• Global Warming:

    the threat of a permafrost Carbon – climate feedback

  • We develop and improve

    stable isotopes techniques for ecological applications

  • Plants, fungi and bacteria interact

    at the root-soil interface

  • Probing the future:

    Climate Change experiments

  • Soil is fundamental to human life

  • Tropical rainforests

    hold the key to global net primary productivity

TER News

Latest publications

Novel high-throughput approach to determine key processes of soil organic nitrogen cycling: Gross protein depolymerization and microbial amino acid uptake

Proteins comprise the largest soil N reservoir but cannot be taken up directly by microorganisms and plants due to size constraints and stabilization of proteins in organo-mineral associations. Therefore the cleavage of this high molecular weight organic N to smaller soluble compounds as amino acids is a key step in the terrestrial N cycle. In the last years two isotope pool dilution approaches have been successfully established to measure gross rates of protein depolymerization and microbial amino acid uptake in soils. However, both require laborious sample preparation and analyses, which limits sample throughput. Therefore, we here present a novel isotope pool dilution approach based on the addition of 15N-labeled amino acids to soils and subsequent concentration and 15N analysis by the oxidation of α-amino groups to NO2 and further reduction to N2O, followed by purge-and-trap isotope ratio mass spectrometry (PT-IRMS). We applied this method in mesocosm experiments with forest and meadow soils as well as with a cropland soil amended with either organic C (cellulose) or organic N (bovine serum albumin). To measure direct organic N mineralization to NH4+, the latter was captured in acid traps and analyzed by an elemental analyzer coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (EA-IRMS). Our results demonstrate that the proposed method provides fast and precise measurements of at%15N even at low amino acid concentrations, allows high sample throughput and enables parallel estimations of instantaneous organic N mineralization rates.

Noll L, zhang S, Wanek W
2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 130: 73-81

Growth explains microbial carbon use efficiency across soils differing in land use and geology

The ratio of carbon (C) that is invested into microbial growth to organic C taken up is known as microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), which is influenced by environmental factors such as soil temperature and soil moisture. How microbes will physiologically react to short-term environmental changes is not well understood, primarily due to methodological restrictions. Here we report on two independent laboratory experiments to explore short-term temperature and soil moisture effects on soil microbial physiology(i.e. respiration, growth, CUE, and microbial biomass turnover): (i) a temperature experiment with 1-day pre-incubation at 5, 15 and 25 °C at 60% water holding capacity (WHC), and (ii) a soil moisture/oxygen (O2) experiment with 7-day pre-incubation at 20 °C at 30%, 60% WHC (both at 21% O2) and 90% WHC at 1% O2. Experiments were conducted with soils from arable, pasture and forest sites derived from both silicate and limestone bedrocks. We found that microbial CUE responded heterogeneously though overall positively to short-term temperature changes, and decreased significantly under high moisture level (90% WHC)/suboxic conditions due to strong decreases in microbial growth. Microbial biomass turnover time decreased dramatically with increasing temperature, and increased significantly at high moisture level (90% WHC)/suboxic conditions. Our findings reveal that the responses of microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover to short-term temperature and moisture/O2 changes depended mainly on microbial growth responses and less on respiration responses to the environmental cues, which were consistent across soils differing in land use and geology.

Zheng Q, Hu Y, zhang S, Noll L, Boeckle T, Richter A, Wanek W
2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 128: 45-55

Combination of techniques to quantify the distribution of bacteria in their soil microhabitats at different spatial scales

To address a number of issues of great societal concern at the moment, like the sequestration of carbon, information is direly needed about interactions between soil architecture and microbial dynamics. Unfortunately, soils are extremely complex, heterogeneous systems comprising highly variable and dynamic micro-habitats that have significant impacts on the growth and activity of inhabiting microbiota. Data remain scarce on the influence of soil physical parameters characterizing the pore space on the distribution and diversity of bacteria. In this context, the objective of the research described in this article was to develop a method where X-ray microtomography, to characterize the soil architecture, is combined with fluorescence microscopy to visualize and quantify bacterial distributions in resin-impregnated soil sections. The influence of pore geometry (at a resolution of 13.4 μm) on the distribution of Pseudomonas fluorescens was analysed at macro- (5.2 mm × 5.2 mm), meso- (1 mm × 1 mm) and microscales (0.2 mm × 0.2 mm) based on an experimental setup simulating different soil architectures. The cell density of P. fluorescenswas 5.59 x 107(SE 2.6 x 106) cells g−1 soil in 1–2 mm and 5.84 x 107(SE 2.4 x 106) cells g−1 in 2–4 mm size aggregates soil. Solid-pore interfaces influenced bacterial distribution at micro- and macroscale, whereas the effect of soil porosity on bacterial distribution varied according to three observation scales in different soil architectures. The influence of soil porosity on the distribution of bacteria in different soil architectures was observed mainly at the macroscale, relative to micro- and mesoscales. Experimental data suggest that the effect of pore geometry on the distribution of bacteria varied with the spatial scale, thus highlighting the need to consider an “appropriate spatial scale” to understand the factors that regulate the distribution of microbial communities in soils. The results obtained to date also indicate that the proposed method is a significant step towards a full mechanistic understanding of microbial dynamics in structured soils.

Juyal A, Otten W, Falconer R, Hapca S, Schmidt H, Baveye PC, Eickhorst T
2019 - Geoderma, 334: 165-174

Lecture series

How to meet the Paris 2°C target: Which are the main constraints that will need to be overcome?

Ivan Janssens
Centre of Excellence of Global Change Ecology, University of Antwerp, Belgium
12:00 h
Lecture Hall HS2 (UZA 1), Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna

Soil C dynamics –when are microbial communities in control?

Naoise Nunan
Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences IEES Paris, France
12:00 h
Lecture Hall HS2 (UZA 1), Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna

When are Mycorrhizas Mutualisms?

Nancy Collins Johnson
Northern Arizona University, USA
16:15 h
Hörsaal 2 (UZA 1), Althanstraße 14, 1090 Wien