Ursula Gaedke
Photo: privat

Professor Dr. Ursula Gaedke

Department of Ecology / Ecosystem Modelling

University of Potsdam
Maulbeerallee 2, House 2
(Postal address: Am Neuen Palais 10)
D-14469 Potsdam

Tel.     + 49 331 977 1900 

Ursula Gaedke
Photo: privat

Research foci

We study plankton communities and food webs in field studies, laboratory experiments, and modelling studies to contribute to ecological theory building and to the solution of urgent ecological problems such as the consequences of biodiversity loss.

The core areas of my research are:

  • Interplay between the dynamics of ecological systems and their functional diversity, influencing their adaptability to changing biotic and abiotic conditions ⇒ cf. DFG (German Science Foundation) Priority Programme DynaTrait.
  • Quantitative investigations of complex food webs and the involved ecological processes, which influence the dynamics of complex communities based on comprehensive long-term observations, in particular from Lake Constance, and ecological models⇒ cf. research portfolio of the working group.

Due to their high diversity, plankton communities can adapt their functional properties to fluctuating environmental conditions. This influences their biomass dynamics and the maintenance of their functional biodiversity. In addition, interesting feedback loops arise between the dynamics in the biomasses and the functional properties of the individual populations.

Plankton ecology contributes significantly to ecological theory building, because plankton communities are relatively easily manipulated in the laboratory, have short generation times and have a relatively clear spectrum of functional properties. This makes plankton communities an ideal experimental model system that can be used to study both general and specific ecological research questions.

We combine different process-oriented mathematical modelling approaches with the analysis of field data from Lake Constance and chemostat experiments. The latter are mainly carried out by our cooperation partners within the DFG (German Science Foundation) Priority Programme DynaTrait(SPP 1704), which I lead. If we consider variability in functional properties within populations and communities not as noise but as their inherent property, we can better understand the biodiversity and dynamics observed in natural and experimental systems.

I also have a broad interest in quantitative food webs and other processes that affect the dynamics of species-rich communities, relying on extensive field measurements and experiments.

Scientific career path and short CV in German (PDF) or English (PDF).

Current research projects

In the research area Interplay between trait diversity and ecological dynamics using plankton communities as model systems, we currently work on five sub-projects within the DFG Priority Programme DynaTrait:

  1. Impact of trade-offs on eco-evolutionary dynamics in predator-prey systems - Prof. U Gaedke und Prof. Dr. L. Becks (Limnological Institute of the University of Constance)
  2. The effect of phenotypic plasticity and clonal sorting on ecological and evolutionary dynamics in bi- and tri-trophic systems, Prof. U. Gaedke, Prof R. Tollrian (Ruhr-University Bochum)
  3. Effects of trait variability on the dynamics of coupled, bi-trophic plankton - biofilm systems - Prof. U Gaedke, Prof T. Berendonk (TU Dresden) und Prof. M. Weitere (UfZ Magdeburg)
  4. Interplay between trait variation, food web dynamics and maintenance of biodiversity - Prof. U. Gaedke: prolonged 2018-2020: Project description phase 2
  5. NEW in 2018-2020: Indirect response to external drivers through trait variation in predator-prey systems - Prof. Dr. Lutz Becks(University of Constance), Prof. Dr. Masato Yamamichi (University of Tokyo), Prof. Dr. Ursula Gaedkeproject description

