Anna; Buescher, Heinz H.; El Taher, Athimed; Indermaur, Adrian; Malinsky, Milan; Ricci, Virginie; Kahmen, Ansgar; Jentoft, Sissel; Salzburger, Walter
    Nature    DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2930-4 NOV 2020
  • Validation and calibration of soil delta H-2 and brGDGTs along (E-W) and strike (N-S) of the Himalayan climatic gradient
    van der Veen, Iris; Peterse, Francien; Davenport, Jesse; Meese, Bernd; Bookhagen, Bodo; et al.
    Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta  DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2020.09.014 DEC 1 2020
  • Improving the extraction and purification of leaf and phloem sugars for oxygen isotope analyses
    Lehmann, Marco M.; Egli, Melanie; Brinkmann, Nadine; Werner, Roland A.; Saurer, Matthias; et al.
    Rapid Communications In Mass Spectrometry   DOI: 10.1002/rcm.8854  OCT 15 2020
  • Rhizosphere activity in an old-growth forest reacts rapidly to changes in soil moisture and shapes whole-tree carbon allocation
    Joseph, Jobin; Gao, Decai; Backes, Bernhard; Bloch, Corinne; Brunner, Ivano; et al.
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014084117  OCT 2020
  • Deep-rooted pigeon pea promotes the water relations and survival of shallow-rooted finger millet during drought-Despite strong competitive interactions at ambient water availability
    Singh, Devesh; Mathimaran, Natarajan; Boller, Thomas; Kahmen, Ansgar
    Plos One  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228993 Published: FEB 13 2020
  • Drivers and dynamics of a massive adaptive radiation in cichlid fishes
    Fabrizia Ronco, Michael Matschiner, Astrid Böhne, Anna Boila, Heinz H. Büscher, Athimed El Taher, Adrian Indermaur, Milan Malinsky, Virginie Ricci, Ansgar Kahmen, Sissel Jentoft and Walter Salzburger
    Nature (2020), doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2930-4
  • A first assessment of the impact of the extreme 2018 summer drought on Central European forests
    Schuldt B; Buras A; Arend M; Vitasse Y; Beierkuhnlein, C; Damm, A; Gharun, M; Grams, TEE; Hauck, M; Hajek, P; Hartmann, H; Hiltbrunner, E; Hoch, G; Holloway-Phillips, M; Koerner, C; Larysch, E; Lubbe, T; Nelson, DB; Rammig, A; Rigling, A; Rose, L; Ruehr, NK; Schumann, K; Weiser, F; Werner, C; Wohlgemuth, T; Zang, CS; Kahmen, A
    Basic And Applied Ecology 2020, 10.1016/j.baae.2020.04.003
  • Soil nutrients and lowered source:sink ratio mitigate effects of mild but not of extreme drought in trees
    Schoenbeck, L; Gessler, A; Schaub, M Rigling, A; Hoch, G; Kahmen A, Li MH
    Environmental And Experimental Botany,  DOI: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2019.103905  JAN 2020
  • The O-18-signal transfer from water vapour to leaf water and assimilates varies among plant species and growth forms
    Lehmann, MM.; Goldsmith, GR.; Mirande-Ney, C; Weigt, RB.; Schoenbeck, L; Kahmen, A; Gessler A; Siegwolf RTW; Saurer M
    Plant Cell And Environment,  DOI: 10.1111/pce.13682, FEB 2020
  • Temperature and moisture variability in the eastern Mediterranean region during Marine Isotope Stages 11-10 based on biomarker analysis of the Tenaghi Philippon peat deposit
    Ardenghi, N; Mulch, A; Koutsodendris, A; Pross, J; Kahmen, A; et al.
    Quaternary Science Reviews,  DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.105977, Published: DEC 1 2019
Ansgar Kahmen Univ Basel

Prof. Dr. Ansgar Kahmen
University of Basel
Dept of Environmental Sciences
4056 Basel

Tel: +41 (0)61 207 35 71

Research topics

  • The responses of plants and ecosystems to environmental change
  • Biological archives as long-term indicators for the effects of environmental change on plants and ecosystems
  • The effects of plant diversity for ecosystem functions
  • Competition and complementary use of nutrients by plants and microbes
  • Development of stable isotope tools for ecological research



  • The stable isotope composition of plant-derived biomarkers for paleohydrological research