Natalie Kunz

Doctoral student


Room: 70/220
Phone: 0631 - 205 2562


Plant Ecology & Systematics
Faculty of Biology
University of Kaiserslautern
PO-BOX 3049
67653 Kaiserslautern

Research interests

With over 6000 plant species of which 25 % are endemic, the vegetation of the Succulent Karoo biome in South Africa is one of the richest floras in the world and is known to vary greatly on the local, regional, and landscape scale. In my PhD thesis, I take a closer look at what causes these transitions in the flora. One reason might be the engimatic heuweltjies, ancient termite hills up to 2.5 m high and 30 m in diameter, that dot the landscape and feature distinct soil characteristics. Additionally, intense landuse causes shifts in vegetation and threatens the floristic richness and uniqueness of the region. Biological soil crusts comprised of lichens, bryophytes, green algae, cyanobacteria, heterotrophic bacteria, and fungi are especially sensitive to disturbances. Therefore, I focus on three major topics: (1) the variability of heuweltjie and matrix vegetation across the landscape, (2) the influence of grazing on vascular plant vegetation and biological soil crusts, and (3) the effects of biological soil crusts on seedling establishment and thus ultimately on vegetation succession.


Peer reviewed

Kunz, N.S., Hoffman, M.T., Weber, B. (2012) Effects of heuweltjies and utilization on vegetation patterns in the Succulent Karoo, South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 87: 198-205.

Book Chapters

Schmiedel, U., Linke, T., Christiaan, R.A., Falk, T., Gröngröft, A., Haarmeyer, D.H., Hanke, W., Henstock, R., Hoffman, M.T., Kunz, N., Labitzky, T., Luther-Mosebach, J., Lutsch, N., Meyer, S., Petersen, A., Röwer, I.U., van der Merwe, H., van Rooyen, M.W., Vollan, B., Weber, B. (2010) Environmental and socio-economic patterns and processes in the Succulent Karoo – frame conditions for the management of this biodiversity hotspot. In: Hoffman, M.T., Schmiedel, U., Jürgens, N. (Eds.) Biodiversity in southern Africa. Volume 3: Implications for landuse and management. Klaus Hess Publishers, Göttingen & Windhoek, pp. 109-150.

Presentations at Meetings

Kunz, N.S., Weber, B. (2009) The legacy of termites – How ancient termite nests influence today’s vegetation in South Africa. Talk. Impacts of global change on tropical ecosystems – Cross-cutting the abiotic, biotic and human spheres, Joint annual meeting of the Society for Tropical Ecology (gtö) and Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Marburg, Germany

Kunz, N.S., le Roux, A., Schmiedel, U., Wessels, D.C.J., Weber, B. (2008) Effects of landuse and soil properties on vascular plant vegetation and biological soil crusts. Poster. International congress – Biodiversity of Africa observation and sustainable management for our future, Spier/Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa


Botanical Excursions (Arten- und Vegetationskundliche Exkursionen, BIO-PÖS-18-W-9) – field course

Plant Ecology  (FP Pflanzenökologie II, BIO-PÖS-12-L-7) – field course, lectures and seminar

GIS and Remote Sensing in Ecology and Landscape Management (GIS und Fernerkundung in Ökologie und Landschaftsplanung, BIO-PÖS-09-V-4) – two hour lecture on statistics

Ecology, Biodiversity incl. Excursions (Praktikum Ökologie / Biodiversität mit Exkursionen, BIO-PÖS/ÖKO-02-U-2)- lecture and practical course

Botany Practical (Praktikum Botanik, BIO-PÖS-01C-L-2) - lecture and practical course

Plant Ecology I (Aufbau-/ Vertiefungspraktikum Pflanzenökologie 1 Grundlagen, BIO-PÖS-02-L-7) - field course, lectures and seminar


Doktorandenstipendium der Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung (

Stipendium zur Exzellenzförderung der Stiftung zur Förderung begabter Studierender und des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses (Stipendienstiftung) des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz (