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Anita Weissflog

Anita Weissflog


Location: S1, Thoday Building

Duration of study: 2017–2021

PhD title:

Assessing the role of fungus-mediated plant-soil feedbacks in secondary succession of tropical forests


  • Dr Lars Markesteijn
  • Prof John Healey


  • MSc in Biodiversity & Ecology (University of Bayreuth, Germany)
  • BSc in Biology (Free University of Berlin, Germany)

Research interest:

I am keen to understand how multi-trophic species interactions contribute to shaping and maintaining biodiversity. In line with this goal, I studied the impact of predators on defensive traits of dragonfly larvae during my Bachelor’s research at Free University Berlin. My Master studies then took me from the University of Bayreuth to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where I investigated the role of insect herbivores and predation pressure in structuring hyper-diverse tropical forest communities. After finishing my masters, I worked as a research and teaching assistant at the Department of Plant Ecology at Bayreuth University until spring 2017.

Describe your research:

My PhD studies will be lifting my previous experiences to a higher level by going underground: The project aims at understanding the role of fungi-mediated plant-soil feedbacks during tropical forest regeneration by employing a combination of greenhouse experiments and field studies in Panama.

Soil-borne fungal pathogens may strongly influence the establishment success of tropical tree species and could thus drive successional species turnover in recovering forest ecosystems. Such secondary forests become increasingly prominent in tropical landscapes and can restore some of the original forests’ ecosystem services. However, their recovery is often slow. Understanding the mechanisms behind tropical forests regeneration after severe disturbance may improve restoration efforts and could help to mitigate the effects of unsustainable land use.


  • Weissflog A, Markesteijn L, Lewis OT, Comita L, Engelbrecht BMJ (2017) Patterns of insect herbivory and predation pressure across a tropical rainfall and tree species richness gradient. Biotropica. doi: 10.1111/btp.12513
  • Roslin T, Hardwick B, Novotny V, et al. (2017) Higher predation risk for insect prey at low latitudes and elevations. Science 356: 742–744. doi: 10.1126/science.aaj1631
  • Mikolajewski DJ, Weissflog A, Brauner O (2016) Vergleichende Morphologie der Imagines von Coenagrium lunulatum, C. pulchellum und C. puella in einem syntopen Vorkommen (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Libellula 35: 153–165.

Professional affiliations:

All field components of this project will be conducted at and in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. This doctorate study is funded by NERC via the Envision Doctoral Training Partnership.