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Research group

Project partners


Plant Ecology

Julia Wheeler (Davos)

Christian Rixen (Davos)

Sonja Wipf (Davos)

Günter Hoch (Basel)

Evolutionary Ecology

Janosch Sedlacek (Konstanz)

Mark van Kleunen (Konstanz)

Oliver Bossdorf (Bern)

Ecological Genetics

Andres Cortes (Uppsala)

Sophie Karrenberg (Uppsala)

Christian Lexer (Fribourg)

Other people involved

Field coordinator: Günther Klonner

Civil Service: Christian Scherrer, Yves Bötsch, Michael Liu

MSc students: Anita Nussbaumer, Stephan Waeber, Jasmin Bregy, Sofia Häggberg, Flurina Schnider, Chelsea Little

BSc students: Felix Prahl, Emelie Hallander

Field assistants: Danielle Franciscus, Anja Zieger, Magali Matteodo

Ecology, Evolution and Genetics of the dwarf willow Salix herbacea

Salix herbacea    


In this project a group of ecologists, evolutionists and geneticists works towards a common goal: understanding the ecological, evolutionary and genetic components of adaption to microhabitats and future climate change of the dwarf willow Salix herbacea, in the mountains around Davos, Switzerland. Davos provides easy access to alpine research sites, and allows us to monitor and experiment with dwarf willow shrubs directly in the field.

This “Sinergia”-Project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. It aims at bringing together researchers from different fields to answer broad-scale scientific questions. Our project is a collaboration between the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, the Universities of Basel and Fribourg (all in Switzerland), the University of Konstanz (Germany) and the University of Uppsala (Sweden). The project consists of three sub-projects, each being carried out by a PhD-student from the respective universities:

  • Plant Ecology, Davos, Julia Wheeler (PhD candidate, University of Basel)
  • Evolutionary Ecology, Konstanz/Bern, Janosch Sedlacek (PhD candidate, University of Konstanz)
  • Ecological Genetics, Uppsala/Fribourg, Andres Cortes (PhD candidate, University of Uppsala)

All three sub-projects are tightly linked through common field survey and transplant experiments, which are located on three mountains around Davos. Results of the three sub-projects will provide an integrative perspective on assessing relevant ecological, genetic and evolutionary data in order to improve evaluation of climate change impact on alpine plant species.


Plant Ecology: This part of the project examines how temperature, microclimate, snow conditions and competition affect the growth, demography and physiology of S. herbacea

Evolutionary Ecology: This part examines the heritability of plant traits, natural selection in different habitats, and the potential evolutionary responses of S. herbacea to climate change. in addition to the role of biotic interactions in constraining plant adaptation.

Ecological Genetics: This subproject examines variation, selection and adaptation in S. herbacea at the molecular level. It will use population genomic approaches to study associations between molecular markers/candidate genes, ecologically important plant traits and habitat factors.

Team picture    
The project team


Transect overview    

Look out for our pink and orange plant markers!

Wannengrat: This transect is accessed via Strelapass and the trail to Chörbschhorn. Most plots are found around Latschüelfurgga, with the highest plots located on the top of Wannengrat and Chörbschhorn. Several other experiments (e.g. winderosion) of the SLF (e.g. wind erosion) are located in this area, what provides us with very accurate climate monitoring.

Jakobshorn: The highest plots are found on the top of Jakobshorn, which can be accessed by cable car from Davos Platz. The transect ranges down the slope towards Dischma valley, with the lowest plots located around the Stillberg hut. The SLF experimental larch and pine plantation is located at treeline here, and a cable car runs down to Teufi in Dischma valley.

Schwarzhorn: Fluelapass is the start of a popular hike to Schwarzhorn (3100m) and most of our plots can be found along the trail. It is the highest of our transects ranging from 2300m to 2800m.