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Wolfgang Kießling

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kießling

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kießling

Geozentrum Nordbayern
Chair of Palaeontology (Prof. Dr. Kießling)

Room: Room 1.107
Loewenichstraße 28
91054 Erlangen

Office hours

Each week We, 14:00 - 16:00, Room 1.107,

  • TERSANE Coordination funds

    (Third Party Funds Single)

    Term: 1. December 2019 - 30. November 2022
    Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)
    URL: https://cnidaria.nat.uni-erlangen.de/wp/

    TERSANE is dedicated to elucidatingthe consequences of ancient, non-anthropogenic global change with the aim toproject the consequences of anthropogenic climate change on organisms andecosystems. Our overarching hypothesis is that the impact of climate-relatedstressors (CRS) that were associated with past marine biological crises mayserve as analogues for the future ocean. Success of the still ongoing initialphase of TERSANE and outstanding questions lead us to apply for a renewal:TERSANE 2.0. Our own previous work and independent new developments necessitateemphasizing in phase 2 of TERSANE: Spatialpatterns, biogeochemical cycles, mechanism-based understanding, and modeling.

    TERSANE 2 will have nine projects, which are organizedin three tightly connected research pillars each comprising three projects

    1. Identifying CRS across thePermian-Triassic boundary

       Spatiotemporal patterns of CRSimpacts

    3.   Bridging spatiotemporal scales

    Pillar 1 will use geochemical proxies and earth systemmodeling to reveal the exact environmental changes across the largesthyperthermal event and mass extinction of the Phanerozoic. Projects will targetnutrient and carbon cycles, continental weathering, and the intensity of causesof anoxia. Temperature, CO2 and pH have already been addressed inphase 1.

    Pillar 2 explores the spatial pattern of CRS impactsin a time series context. Here paleobiological methods and modeling areapplied. Projects focus on temperature change as a trigger of range shifts andextinction. Each project will also emphasize patterns across thePermian-Triassic boundary linking to pillar 1.

    Pillar 3 is dedicated to probing the role ofspatiotemporal scales on CRS impacts. We hypothesize that physiological dataprovide the mechanistic understanding for CRS responses on multiple timescales. Consequently, we link physiological experiments, body size dynamicsacross multiple time scales and organismic-ecosystem fates in this pillar.Projects in this pillar are tightly linked to both pillars 1 and 2.

  • CoralTrace – A new approach to understanding climate-induced reef crises

    (Third Party Funds Group – Sub project)

    Overall project: FOR 2332: Temperature-related stresses as a unifying principle in ancient extinctions (TERSANE)
    Term: 1. October 2019 - 30. September 2022
    Funding source: DFG / Forschergruppe (FOR)

    Coral reefs are perhaps the most threatened marine ecosystems from current climate-related stressors (CRS). The modern reef crisis manifests itself in an increased frequency of mass-bleaching, reduced calcification rates of corals, and elevated coral mortalities. Although extinction risk is also high among reef-building corals, reef decline is driven by reduced net calcium carbonate production of existing species, rather than extirpation or extinction. Nevertheless, extinctions are a major concern, because these are irreversible and thus preventing the recovery of reefs from CRS-driven crises.Using the Paleobiology Database and the Erlangen PaleoReefs Database together with a new fossil trait database on extinct reef builders, this project aims to reveal the interplay of individualistic evolutionary fate and whole ecosystem changes in reefs over time. Specifically, we test three main hypotheses: (1) Reefs are more sensitive to CRS than reef building species. A global reef crisis can occur without mass extinction, simply because the net calcium carbonate production is reduced. An important implication of this hypothesis is that reef crisis may be an early warning sign of a forthcoming biodiversity crisis. (2) Both the reef-building capacity and the extinction risk of reef building taxa can be predicted from their traits. Although not all potentially relevant life-history traits can be derived from fossils (e.g., nature of photosymbionts), preservable traits such as growth morphology and habitat breadth have been shown to be correlated with coral extinction risk and reef growth today. (3) Mesophotic and mid-latitude environments are suitable environments for reefal refugia and recovery after climate induced crises.Hypothesis testing will be performed in a multivariate statistical framework and machine learning focussing on preserved reefal volume and extinction as dependent variables. Independent variables such as magnitude and duration of warming, anoxia and acidification will be taken from published sources and accompanying TERSANE projects. Tests will be conducted at the level of specific time slices (end-Permian, end-Triassic, early Jurassic) as well as in a time-series context. To be feasible and relevant to TERSANE’s goals, CoralTrace will focus on Permian to Neogene reef systems.

