Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology

Dr. Alice Claßen

Dr. Alice Claßen

Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology
Biocentre, University of Würzburg
Am hubland
97074 Würzburg
Room: C044

  • Ecological and evolutionary forces shaping the functional and phylogenetic diversity of insects along elevational gradients
  • macroecology
  • tropical plant-pollinator interaction networks
  • Ecosystem service capacity of pollinators

Ongoing research projects

beta4: Enhancing the structural diversity between patches for improving multidiversity and multifunctionality in production forests (FOR5375:). SP6: Plant-Animal Interactions - pollination, parasitism and seed dispersal (PI, together with Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter & Heike Feldhaar)

Alice Claßen (PI), Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter (PI), Clàudia Massó (PhD), Markus Meißner (Master), Annika Klein (Master), Anjelica Scherer (Bachelor)


ADaptation of Alpine Pollinators in Times of Global Change (ADAPT)

Junior research group in the Bavarian climate research network ("Bayerischen Klimaforschungsnetzwerk (bayklif)")


Alice Claßen (PI), Anne Fabienne Maihoff (PhD), Janika Kerner (PhD)



Kristof Brenzinger (Postdoc)

Nikki Sauer (Master student)

Peter Väth (TA)

Manuel Kuhn (Bachelor student)

Simon Schoger (Bachelor student)

Lukas Bofinger (Master student)

Irina Schemm (Bachelor student)

Elisa Treffehn (Bachelor student)

Simone Sahler (Bachelor student)

Katharina Kallnik (TA)


The research group ADAPT

ADAPT investigates how pollinators respond to climatic changes. We explore this at different levels of biological organization, i.e. from a molecular level up to the communtiy level.

Our main research questions are:

(1) How did pollinator communities in the national park Berchtesgaden change along elevational gradients within the last 10 years?

(2) Do pollinators that strongly respond to climatic changes share certain traits?

(3) How do bumblebee colonies perform in different climate and how do they respond to a climatic changes?

(4) What is the molecular basis of thermal adaptation in Bombus lucorum?

(5) How does land use impact the adaptation capacity of pollinator species?


Kilimanjaro Project SP7Effects of climate und land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of pollinators and decomposers

Alice ClaßenIngolf Steffan-Dewenter

  • Seit 2018 Leader of the junior research group "ADaptation of Alpine Pollinators in Times of global change" (ADAPT). University of Würzburg, Germany. 
  • 2015 - 2017 Postdoc at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Project: KiLi Sub Project 7: Effects of climate und land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of pollinators and decomposers
  • 2015: 6 months full-time partental leave (back in part time position) 
  • 2010-2014 PhD student at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Project: KiLi Sub Project 7: Effects of climate und land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of pollinators and decomposers
  • 2009 Diploma thesis in the population genetics group of the Dep. of Entomology, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena (Germany). Subject: “On the trail of evolution: Which factors cause intraspecific variation in the sex pheromone of heliothine moths?”
  • 2008 field research on heliothine moths in North Carolina State University, Dept. Entomology, 3107 Gardner Hall, Raleigh, NC.
  • 2007 voluntary work in the cloud and rain forest of South America, Jatun Sacha Foundation, Ecuador.
  • 2004-09 Studies in Biology (majored in ecology) at the Free University of Berlin, Germany.

peer reviewed

Maihoff F, Sahler S, Schoger S, Brenzinger K, Kallnik K, Sauer N, Bofinger L, Schmitt T, Nooten SS*, Classen A* (2023) Cuticular hydrocarbons of alpine bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Bombus) are species-specific, but show little evidence of elevation-related climate adaptation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 11:1082559. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2023.1082559 (*shared last authorship)

Maihoff F, Friess N, Hoiss B, Kerner J, Schmid-Egger C, Neumayer J, Hopfenmüller S, Bässler C, Mueller J, Classen A (2023) Smaller, more diverse and on the way to the top: rapid community shifts of montane wild bees over a decade. Diversity and Distribution  29(2), 272–288. doi: 10.1111/ddi.13658

Brenzinger K, Maihoff F, Peters MK, Schimmer L, Bischler T, Classen A (2022) Temperature and livestock grazing triggers transcriptome responses in bumblebees along an elevational gradient. iScience 25: 105175. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105175

Kerner J, Krauss J, Maihoff AF, Bofinger L, Classen A. (2022) Alpine butterflies want to fly high: Species and communities shift upwards faster than their host plants. Ecology, e3848. doi: 10.1002/ecy.3848

Nevo O, Cazetta E, Classen A, Kuppler J (2022) Editorial: Anthropogenic stressors and animal-plant interactions: Implications for pollination and seed dispersal. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10: 1048331.

