Univ.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Richter

Prof. Dr. Andreas Richter
Head of the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science
Head of the Division of Terrestrial Ecosystem Research
University of Vienna
Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science
Division of Terrestrial Ecosystem Research
Djerassiplatz 1
A-1030 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 4277
Phone Extension: 91260


Soils are arguably the greatest frontier for ecological research. They are home to an almost inconceivable diversity of microbes, that together drive fundamental ecosystem processes, such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, essential for the functioning of the biosphere.

Microbes operate and interact at the micro-scale (both in space and time), but their activities become evident at the ecosystem to biosphere scale. Linking microbial activities to ecosystem functioning is thus one of the biggest challenges in current ecology, specifically as microbes constantly interact with other organisms, that are much larger and live much longer. We thus need new approaches to address this challenge, both conceptually and methodologically. Towards this end, my group is developing and constantly improving methods that allow estimating microbial gross processes to understand their controls and regulations. For example, have we pioneered stable isotope pool dilution methods to measure gross protein and cellulose depolymerisation rates in soil and litter, key processes in organic matter breakdown.

Heterotrophic microbes are responsible for the deconstruction and breakdown of all organic matter. At the same time, they become soil organic matter when they die and are thus responsible for the build-up of soil organic matter, the by far largest pool of organic carbon in terrestrial ecosystems. Understanding how microbes deconstruct and take up organic matter and build it into their own biomass is thus at the very basis of our understanding of how microbes control the global carbon cycle.

My group has recently critically reviewed and expanded the concept of microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), i.e., the fraction of the organic carbon taken up by microorganisms, that is used for growth, and linked it to the theory of ecological stoichiometry. Since the methods usually used to estimate CUE in terrestrial ecosystems are based on 13C-labelled substrates and have been shown to inflate CUE, we have developed a novel approach to measure CUE based on incorporation of 18O-labelled water into DNA. Additionally, we have established a conceptional framework for a microbial nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and have put forward a method that allows, for the first time, to measure NUE of microbial communities in soil and litter.



  • Carbon use efficiency, growth and turnover of microbial communities
  • Arctic soil carbon storage and the permafrost-climate feedback
  • Microbial communities, SOM composition and the breakdown of organic matter
  • Ecological stoichiometry and nitrogen and phosphorus cycling
  • Effect of climate change and elevated CO2 on soil processes







  1. Tveit, A.T., Hestnes, A.G., Robinson, S.L., Schintlmeister, A., Dedysh, S.N., Jehmlich, N., von Bergen, M., Herbold, C., Wagner, M., Richter, A., Svenning, M.M. (2019) A widespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (17) 8515-8524.
  2. Walker, T.W.N., Kaiser, C., Strasser, F., Herbold, C.W., Leblans, N.I.W., Woebken, D., Janssens, I.A., Sigurdsson, B., Richter, A. (2018) Microbial temperature sensitivity and biomass change explain soil carbon loss with warming. Nature Climate Change 8: 885-889.
  3. Čapek, P., Manzoni, S., Kaštovská, E., Wild, B., Diáková, K., Bárta, J., Schnecker, J., Biasi, C., Martikainen, P., Alves, R., Guggenberger, G., Gentsch, N., Hugelius, G., Palmtag, J., Mikutta, R., Shibistova, O., Urich, T., Schleper, C., Richter, A., Šantrůčková, H. (2018) A plant-microbe interaction framework explaining nutrient effects on primary production. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2: 1588-1596.
  4. Wild, B., Alves, R., Barta, J., Capek, P., Gentsch, N., Guggenberger, G., Hugelius, G., Knoltsch, A., Kuhry, P., Lashchinskiy, N., Mikutta, R., Palmtag, J., Prommer, J., Schnecker, J., Shibistova, O., Takriti, M., Urich, T., Richter, A. (2018) Amino acid production exceeds plant nitrogen demand in Siberian tundra.  Environmental Research Letters 13: 034002.
  5. Mooshammer, M., Hofhansl, F., Frank, A.H., Wanek, W., Hämmerle, I., Leitner, S., Schnecker, J., Wild, B., Watzka, M., Keiblinger, K. M., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Richter, A. (2017) Decoupling of microbial carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling in response to extreme temperature events. Science Advances 3:
  6. Spohn, M., Pötsch, E.M., Eichhorst, S.A., Woebken, D., Wanek, W., Richter, A. (2016) Soil microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover in a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 97: 168-175.
  7. Kaiser, C., Franklin, O., Dieckmann, U., Richter, A. (2014) Microbial community dynamics alleviate stoichiometric constraints during litter decay. Ecology Letters 17: 680–690.
  8. Mooshammer, M., Wanek, W., Hämmerle, I., Fuchslueger. L., Hofhansl, F., Knoltsch, A., Schnecker, J., Takriti, M., Watzka, M., Wild, B., Keiblinger, K.M., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Richter, A. (2014) Adjustment of microbial nitrogen use efficiency to carbon:nitrogen imbalances regulates soil nitrogen cycling. Nature Communications 5: 3694.
  9. Fuchslueger, L., Bahn, M., Fritz, K., Hasibeder, R., Richter, A. (2014) Experimental drought reduces the transfer of recently-fixed plant C to soil microbes and alters the bacterial community composition in a mountain meadow. New Phytologist 201: 916–927.
  10. Sinsabaugh, R.L., Manzoni, S., Moorhead, D.L., Richter, A. (2013) Carbon use efficiency of microbial communities: Stoichiometry, methodology and modeling. Ecology Letters 16: 930–939.
  11. Berry, D., Stecher, B., Schintlmeister, A., Reichert, J., Brugiroux, S., Wild,B., Wanek, W., Richter, A., Rauch, I., Decker, T., Loy, A., Wagner, M. (2013) Host compound foraging by intestinal microbiota revealed by single-cell stable isotope probing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 4720-4725.
  12. Bahn, M., Lattanzi, F.A., Hasibeder, R., Wild, B., Koranda, M., Danese, V., Brüggemann, N., Schmitt, M., Siegwolf. R., Richter, A. (2013) Responses of belowground carbon allocation dynamics to extended shading in mountain grassland. New Phytologist 198: 116–126.
  13. Manzoni, S., Taylor, P., Richter, A., Porporato, A., Ågren, G. (2012) Environmental and stoichiometric controls on microbial carbon use efficiency in soils. New Phytologist 196: 79–91.



Our motto is "DIRT, SWEAT AND BEERS".

Information on open research positions can be found here.

If you are interested in joining our team with your own fellowship, please get in touch with Andreas for details.
There are several possibilities for PhD and PostDoc fellowships in Austria and Europe - if you are interested look at:

- unidocs - PhD fellowship of the University of Vienna
doc - PhD fellowships from the Austrian Academy of Science
EU - Marie Curie fellowships fpr PostDocs
- FWF (Austrian Science Fund): Lise Meitner program for PostDocs from abroad
- FWF (Austrian Science Fund): Hertha Firnberg program for female PostDocs