  • CoralTrace - Ein neuer Ansatz zum Verständnis klimainduzierter Riffkrisen

    (Third Party Funds Single)

    Term: 1. October 2019 - 30. September 2022
    Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)

    Coral reefs are perhaps the most threatenedmarine ecosystems from current climate-related stressors (CRS). The modern reefcrisis manifests itself in an increased frequency of mass-bleaching, reducedcalcification rates of corals, and elevated coral mortalities. Althoughextinction risk is also high among reef-building corals, reef decline is drivenby reduced net calcium carbonate production of existing species, rather than extirpationor extinction. Nevertheless, extinctions are a major concern, because these areirreversible and thus preventing the recovery of reefs from CRS-driven crises.

    Using the Paleobiology Database and theErlangen PaleoReefs Database together with a new fossil trait database onextinct reef builders, this project aims to reveal the interplay ofindividualistic evolutionary fate and whole ecosystem changes in reefs overtime. Specifically, we test three main hypotheses: (1) Reefs are more sensitiveto CRS than reef building species. A global reef crisis can occur without massextinction, simply because the net calcium carbonate production is reduced. Animportant implication of this hypothesis is that reef crisis may be an earlywarning sign of a forthcoming biodiversity crisis. (2) Both the reef-buildingcapacity and the extinction risk of reef building taxa can be predicted fromtheir traits. Although not all potentially relevant life-history traits can bederived from fossils (e.g., nature of photosymbionts), preservable traits suchas growth morphology and habitat breadth have been shown to be correlated withcoral extinction risk and reef growth today. (3) Mesophotic and mid-latitudeenvironments are suitable environments for reefal refugia and recovery afterclimate induced crises.

    Hypothesistesting will be performed in a multivariate statistical framework and machinelearning focussing on preserved reefal volume and extinction as dependentvariables. Independent variables such as magnitude and duration of warming,anoxia and acidification will be taken from published sources and accompanyingTERSANE projects. Tests will be conducted at the level of specific time slices(end-Permian, end-Triassic, early Jurassic) as well as in a time-seriescontext. To be feasibleand relevant to TERSANE’s goals, CoralTrace will focus on Permian to Neogenereef systems.

  • Temperature-related stresses as a unifying principle in ancient extinctions

    (Third Party Funds Group – Sub project)

    Overall project: FOR 2332: Temperature-related stresses as a unifying principle in ancient extinctions (TERSANE)
    Term: 1. July 2016 - 30. June 2019
    Funding source: DFG / Forschergruppe (FOR)
    URL: https://www.gzn.fau.de/palaeoumwelt/projects/tersane/index.html

    Combined with local and regional anthropogenic factors, current human-induced climate warming is thought to be a major threat to biodiversity. The ecological imprint of climate change is already visible on land and in the oceans. The imprint is largely manifested in demographic/abundance changes and phenological and distribution shifts, whereas only local extinctions are yet attributable to climate change with some confidence. This is expected to change in the near future owing to direct heat stress, shortage of food, mismatches in the timing of seasonal activities, geographic barriers to migration, and new biological interactions. Additional stressors are associated with climate warming in marine systems, namely acidification and deoxygenation. Ocean acidification is caused by the ocean's absorption of CO2 and deoxygenation is a result of warmer water, increased ocean stratification and upwelling of hypoxic waters. The combination of warming, acidification and deoxygenation is known as the "deadly trio". Temperature is the most pervasive environmental factor shaping the functional characteristics and limits to life and is also central to the generation and biological effects of hypoxic waters and to modulating the effects of ocean acidification, with and without concomitant hypoxia. Due to the key role of temperature in the interaction of the three drivers we termed these temperature-related stressors (TRS).