Sponsler D, Requier F, Kallnik K, Classen A, Maihoff AF, Sieger J, Steffan-Dewenter I (2022) Contrasting patterns of richness, abundance, and turnover in mountain bumble bees and their floral hosts. Ecology 103: e3712. 

Ziegler A, Meyer H, Otte I, Peters MK, Appelhans T, Behler C, Böhning-Gaese K, Classen A, Detsch F, Deckert J,  Eardley CD, Ferger SW, Fischer M, Gebert F, Haas M, Helbig-Bonitz M, Hemp A, Hemp C, Kakengi V, Mayr AV, Ngereza C, Reudenbach C, Röder J, Rutten G, Schellenberger Costa D, Schleuning M, Ssymank A, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tardanico J, Tschapka M, Vollstädt M, Wöllauer SS, Zhang J, Brandl R, Nauss T (2022) Potential of LiDAR for the prediction of animal species richness at Mount Kilimanjaro. Remote Sensing 14: 786. 

Moreaux C, Meireles DAL, Sonne J, Badano EI, Classen A, Gonzáles-Chaves A, Hipólito J, Klein A-M, Maruyama PK, Metzger JP, Philpott SM, Rahbek C, Saturni FT, Sritongchuay T, Tscharntke T, Uno S, Vergara CH, Viana BF, Strange N, Dalsgaard Bo (2022) The value of dense forest for biotic pollination of Arabica coffee: a global assessment. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 323, 107680.

Sponsler D, Kallnik K, Requier F, Classen A, Maihoff AF, Sieger J, Steffan-Dewenter (2021). Floral preferences of mountain bumble bees are constrained by functional traits but flexible through elevation and season. Oikos 00: 1-12. 

Welti EAR, Zajicek P, Frenzel M, Ayasse M, Bornholdt T, Buse J, Classen A, Dziock F, Engelmann RA, Englmeier J, Fellendorf M, Förschler MI, Fricke U, Ganuza C,  Hippke M, Hoenselaar G, Kaus-Thiel A, Kerner J, Kilian D, Mandery K, Marten A,  Monaghan MT, Morkel C, Müller J, Puffpaff S, Redlich S, Richter R, Rojas-Botero S, Scharnweber T, Scheiffarth,  Schmidt Yáñez P, Schumann R, Seibold S, Steffan-Dewenter I, Stoll S, Tobisch C, Twietmeyer S, Uhler J, Vogt J, Weis D, Weisser WW, Wilmking M, Haase P (2021) Temperature drives variation in flying insect biomass across a German Malaise trap network. Insect Conservation and Diversity 15: 168-180.

Albrecht J, Peters MK, Becker JN, Behler C, Classen A, Ensslin A, Ferger SW, Gebert F, Gerschlauer F, Helbig-Bonitz M, Kindeketa WJ, Kühnel A, Mayr AV, Njovu HK, Pabst H, Pommer U, Röder J, Rutten G, Schellenberger Costa D, Sierra-Cornejo N, Vogeler A, Vollstädt MGR, Dulle HI, Eardley CD, Howell KM, Keller A, Peters RS, Kakengi V, Hemp C, Zhang J, Manning P, Mueller T, Bogner C, Böhning-Gaese K, Brandl R, Hertel D, Huwe B, Kiese R, Kleyer M, Leuschner C, Kuzyakov Y, Nauss T, Tschapka M, Fischer M, Hemp A, Steffan-Dewenter I & Schleuning M (2021) Species richness is more important for ecosystem functioning than species turnover along an elevational gradient. Nature Ecology and Evolution 5: 1582–1593. 

Peters MK, Classen A, Müller J, Steffan-Dewenter I (2020) Increasing the phylogenetic coverage for understanding broad-scale diversity gradients. Oecologia 192: 854-865. Oecologia (2020) 192:629–639. 

Classen A, Eardley CD, Hemp A, Peters RS, Peters MK, Ssymank A, Steffan-Dewenter I (2020). Specialization of plant–pollinator interactions increases with temperature at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Ecology and Evolution 10: 2182–2195. 

Dainese M, Martin EA, Aizen M, Albrecht M, Bartomeus I, (...) Classen A, et al. (2019) A global synthesis reveals biodiversity-mediated benefits for crop production. Science Advances 5, eaax0121. 

Peters MK, Hemp A, Appelhans T, Becker JN, Behler C, Classen A, Cornejo NS, Detsch F, Ensslin A, Ferger SW, Frederiksen SB, Gebert F, Gerschlauer F, Gütlein A, Haas M, Helbig-Bonitz M, Hemp C, Kindeketa WJ, Kühnel A, Mayr A, Mwangomo E, Ngereza C, Njovu HN, Otte I, Pabst H, Renner M, Röder J, Rutten G, Schellenberger Costa D, Vollstädt MGR, Eardley CD, Keller A, Peters RS, Ssymank A, Kakengi V, Zhang J, Bogner C, Böhning-Gaese K, Brandl R, Hertel D, Huwe B, Kiese R, Kleyer M, Kuzyakov Y, Nauss T, Schleuning M, Tschapka M, Fischer M, Steffan-Dewenter I (2019) Climate-land-use interactions shape tropical mountain biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Nature 568: 88–92. 

