Publications

Publications in peer reviewed journals

20 Publications found
  • Exo- and endophytic fungi enable rapid transfer of nutrients from ant waste to orchid tissue

    Gegenbauer C, Bellaire A, Schintlmeister A, Schmid MC, Kubicek M, Voglmayr H, Zotz G, Richter A, Mayer VE
    2023 - New Phytologist, 238: 2210-2223

    Abstract: 

    Summary

     

    • The epiphytic orchid Caularthron bilamellatum sacrifices its water storage tissue for nutrients from the waste of ants lodging inside its hollow pseudobulb. Here, we investigate whether fungi are involved in the rapid translocation of nutrients.
    • Uptake was analysed with a 15N labelling experiment, subsequent isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) and secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS and NanoSIMS).
    • We encountered two hyphae types: a thick melanized type assigned to “black fungi” (Chaetothyriales, Cladosporiales, Mycosphaerellales) in ant waste, and a thin endophytic type belonging to Hypocreales. In few cell layers both hyphae types co-occurred. 15N accumulation in both hyphae types was conspicuous, while for translocation to the vessels only Hypocreales were involved. There is evidence that the occurrence of the two hyphae types result in a synergism in terms of nutrient uptake.
    • Our study provides the first evidence that a pseudobulb (=stem)-born endophytic network of Hypocreales is involved in the rapid translocation of nitrogen from insect derived waste to the vegetative and reproductive tissue of the host orchid. For C. bilamellatum that has no contact with the soil, ant waste in the hollow pseudobulbs serves as equivalent to soil in terms of nutrient sources.
  • Phosphorus scarcity contributes to nitrogen limitation in lowland tropical rainforests

    Vallicrosa H, Lugli LF, Fuchslueger L, Sardans J, Ramírez-Rojas I, Verbruggen E, Grau O, Bréchet L, Peguero G, Van Langenhove L, Verryckt LT, Terrer C, Llusià J, Ogaya R, Márquez L, Roc-Fernández P, Janssens I, Peñuelas J
    2023 - Ecology, Article e4049

    Abstract: 

    There is increasing evidence to suggest that soil nutrient availability can limit the carbon sink capacity of forests, a particularly relevant issue considering today's changing climate. This question is especially important in the tropics, where most part of the Earth's plant biomass is stored. To assess whether tropical forest growth is limited by soil nutrients and to explore N and P limitations, we analyzed stem growth and foliar elemental composition of the 5 stem widest trees per plot at two sites in French Guiana after three years of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and N+P addition. We also compared the results between potential N-fixer and non-N-fixer species. We found a positive effect of N fertilization on stem growth and foliar N, as well as a positive effect of P fertilization on stem growth, foliar N, and foliar P. Potential N-fixing species had greater stem growth, greater foliar N and greater foliar P concentrations than non-N-fixers. In terms of growth, there was a negative interaction between N-fixer status, N+P, and P fertilization, but no interaction with N fertilization. Since N-fixing plants does not show to be completely N saturated, we do not anticipate N providing from N-fixing plants would supply non-N-fixers. Although the soil age hypothesis only anticipates P limitation in highly weathered systems, our results for stem growth and foliar elemental composition indicate the existence of considerable N and P co-limitation, which is alleviated in N-fixing plants. The evidence suggests that certain mechanisms invest in N to obtain the scarce P through soil phosphatases, which potentially contributes to the N limitation detected by this study.

  • Seasonal fluctuations of extracellular enzyme activities are related to the biogeochemical cycling of C, N and P in a tropical terra-firme forest

    Schaap KJ, Fuchslueger L, Quesada CA, Hofhansl F, Valverde-Barrantes O, Camargo PB, Hoosbeek MR
    2023 - Biogeochemistry, 163: 1-15

    Abstract: 

    Extracellular enzymes (EE) play a vital role in soil nutrient cycling and thus affect terrestrial ecosystem functioning. Yet the drivers that regulate microbial activity, and therefore EE activity, remain under debate. In this study we investigate the temporal variation of soil EE in a tropical terra-firme forest. We found that EE activity peaked during the drier season in association with increased leaf litterfall, which was also reflected in negative relationships between EE activities and precipitation. Soil nutrients were weakly related to EE activities, although extractable N was related to EE activities in the top 5 cm of the soil. These results suggest that soil EE activity is synchronized with precipitation-driven substrate inputs and depends on the availability of N. Our results further indicate high investments in P acquisition, with a higher microbial N demand in the month before the onset of the drier season, shifting to higher P demand towards the end of the drier season. These seasonal fluctuations in the potential acquisition of essential resources imply dynamic shifts in microbial activity in coordination with climate seasonality and resource limitation of central-eastern Amazon forests.