  • Biotic consequences of temperature-related stresses across temporal scales

    (Third Party Funds Group – Sub project)

    Overall project: Temperature-related stresses as a unifying principle in ancient extinctions (TERSANE)
    Term: since 1. January 2016
    Funding source: DFG / Forschergruppe (FOR)

    Understanding the physiological constraints of extant species is of critical importance to interpret ancient responses to temperature-related stresses (TRS). Likewise, anticipating the biotic responses to current climate change will benefit from an analysis of biotic responses observed in the geological past. Embedded in the Research Unit TERSANE we propose a project, which explicitly combines neontological and paleontological approaches to assess the consequences of warming, ocean acidification, and various degrees of hypoxia for marine life. The project focuses on the compilation and analysis of large datasets and has three main components: (1) A meta-analysis of (a) extant organisms will summarize experimental and observational data on responses and critical limits of marine organisms to quantify the sensitivities of higher, fossilizable taxa to warming, ocean acidification, and hypoxia and their synergies, and (b) a meta-analysis of fossil observations will focus on assessing the veracity of the Lilliput effect, the reduction of body sizes in the aftermath of mass extinctions, which is sometimes thought to be related to TRS. (2) The analysis of primary occurrence data from the fossil record will evaluate the physiological and biogeographic selectivity of the end-Permian and Early Jurassic extinction events to test if the physiological principles derived from modern observations scale up to selective extinction risk in the face of extreme climate change. (3) The assessment of ancient rates of climate and environmental changes from local sections is critical to test if these rates were genuinely lower than over the last 50 years, or if the apparently lower rates observed in the past are just statistical artifacts due to the different time scales. A scaling-adjusted rate estimate will help making our findings relevant for modern climate change ecology. These three components will finally be integrated to evaluate the commonality of patterns and eco-physiological selectivity of extinctions as visible in paleo- and extant data.

  • FOR 2332: Temperature-related stresses as a unifying principle in ancient extinctions (TERSANE)

    (Third Party Funds Group – Overall project)

    Term: since 1. January 2016
    Funding source: DFG / Forschergruppe (FOR)

    Anthropogenic global warming is regarded as a major threat to species and ecosystems worldwide. Predicting the biological impacts of future warming is thus of critical importance. The geological record provides several examples of mass extinctions and global ecosystem pertubations in which temperature-related stresses are thought to have played a substantial role. These catastrophic natural events are potential analogues for the consequences of anthropogenic warming but the Earth system processes during these times are still unexplored, especially in terms of their ultimate trigger and the extinction mechanisms. The Research Unit TERSANE aims at assessing the relative importance of warming-related stresses in ancient mass extinctions and at evaluating how these stresses emerged under non-anthropogenic conditions. An interdisciplinary set of projects will combine high-resolution geological field studies with meta-analyses and sophisticated analysis of fossil occurrence data on ancient (suspect) hyperthermal events to reveal the rate and magnitude of warming, their potential causes, their impact on marine life, and the mechanisms which led to ecologic change and extinction. Geochemistry, analytical paleobiology and physiology comprise our main toolkit, supplemented by biostratigraphy, sedimentology, and modelling.

  • Exploring biodiversity evolution in tropical seas based on comparisons of the Triassic fauna of the Cassian Formation with modern faunas

    (Third Party Funds Single)