Maas B, Heath S, Grass I, Cassano C, Classen A, Faria D, Gras P, Williams-Guillén K, Johnson M, Karp D, Linden V, Martínez Salinas MA, Schmack J, Kross S (2019). Experimental field exclosure of birds and bats in agricultural systems - methodological insights, potential improvements, and cost-benefit trade-offs. Basic and Applied Ecology 35: 1-12. 

Nojima S, Classen A, Groot A, Schal C (2018) Qualitative and quantitative analysis of chemicals emitted from the pheromone gland of individual Heliothis subflexa females. PLOS ONE 13: e0202035.

Albrecht J, Classen A, Vollstädt MGR, Mayr A, Mollel NP, Schellenberger Costa D, Dulle HI, Fischer M, Hemp A, Howell KM, Kleyer M, Nauss T, Peters MK, Tschapka M, Steffan-Dewenter I, Böhning-Gaese K, Schleuning M (2018) Plant and animal functional diversity drive mutualistic network assembly across an elevational gradient. Nature Communications 9: 3177. 

Groot A, Nojima S, Heath JJ, Ammagarahalli B, van Wijk M, Classen A, Santangelo RG, Lopez J, Schal C (2018) Alcohol contributes to attraction of Heliothis (=Chloridea) virescens males to females. Journal of Chemical Ecology 44: 621-630.

Schellenberger Costa D, Classen A, Ferger SW, Helbig-Bonitz M, Peters MK, Böhning-Gaese K, Steffan-Dewenter I, Kleyer M (2017). Relationships between abiotic environment, plant functional traits, and animal body size at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. PLOS ONE 12: e0174157. 

Classen A, Steffan-Dewenter I, Kindeketa WJ, Peters MK (2017). Integrating intraspecific variation in community ecology unifies contrasting theories on body size shifts along climatic gradients. Functional Ecology  31: 768-777.

Peters MK, Hemp A, Appelhans T, Behler C, Classen A, Detsch F, Ensslin A, Ferger SW, Frederiksen SB, Gebert F, Haas M, Helbig-Bonitz M, Hemp C, Kindeketa WJ, Mwangomo E, Ngereza C, Otte I, Röder J, Rutten G, Schellenberger Costa D, Tardanico J, Zancolli G, Deckert J, Eardley CD, Peters RS, Rödel M-O, Schleuning M, Ssymank A, Kakengi V, Zhang J, Böhning-Gaese K, Brandl R, Kalko EKV, Kleyer M, Nauss T, Tschapka M, Fischer M, Steffan-Dewenter I (2016). Predictors of elevational biodiversity gradients change from single taxa to the multi-taxa community level. Nature Communications 7: 13736. 

Classen A, Peters MK, Kindeketa WJ, Appelhans T, Eardley C, Gikungu MW, Hemp A, Nauss T, and Steffan-Dewenter I (2015) Temperature versus resource constraints: which factors determine bee diversity on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania? Global Ecology and Biogeography 24: 642-652. 

Classen A, Peters MK, Ferger SW, Helbig-Bonitz M, Schmack JM, Maassen G, Schleuning M, Kalko EKV, Böhning-Gaese K, and Steffan-Dewenter I (2014). Complementary ecosystem services provided by pest predators and pollinators increase quanitity and quality of coffee yields. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20133148.

Groot AT, Schöfl G, Inglis O,Donnerhacke S, Classen A, Schmalz A, Santangelo RG, Emerson J, Gould F, Schal C, and Heckel DG (2014). Within-population variability in a moth sex phermone blend: genetic basis and behavioural consequences. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20133054.

Groot AT,  Classen A, Inglis O, Blanco CA,  Lopez J Jr, Vargas AT, Schal C, Heckel DG and Schoefl G (2011). Genetic differentiation across North America in the generalist moth Heliothis virescens and the specialist H. subflexaMolecular Ecology 20: 2676-2692.

Groot AT, Classen A, Staudacher H, Schal C, and Heckel DG (2010). Phenotypic plasticity in sexual communication signal of a noctuid moth. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 2731-2738.

Groot AT, Blanco CA, Classen A, Inglis O, Santangelo RG, Lopez J Jr, Heckel DG and Schal C (2010). Variation in Sexual Communication of the Tobacco Budworm, Heliothis virescens. Southwestern Entomologist 35: 367-372.