Recently terminated research projects

  1. Relationships between behaviour, eco-physiology and spatio-temporal distribution of C. acidophila in an acidic lake (Mark Clegg, Antje Gerloff-Elias, Bertram Boehrer/UFZ Magdeburg, Ursula Gaedke, Elly Spijkerman)
  2. Trophic structure, energy flows, dynamics and stability in the microbial food web of an extremely acidic lake (pH 2.6) (Ursula Gaedke, Norbert Kamjunke)
  3. Synchronisation of age-structured phytoplankton populations (Thomas M. Massie, Bernd Blasius (Institute of Physics, University of Potsdam), Ursula Gaedke, Guntram Weithoff, Gregor F. Fussmann (Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal))
  4. Dynamic behaviour of phytoplankton populations far away from equilibrium (Thomas M. Massie, Bernd Blasius (Institute of Physics, University of Potsdam), Ursula Gaedke, Guntram Weithoff, Gregor F. Fussmann (Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal))
  5. Foodweb-interactions and long-term development in the plankton community of Lake Constance (Katrin Tirok, Ursula Gaedke)
  6. Modelling climate-induced changes in the saisonal plankton development (Katrin Tirok, Ursula Gaedke)
  7. Mixotrophic flagellates during re-oligotrophication (Norbert Kamjunke, Tanja Henrichs, Ursula Gaedke)
  8. The effects of diversity on single populations: niche differentiation of phytoplankton (1) and individual fitness of terrestrial plants (2) (Andrea Schmidtke, Guntram Weithoff, Ursula Gaedke, Markus Fischer)
  9. Influence of productivity and diversity on invasibility of phytoplankton communities (Erik Sperfeld, Ursula Gaedke, Guntram Weithoff)
  10. Differential edibility by copepods and cladocerans determines the saisonal patterns in variability of cilaites and phytoplankton in Lake Constance (Veronika Huber, Ursula Gaedke)
  11. Saisonal change between coherent and compensatory dynamics in phytoplankton (David Vasseur (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), Ursula Gaedke und Kevin McCann (University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada))
  12. Variability at population level and the degree of synchronization of plankton populations influences the variability at community level stronger than diversity (Ursula Gaedke)
  13. Patterns in the temporal variability of plankton in Lake Constance: spectral analysis to investigate frequency-dependent compensatory dynamics and portfolio-effect (David Vasseur (Calgary University, Kanada), Ursula Gaedke)
  14. Patterns in variability of plankton biomass and production (Ursula Gaedke, David Vasseur (University of Calgary, Canada), Guntram Weithoff)


Full publication list available from Google scholar and see my profile on Research Gate.

  • Access publications in Advances in Limnology 53:

Gaedke, U., D. Ollinger, E. Bäuerle and D. Straile (1998) The impact of weather conditions on the seasonal plankton development. Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 565-585. Pdf full-text

Gaedke, U. and T. Weisse (1998) Seasonal and interannual variability of picocyanobacteria in Lake Constance (1987-1996) Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 143-158. Pdf full-text

Gaedke, U. and D. Straile (1998) Daphnids: Keystone species for the pelagic food web structure and energy flow - A body size related analysis linking seasonal changes on the population and ecosystem level. Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 587-610. Pdf full-text

Gaedke, U. (1998 b) The response of the pelagic community of a large and deep lake (L. Constance) to reoligotrophication: Evidence for scale-dependent hierarchical patterns. Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 317-333. Pdf full-text

Gaedke, U. (1998 a) Functional and taxonomical properties of the phytoplankton community: Interannual variability and response to re-oligotrophication. Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 119-141. Pdf full-text

Häse, C., U. Gaedke, B. Beese, A. Seifried and M. Tilzer (1998) Phytoplankton response to reoligotrophication in large and deep Lake Constance: Photosynthetic activity and chlorophyll concentration. Arch. Hydrobiol. Spec. Issues: Advances in Limnology 53: 159-178. Pdf full-text

  • Selected key publications:

Ruiter, P. C. de, and U. Gaedke (2017) Emergent facilitation promotes biological diversity in pelagic food webs. Food Webs (in press).

Coutinho, R., T. Klauschies, and U. Gaedke (2016) Bimodal trait distributions with large variances question the reliability of trait-based aggregate models. Theoretical Ecology, 6: 4141-4159 DOI 10.1007/s12080-016-0297-9.

Klauschies, T., D. A. Vasseur, and U. Gaedke (2016) Trait adaptation promotes species coexistence in diverse predator and prey communities. Ecology and Evolution, 9: 389-408 DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2172.

Boit, A., N.D. Martinez, R. J. Williams, U. Gaedke (2012) Mechanistic theory and modeling of complex food web dynamics in Lake Constance. Ecol. Lett., 15:594-602 

Massie, T. M., B. Blasius, G. Weithoff, U. Gaedke, and G. Fussmann (2010) Cycles, phase synchronization and entrainment in single-species phytoplankton populations. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (PNAS) 107: 4236-4241

Tittel, J., V. Bissinger, B. Zippel, U. Gaedke, E. M. Bell, A. Lorke & N. Kamjunke (2003) Mixotrophs combine resource use to out-compete specialists: implications for aquatic food webs. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (PNAS) 100: 12776-12781

Gaedke, U., S. Hochstädter, and D. Straile (2002) Interplay between energy limitation and nutritional deficiency: Empirical data and food web models. Ecological Monographs 72: 251-270

Hairston, N. G., Jr, W. Lampert, C. E. Cáceres, C. L. Holtmeier, L. J. Weider, U. Gaedke, J. M. Fischer, J. A. Fox & D. M. Post (1999) Lake ecosystems: Rapid evolution revealed by dormant eggs. Nature 401: 446

A full list of publications of all members of my working group and the members of the Priority Programme DynaTrait funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) can be found here:

I'm happy to send single PDFs on email request.