    Term: since 1. May 2015
    Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)
    The Triassic Cassian Formation yields an exceptionally diverse marine tropical invertebrate fauna offering a largely unbiased assessment of the complexity and biodiversity of early Mesozoic ecosystems. The fauna consist of various assemblages from different localities and paleoenvironments, which vary strongly in terms of diversity and composition. Fossil preservation is usually exceptional including primary aragonite and a rich fauna of small species. Based on standardized large-scale bulk-sampling, we want to assess the true within and between community biodiversity, ecological complexity, taxonomic structure, and size distribution of Triassic tropical shallow water assemblages. Comparisons with assemblages of Recent and Quaternary tropical settings will be used to assess biological changes in diversity and complexity over more than 200 million years of evolution. By comparison with modern samples and existing datasets representing diagenetically more strongly altered (`normal´) fossil assemblages, the effect of taphonomy on preserved diversity, size distribution and ecological structure can be tested. Many of the groups, which are highly diverse in recent tropical faunas (e.g., heterodont bivalves and neogastropods) radiated not before the Cretaceous. We aim at testing if similarly diverse and ecologically dominant clades were present in the Triassic or if diversity was more evenly spread among higher taxa.
  • Biogeographic and community response of reef corals to Pleistocene interglacial warming

    (Third Party Funds Single)

    Term: since 1. September 2014
    Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)
  • Controls on global biodiversity patterns and skeletal mineralizsation during the Cambrian radiation

    (Third Party Funds Group – Sub project)

    Overall project: FOR 736: The Precambrian-Cambrian Biosphere Revolution: Insights from Chinese Microcontinents
    Term: 1. March 2011 - 31. October 2014
    Funding source: DFG / Forschergruppe (FOR)

    Dieses Projekt zielt darauf ab, die globale Diversitätsdynamik um die Ediacarium-Kambrium- Grenze zuverlässig zu dokumentieren und die Daten für rigoroses Testen von Hypothesen zu verwenden. Eigene Geländestudien in Kasachstan und Südchina werden durch Daten aus der Forschergruppe und publizierte Daten in der Paleobiology Database ergänzt, um einen möglichst repräsentativen Datensatz zu erhalten. Muster der Alpha-, Beta- und Gamma- Diversität werden untersucht, um die relative Rolle von Diversitätsänderungen innerhalb und zwischen Fossilgemeinschaften sowie die Bedeutung biogeographischer Muster zu verstehen. Diese Muster werden verwendet, um Hypothesen zur Ursache der kambrischen Radiation zu testen. Besonders der mögliche Zusammenhang zwischen evolutionärer Innovation auf der einen Seite und Lebensräumen auf der anderen Seite wird in dieser Hinsicht neue Erkenntnisse zur Rolle von Sauerstoff, Nährstoffen und Klimaveränderungen in der kambrischen Radiation liefern. Die Geländearbeit wird sich auf Riffstrukturen im untersten Kambrium und Makroinvertebraten konzentrieren, um Muster der Biomineralisation zu erfassen.

  • Evolutionary rates of zooxanthellate and azooxanthellate corals and their controlling factors

    (Third Party Funds Single)

    Term: since 1. February 2011
    Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)

    Our goal is to identify the underlying causes of evolutionary rates within scleractinian corals. Scleractinians have two fundamentally different ecologies: Those that retrieve a substantial proportion of their nutrition from symbiotic algae in their tissue (zooxanthellate corals) and those that entirely depend on zooplankton for feeding Proposal Kiessling 2 (azooxanthellate corals). We will be analyzing the evolutionary consequences of these different ecological modes and correlated traits such as coloniality and environmental affinity. While photosymbiosis is clearly beneficial at the organismic level, there is a trade-off in terms of evolutionary benefit because zooxanthellate reef corals seem to be more sensitive to environmental change and tended to be affected more strongly by extinction events than other corals. Evolutionary rates are measured by a novel combination of samplingstandardized biodiversity dynamics and molecular methods. The changes in diversification, speciation, and extinction patterns will be compared with global changes in the marine environment and evolutionary changes in ecology to learn more about the circumstances favoring the spread and demise of these different corals. Thereby, we expect to improve estimates of extinction risk of modern corals.

Authored Books

Journal Articles

Book Contributions

Edited Volumes

  • Kießling, W., Flügel, E., & Golonka, J. (Eds.) (2002). Phanerozoic Reef Patterns. Tulsa: Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM).

Conference Contributions