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Terrestrial Ecology

We conduct research, teach and consult on the interaction between plants and animals and the surrounding environment. In the process of understanding the challenges facing society, we investigate connections between causes and effects with the aim of finding solutions to these challenges. One of the basic conditions of our research is that our knowledge is constantly improving. This is why in Terrestrial Ecology, we work in a quantitative manner so that both results and the uncertainty surrounding them can be disseminated to society.

Research areas in brief


Stine Slotsbo

Senior Researcher Department of Ecoscience - Terrestrial Ecology

Biological control

Biological control explores how beneficial species can contribute to reducing the effects of harmful organisms. We investigate how to increase the natural number of beneficial organisms through cultivation methods and how to actively transfer these from nature e.g. to organic cultivation systems.




Insects are the most species-rich group of organisms in terrestrial ecosystems. They are important as food for other organisms and for the decomposition of organic material. Some of them interact with other species that cannot survive without their host, and thus they change the ecosystem to becoming even more rich on species. Our research examines the dependence of insects on their ecosystem, but also how some species, through their activity, affect the ecosystems in which they are found. This includes, for example, the interaction between pollinators and plants, predators and prey, and the significance of anthills on the presence and well-being of other species.


Invasive species

Invasive species are species that have not entered Denmark naturally and are deemed to be problematic when they are dispersed into Danish nature. Based on data from the nature monitoring programme, we also study whether selected invasive species change their prevalence in Danish nature. In addition, we provide consultancy services to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency on animals and plants that are invasive or are likely to potentially become invasive in Denmark.


Soil Fauna and Ecotoxicology

Our research addresses the impact of soil organisms and the important roles of soil organisms, both in agricultural ecosystems and in natural ecosystems. We investigate how species are affected by stress from climate change, chemicals, nanomaterials and mechanical disturbance alone and in combination. We also examine the importance of soil organisms on the decomposition of organic matter in the ecosystems and their interaction with micro-organisms, plants and animals.

Read more about our Climatic Stress Lab


Farmland and its surrounding areas

Our research investigates how the use of nutrients and pesticides affects biodiversity in farmland and nature surrounding the farmland, e.g. hedges and ditches. In the case of dispersive loss of pesticides and nutrients to the surroundings, this affects plants and animals that live near farmland. Our research assesses both direct effects, effects on food sources and effects caused by the accumulation of toxins in food chains.


Natural ecosystems

Natural ecosystems include terrestrial ecosystems, with the greatest focus on nutrient-poor ecosystems. We conduct research on how climate change and the fallout of nutrients affect the interaction between the stability, species and soil processes of the ecosystem. We also examine how different types of management stabilise the ecosystem and affect the interaction between the species and their frequency and variability. This research also includes how management can be decisive for whether or not key organisms thrive.


Risk assessment

Our research includes assessing adverse effects and the probability of the effects occurring, developing quantitative risk assessment and scenario-based modelling of risk. Our research forms the basis for consultancy in a variety of fields, such as: effects of nanomaterials, genetically modified organisms and competition between honey bees and wild pollinators in nature.


Developing countries

We conduct research on nature conservation, biodiversity, sustainability, biological pest control and impacts on the environment in developing countries, especially in West Africa. Our research has an applied focus, for example by 1) planting trees to fight degradation, improving food and income security and mitigating climate change, 2) investigating the local population's insights and preferences in relation to changes in the natural environment, based on their experiences, 3) oil production from native fruit trees for use in food and cosmetics, 4) biological control of pests in mango and cashew plantations using weaver ants and 5) persistent organic contamination and pollution from heavy metals in connection with mining and handling of electronic waste products. The research projects are carried out in close collaboration with African universities and local communities living in the study areas.


Plant interactions and adaptation

Plant communities are the building blocks of both natural and managed ecosystems. Plants interact with surrounding organisms to either facilitate or compete with their neighboring community. We study the fundamental processes in plant-plant and plant-environment interactions, including how plant functional traits determine interaction outcomes and how plants communicate with each other through chemical cues. Plant functional and chemical traits help plants adapt to their local environment, and we study whether natural variation in these traits helps plants adapt to future environmental and climate changes. Addressing these fundamental research questions is relevant for applied research in green solutions in agriculture as well as for the conservation and management of natural ecosystems.

Read more: https://pure.au.dk/portal/en/projects/plant-competition(12ae7f48-31f1-43af-957a-632dc1bc92c4).html