  • Soil CH4 and N2O response diminishes during decadal soil warming in a temperate mountain forest

    Heinzle J, Kitzler B, Zechmeister-Boltenstern S, Tian Y, Kengdo SW, Wanek W, Borken W, Schindlbacher A
    2023 - Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 329: Article 109287

    Abstract: 

    Global warming is considered to impact the fluxes of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) between forest soils and the atmosphere, but it is unclear whether the responses change over time. In this study the response of soil CH4 and N2O fluxes to field soil warming (+4 °C) were determined during years 2–5 and 14–16 in a soil warming experiment in a temperate forest. In the second and sixteenth year of soil warming, temperature sensitivities of CH4 and N2O fluxes were assessed in-situ by gradually rising field soil temperatures to ∼10 °C above ambient within a short period of three to four days. Production of dinitrogen (N2) was measured ex-situ in the sixteenth year of warming. Soil warming significantly reduced CH4 uptake (-19.5%) and increased N2O emissions (+41.6%) during the first years of warming, whereas no warming effects on soil CH4 and N2O fluxes were observed during the later years. Dinitrogen production was up to ten times higher than N2O production, though the high spatiotemporal variability masked any significant effects of soil warming on soil N2 fluxes. Temperature sensitivities (Q10) for CH4 uptake and N2O emissions were 2.07 and 4.06, respectively, in the second year of warming and 1.52 and 1.79, respectively, in the sixteenth year of soil warming. The diminishing warming response of the soil N2O fluxes likely were caused by longer-term changes in soil N availability and/or simultaneous acclimation of the soil microbial community to soil warming. Soil moisture was largely unaffected by soil warming, and soil temperature alone was only a weak predictor of soil CH4 fluxes. Methane fluxes therefore can be expected to be generally less affected than N2O fluxes. Overall, our results suggest that soil warming has only limited and transient effects on soil CH4 and N2O fluxes in this type of temperate forest.

  • Uptake, Metabolism, and Accumulation of Tire Wear Particle-Derived Compounds in Lettuce

    Castan S, Sherman A, Peng R, Zumstein MT, Wanek W, Hüffer T, Hofmann T
    2023 - Environmental Science & Technology, 57: 168-178

    Abstract: 

    Tire wear particle (TWP)-derived compounds may be of high concern to consumers when released in the root zone of edible plants. We exposed lettuce plants to the TWP-derived compounds diphenylguanidine (DPG), hexamethoxymethylmelamine (HMMM), benzothiazole (BTZ), N-phenyl-N′-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-p-phenylenediamine (6PPD), and its quinone transformation product (6PPD-q) at concentrations of 1 mg L–1 in hydroponic solutions over 14 days to analyze if they are taken up and metabolized by the plants. Assuming that TWP may be a long-term source of TWP-derived compounds to plants, we further investigated the effect of leaching from TWP on the concentration of leachate compounds in lettuce leaves by adding constantly leaching TWP to the hydroponic solutions. Concentrations in leaves, roots, and nutrient solution were quantified by triple quadrupole mass spectrometry, and metabolites in the leaves were identified by Orbitrap high resolution mass spectrometry. This study demonstrates that TWP-derived compounds are readily taken up by lettuce with measured maximum leaf concentrations between ∼0.75 (6PPD) and 20 μg g–1 (HMMM). Although these compounds were metabolized in the plant, we identified several transformation products, most of which proved to be more stable in the lettuce leaves than the parent compounds. Furthermore, continuous leaching from TWP led to a resupply and replenishment of the metabolized compounds in the lettuce leaves. The stability of metabolized TWP-derived compounds with largely unknown toxicities is particularly concerning and is an important new aspect for the impact assessment of TWP in the environment.

