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Dr. Tim Böhnert


Nees-Institut für Biodiversität der Pflanzen
Meckenheimer Allee 170
53115 Bonn

Phone: +49 228 73-2682
Email: tboehnert[at]


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PhD project

Biogeography and Macroevolution of the Atacama Desert flora

The flora of the Atacama Desert is surprisingly diverse (~ 550 species), harboring a range of endemic species adapted to the hostile conditions of the arid habitat. Vegetation is largely restricted to the coastal fog oases and the Andean foothills, forming the two most important north-south biological corridors in this area. Understanding the distribution and dispersal patterns at the coastal and Andean ranges of the Atacama Desert are fundamental to an understanding of the origin and diversification of the Atacama Desert flora as well as the floristic interchanges between Peru and Chile. So far, only few detailed studies on the flora and vegetation of the region are available. Remarkably young ages of diversification were demonstrated for the Atacama clades, which is at odds with the high age assumed for this desert ecosystem.

My PhD project on the biogeography and macroevolution of plants under environmental conditions of extreme aridity is based on three central questions: 1) What is the floristic composition and spatiotemporal variability of the Atacama vegetation? 2) Are the times of origin and diversification of plant lineages correlated to climatic and geological events that gave rise to the current aridity of the Atacama Desert, and 3) Are Atacama lineages the product of a single colonization event or of multiple incursions into the Atacama Desert?

This project is part of the Cluster ‘B01 Biogeographic history of plant communities’ within the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1211 ‘Earth Evolution at the dry limit’, financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

See our CRC1211 video on youtube!!!


Further research interests

  • Systematics and taxonomy of selected plant groups including geophytes (e.g. Muscari) and the Andean tree genera Brunellia (Brunelliaceae) and Symplocos (Symplocaceae)
  • Plant biodiversity and biogeography along the Andes in relation to human influence as well as climate change.
  • Tropical plant ecology and conservation, with focus on epiphyte diversity in Southeast Asian transformation systems like oil-palm and rubber plantations.



  • Böhnert T, Weigend M, Merklinger FF, Quandt D, Luebert F (2020) Historical assembly of Zygophyllaceae in the Atacama Desert. Frontiers of Biogeography.
  • Ruhm J, Böhnert T, Weigend M, Merklinger FF, Stoll A, Quandt D & Luebert F (2020) Plant life at the dry limit-Spatial patterns of floristic diversity and composition around the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert. PLoS ONE 15 (5), e0233729.
  • Merklinger FF, Zheng Y, Luebert F, Harpke D, Böhnert T, Stoll A, Koch MA, Blattner FR, Wiehe T, Quandt D. (2020) Population genomics of Tillandsia landbeckii reveals unbalanced genetic diversity and founder effects in the Atacama Desert. Global and Planetary Change 184.
  • Böhnert T, Luebert F, Ritter B, Merklinger FF, Stoll A, Schneider JV, Quandt D & Weigend M (2019) Origin and diversification of Cristaria (Malvaceae) parallel Andean orogeny and onset of hyperaridity in the Atacama Desert. Global and Planetary Change 181.
  • Böhnert T, Luebert F & Weigend M (2018) Atriplex retusa, the correct name for A. deserticola (Chenopodiaceae; Amaranthaceae sensu APG). Phytotaxa 373 (1): 95–98.
  • Böhnert T & Weigend M (2017) Brunellia (Brunelliaceae) in Peru—distribution, a new species and a key. Phytotaxa 329 (2): 101–113.
  • Böhnert T & Lobin W (2017) Leopoldia neumannii sp. nov. (Asparagaceae, Scilloideae): a new species of Muscari sensu lato from Greece. Willdenowia 47 (2): 179–185.
  • Mutke J, Böhnert T & Weigend M (2017) Save last cloud forests in western Andes. Nature 541: 157.
  • Böhnert T & Weigend M (2016) Three new species records of Symplocos (Symplocaceae) from northern Peru. Revista Peruana de Biología 23 (3): 339–342.
  • Böhnert T, Wenzel A, Altenhövel C, Beeretz L, Tjitrosoedirdjo SS, Meijide A, Rembold K & Kreft H (2016) Effects of land-use change on vascular epiphyte diversity in Sumatra (Indonesia). Biological Conservation 202: 20–29.


Conference contributions

  • Böhnert T, Luebert F, Schneider J, Merklinger  FF, Stoll A, Quandt D & Weigend M (2019) Biogeography and evolution of the Atacama genus Cristaria (Malvaceae). IX. Biennial Conference of the International Biogeography Society, Malaga, Spain. (Poster)
  • Böhnert T, Merklinger  FF, Böker S, Harpke D, Stoll A, Blattner F, Weigend M, Quandt D & Luebert F (2018) Biogeography and Evolution of the Atacama Desert Flora. XII Congreso Latinoamericano de Botanico, Quito, Ecuador. (Poster)
  • Rembold K, Altenhövel C, Böhnert T & Kreft H (2013) Vascular epiphyte diversity in different transformation systems in Sumatra, Indonesia. Flora Malesiana, Bogor, Indonesia. (Talk)

  • Rembold K, Altenhövel C & Böhnert T (2013) Vascular epiphyte diversity in different transformation systems in Sumatra. (Poster)


Curriculum Vitae

  • since 01/2016: PhD student at the Weigend lab, Nees institute for Biodiversity of Plants; Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Bonn University).
  • 10/2013 – 12/2015: Student in the 'Plant Sciences' Master program at Bonn University, with focus on plant Diversity and Systematics; Master thesis: ‘Forest Biogeography in Northern Peru’; including two-month fieldwork in the Peruvian Andes and local herbaria.
  • 09/2010 – 08/2013: Student in the 'Landscape Management and Nature Conservation' Bachelor program at the University for Sustainable Development, Eberswalde, with focus on botany and ecology, including a six-month practical study semester at Landcare Research (Dunedin, New Zealand). Bachelor thesis: ‘Diversity of vascular epiphytes along a gradient of anthropogenic degradation in lowland rainforests of Sumatra (Indonesia)’; including two-month fieldwork on Sumatra.
  • 03/2009 – 05/2009: Internship at Oman Botanic Garden, staff member in nursery and field team; plant identification and collecting of seed and living plant material in the field.
  • 08/2006 – 01/2009: Formal apprenticeship as a horticulturist for ornamental plants at Bonn Botanic Gardens (Bonn University); with focus tropical plants and geophytes.
  • 09/2004 – 08/2005: Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges ökologisches Jahr - FöJ) University of Vechta, Institute for Nature Conversation and Environmental Education.


Scholarships & Awards

  • 2018 Poster Award at the XII Congreso Latinoamericano de Botanico, Quito, Ecuador.
  • 2016 Förderpreis Biodiversität der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur | Mainz
  • 04/2011 – 11/2015 Scholarship undergraduate & graduate studies by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung
  • 2013 Nominated by the University for Sustainable Development, Eberswalde (HNEE) for the young research fellow arward ("Brandenburgischer Nachwuchswissenschaftlerpreis 2013") of the Ministry of Science, Research and culture of the federal state of Brandenburg.


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