• 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

Microbial utilization of mineral-associated nitrogen in soils

In soils, a large portion of organic nitrogen (ON) is associated with minerals and thus, possibly stabilized against biological decay. We therefore tested if mineral-associated N is an important N source for soil microorganisms, and which soil parameters control its bioavailability. Microcosm experiments with mineral-associated organic matter, obtained as heavy fraction (HF) via density fractionation, and bulk soil from mineral topsoil of the Franz Josef chronosequence were conducted for 125 days. We examined the effects of O2 status, soil age (differences in mineralogical properties), as well as cellulose and phosphate additions on the turnover of mineral-associated N. Using a combination of activity measurements and quantitative PCR, microbial N transformation rates and abundances of N-related functional genes (amoAnarGchiA) were determined. Similar or higher values for microbial N cycling rates and N-related functional abundances in the HF compared to bulk soil indicated that mineral-associated N provides an important bioavailable N source for soil microorganism. The turnover of mineral-associated N was mainly controlled by the O2 status. Besides, soil mineralogical properties significantly affected microbial N cycling and related gene abundances with the effect depending on the N substrate type (ON, NH4+ or NO3). In contrast, cellulose or phosphate addition hardly enhanced microbial utilization of mineral-associated N. The results of our microcosm study indicate that mineral-associated N is highly bioavailable in mineral topsoils, but effects of the mineral phase differ between N cycling processes.

Turner S, Meyer-Stüve S, Schippers A, Guggenberger G, Schaarschmidt F, Wild B, Richter A, Dohrmann R, Mikutta R
2017 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 104: 185-196

Stable isotope signatures reflect dietary diversity in European forest moths

Background: Information on larval diet of many holometabolous insects remains incomplete. Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotope analysis in adult wing tissue can provide an efficient tool to infer such trophic relationships. The present study examines whether moth feeding guild affiliations taken from literature are reflected in isotopic signatures. Results: Non-metric multidimensional scaling and permutational analysis of variance indicate that centroids of dietary groups differ significantly. In particular, species whose larvae feed on mosses or aquatic plants deviated from those that consumed vascular land plants. Moth δ15N signatures spanned a broader range, and were less dependent on species identity than δ13C values. Comparison between moth samples and ostensible food sources revealed heterogeneity in the lichenivorous guild, indicating only Lithosia quadra as an obligate lichen feeder. Among root-feeding Agrotis segetum, some specimens appear to have developed on crop plants in forest-adjacent farm land. Reed-feeding stem-borers may partially rely on intermediary trophic levels such as fungal or bacterial growth. Conclusion: Diagnostic partitioning of moth dietary guilds based on isotopic signatures alone could not be achieved, but hypotheses on trophic relationships based on often vague literature records could be assessed with high resolution. Hence, the approach is well suited for basic categorization of moths where diet is unknown or notoriously difficult to observe (i.e. Microlepidoptera, lichen-feeders). Keywords: δ13C, δ15N, Larval diet, Trophic position Abbreviations: C, Chemical symbol for carbon; IAEA-CH-6, Reference standard for 13C/12C ratios derived from sucrose and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-CH-7, Reference standard for 13C/12C ratios derived from polyethylene and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-N-1, Reference standard for 15N/ 14N ratios derived from ammonium sulfate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-N- 2, Reference standard for 15N/14N ratios derived from ammonium sulfate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-NO-3, Reference standard for 15N/14N ratios derived from potassium nitrate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); MMDS, Metric multi-dimensional scaling; N, Chemical symbol for nitrogen; NMDS, Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling; SD, Standard deviation; TLE, Trophic level enrichment; δ 13C, Shift in the 13C/12C ratio of the sample relative to the reference standard (i.e. Pee Dee Belemnite); δ 15N, Shift in the 15N/14N ratio of the sample relative to the reference standard (i.e. atmospheric nitrogen)

Adams MO, Seifert CL, Lehner L, Truxa C, Wanek W, Fiedler K
2016 - Frontiers in Zoology, 13: 1-10

Geothermal ecosystems as natural climate change experiments: The ForHot research site in Iceland as a case study

This article describes how natural geothermal soil temperature gradients in Iceland have been used to study terrestrial ecosystem responses to soil warming. The experimental approach was evaluated at three study sites in southern Iceland; one grassland site that has been warm for at least 50 years (GO), and another comparable grassland site (GN) and a Sitka spruce plantation (FN) site that have both been warmed since an earthquake took place in 2008. Within each site type, five ca. 50 m long transects, with six permanent study plots each, were established across the soil warming gradients, spanning from unwarmed control conditions to gradually warmer soils. It was attempted to select the plots so the annual warming levels would be ca. +1, +3, +5, +10 and +20 °C within each transect. Results of continuous measurements of soil temperature (Ts) from 2013-2015 revealed that the soil warming was relatively constant and followed the seasonal Ts cycle of the unwarmed control plots. Volumetric water content in the top 5 cm of soil was repeatedly surveyed during 2013-2016. The grassland soils were wetter than the FN soils, but they had sometimes some significant warming-induced drying in the surface layer of the warmest plots, in contrast to FN. Soil chemistry did not show any indications that geothermal water had reached the root zone, but soil pH did increase somewhat with warming, which was probably linked to vegetation changes. As expected, the potential decomposition rate of organic matter increased significantly with warming. It was concluded that the natural geothermal gradients at the ForHot sites in Iceland offered realistic conditions for studying terrestrial ecosystem responses to warming with minimal artefacts. 

Sigurdsson BD, Leblans NIW, Dauwe S, Guðmundsdóttir E, Gundersen P, Gunnarsdóttir GE, Holmstrup M, Ilieva-Makulec K, Kätterer T, Marteinsdóttir B, Maljanen M, Oddsdóttir ES, Ostonen I, Peñuelas J, Poeplau C, Richter A, Sigurðsson P, Van Bodegom P, Wallander H, Weedon J, Janssens I
2016 - Icelandic Agricultural Sciences (IAS), 29: 53-71

Lecture series

LC-MS Approaches in Metabolomics

Gunda Köllensperger, Prof.
University of Vienna, Department of Analytical Chemistry
11:15 h
Seminar Room Microbial Ecology, UZA 1, room no 2.309

Arbuscular mycorrhizas and organic nitrogen in soil – and the other microbes involved

Jan Jasna
Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
16:00 h
Friedrich-Becke Seminar Room, UZA 2 (Geozentrum), Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien

Microbes, nitrogen and plant responses to elevated CO2

César Terrer
Imperial College, London
11:00 h
Conference room “Ökologie” Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien