• Our new home,

    from summer 2021

  • 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

Permafrost causes unique fine-scale spatial variability across tundra soils

Spatial analysis in earth sciences is often based on the concept of spatial autocorrelation, expressed by W. Tobler as the first law of geography: “everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things." Here, we show that subsurface soil properties in permafrost tundra terrain exhibit tremendous spatial variability. We describe the subsurface variability of soil organic carbon (SOC) and ground ice content from the centimeter to the landscape scale in three typical tundra terrain types common across the Arctic region. At the soil pedon scale, that is, from centimeters to 1–2 m, variability is caused by cryoturbation and affected by tussocks, hummocks and nonsorted circles. At the terrain scale, from meters to tens of meters, variability is caused by different generations of ice‐wedges. Variability at the landscape scale, that is, ranging hundreds of meters, is associated with geomorphic disturbances and catenary shifts. The co‐occurrence and overlap of different processes and landforms creates a spatial structure unique to permafrost environments. The coefficient of variation of SOC at the pedon scale (21%–73%) exceeds that found at terrain (17%–66%) and even landscape scale (24%–67%). Such high values for spatial variation are otherwise found at regional to continental scale. Clearly, permafrost soils do not conform to Tobler's law, but are among the most variable soils on Earth. This needs to be accounted for in mapping and predictions of the permafrost carbon feedbacks through various ecosystem processes. We conclude that scale deserves special attention in permafrost regions.

Siewert MB., Lantuit H, Richter A, Hugelius G
2021 - Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 35: e2020GB006659

Prevalence of RT-qPCR-detected SARS-CoV-2 infection at schools: First results from the Austrian School-SARS-CoV-2 prospective cohort study

Background The role of schools in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is much debated. We aimed to quantify reliably the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infections at schools detected with reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-qPCR).

Methods This nationwide prospective cohort study monitors a representative sample of pupils (grade 1-8) and teachers at Austrian schools throughout the school year 2020/2021. We repeatedly test participants for SARS-CoV-2 infection using a gargling solution and RT-qPCR. We herein report on the first two rounds of examinations. We used mixed-effect logistic regression to estimate odds ratios and robust 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

Findings We analysed data on 10734 participants from 245 schools (9465 pupils, 1269 teachers). Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection increased from 0.39% at round 1 (95% CI 0.28-0·55%, 29 September-22 October 2020) to 1·39% at round 2 (95% CI 1·04-1·85%, 10-16 November). Odds ratios for SARS-CoV-2 infection were 2·26 (95% CI 1·25-4·12, P=0·007) in regions with >500 vs. ≤500 inhabitants/km2, 1·67 (95% CI 1·42-1·97, P<0·001) per two-fold higher regional 7-day incidence, and 2·78 (95% CI 1·73-4·48, P<0·001) in pupils at schools with high/very high vs. low/moderate social deprivation. Associations of community incidence and social deprivation persisted in a multivariable adjusted model. Prevalence did not differ by average number of pupils per class nor between age groups, sexes, pupils vs. teachers, or primary (grade 1-4) vs. secondary schools (grade 5-8).

Interpretation This monitoring study in Austrian schools revealed SARS-CoV-2 infection in 0·39%-1·39% of participants and identified associations of regional community incidence and social deprivation with higher prevalence.

Funding BMBWF Austria.

Willeit P, Krause R, Lamprecht B, Berghold A, Hanson B, Stelzl E, Stoiber H, Zuber J, Heinen R, Köhler A, Bernhard D, Borena W, Doppler C, von Laer D, Schmidt H, Pröll J, Steinmetz I, Wagner M
2021 - The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, 5: Article 100086

Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Maize (Zea mays L.) Root Growth and Its Potential Consequences for the Assembly of the Rhizosphere Microbiota

Numerous studies have shown that plants selectively recruit microbes from the soil to establish a complex, yet stable and quite predictable microbial community on their roots – their “microbiome” (Berg and Smalla, 2009Hartmann et al., 2009Weinert et al., 2010). Microbiome assembly is considered as a key process in the self-organization of root systems (Vetterlein et al., 2020). Better control of microbiome assembly would improve plant health and fitness by promoting beneficial microbial traits (Friesen et al., 2011Oyserman et al., 2018Wille et al., 2019). A fundamental question for understanding plant-microbe relationships is where a predictable microbiome is formed along the root axis and through which microbial dynamics the stable formation of a microbiome is challenged. Theoretically, community assembly begins with random, unregulated colonization of taxa from nearby sites (i.e., neutral processes), a process that continues throughout the lifetime of roots; while ordered dynamics (microbiome assembly) occur through selection (i.e., niche-based processes) when (i) exudates promote fast-growing copiotrophic taxa, (ii) root signals attract specific symbionts or pathogens, (iii) increased competition due to limited resource availability leads to species sorting, and (iv) predation selects for specific microbial traits among members of the microbiome (Vellend, 2010Hardoim et al., 2011Ho et al., 2017Kudjordjie et al., 2019Amacker et al., 2020Chen et al., 2020). These microbial assembly processes again are embedded in plant-driven spatiotemporal dynamics at small and large scales, caused by differences in the quality and quantity of rhizodeposition: (i) along the root axis, (ii) during diurnal cycles, (iii) on different root types, and (iv) during plant development. Emphasizing maize as a model species for which numerous data on dynamic root traits are available, this mini-review aims to give an integrative overview on the dynamic nature of root growth and its consequences for microbiome assembly based on theoretical considerations from microbial community ecology.

Bonkowski M, Tarkka M, Razavi BS, Schmidt H, Blagodatskaya E, Koller R, Yu P, Knief C, Hochholdinger F, Vetterlein D
2021 - Frontiers in microbiology, 12: Article 619499

Lecture series

Microbial ecology of nitrogen cycling in paddy soils

Yong-Guan Zhu
Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences & Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences
09:00 h
Lecture Hall HS 5, UZA2 (Geocentre), Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna

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