  • Water availability is a stronger driver of soil microbial processing of organic nitrogen than tree species composition

    Maxwell TL, Augusto L, Tian Y, Wanek W, Fanin N
    2023 - European Journal of Soil Science, 74: Article e13350

    Abstract: 

    Soil organic nitrogen (N) cycling processes constitute a bottleneck of soil N cycling, yet little is known about how tree species composition may influence these rates, and even less under changes in soil water availability such as those that are being induced by climate change. In this study, we used a 12-year-old tree biodiversity experiment in southwestern France to assess the interactive effects of soil water availability (half of the blocks seasonally irrigated to double precipitation) and tree species composition (monocultural vs. mixed plots of coniferous Pinus pinaster, and of broadleaf Betula pendula). We measured gross protein depolymerisation rates using a novel high-throughput isotope pool dilution method, along with soil microbial biomass carbon and N to calculate microbial biomass-specific activities of soil organic N processes. Overall, high soil water availability led to a 42% increase in soil protein depolymerisation rates compared to the unirrigated plots, but we found no effect of species composition on these soil organic N cycling processes. When investigating the interactive effect of tree species mixing and soil water availability, the results suggest that mixing tree species had a negative effect on soil organic N cycling processes in the non-irrigated blocks subject to dry summers, but that this effect tended to become positive at higher soil water availability in irrigated plots. These results put forth that soil water availability could influence potential tree species mixing effects on soil organic N cycling processes in dry conditions.

  • MAPkinases regulate secondary metabolism, sexual development and light dependent cellulase regulation in Trichoderma reesei

    Schalamun M, Beier S, Hinterdobler W, Wanko N, Schinnerl J, Brecher L, Engl DE, Schmoll M
    2023 - Scientific Reports, 13: Article 1912

    Abstract: 

    The filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei is a prolific producer of plant cell wall degrading enzymes, which are regulated in response to diverse environmental signals for optimal adaptation, but also produces a wide array of secondary metabolites. Available carbon source and light are the strongest cues currently known to impact secreted enzyme levels and an interplay with regulation of secondary metabolism became increasingly obvious in recent years. While cellulase regulation is already known to be modulated by different mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways, the relevance of the light signal, which is transmitted by this pathway in other fungi as well, is still unknown in T. reesei as are interconnections to secondary metabolism and chemical communication under mating conditions. Here we show that MAPkinases differentially influence cellulase regulation in light and darkness and that the Hog1 homologue TMK3, but not TMK1 or TMK2 are required for the chemotropic response to glucose in T. reesei. Additionally, MAPkinases regulate production of specific secondary metabolites including trichodimerol and bisorbibutenolid, a bioactive compound with cytostatic effect on cancer cells and deterrent effect on larvae, under conditions facilitating mating, which reflects a defect in chemical communication. Strains lacking either of the MAPkinases become female sterile, indicating the conservation of the role of MAPkinases in sexual fertility also in T. reesei. In summary, our findings substantiate the previously detected interconnection of cellulase regulation with regulation of secondary metabolism as well as the involvement of MAPkinases in light dependent gene regulation of cellulase and secondary metabolite genes in fungi.

  • Long-term warming-induced trophic downgrading in the soil microbial food web

    Borg Dahl M, Söllinger A, Sigurðsson P, Janssens I, Peñuelas J, Sigurdsson BD, Richter A, Tveit AT, Urich T
    2023 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 181: Article 109044

    Abstract: 

    Climatic warming has been hypothesized to accelerate organic matter decomposition by soil microorganisms and thereby enhance carbon (C) release to the atmosphere. However, the long-term consequences of soil warming on belowground biota interactions are poorly understood. Here we investigate how geothermal warming by 6 °C for more than 50 years affects soil microbiota. Using metatranscriptomics we obtained comprehensive profiles of the prokaryotic, eukaryotic and viral players of the soil microbial food web. When compared to ambient soil temperature conditions, we found pronounced differences in taxa abundances within and between trophic modules of the soil food web. Specifically, we observed a ‘trophic downgrading’ at elevated temperature, with soil fauna decreasing in abundance, while predatory bacteria and viruses became relatively more abundant. We propose that the drivers for this shift are previously observed decreases in microbial biomass and soil organic carbon, and the increase in soil bulk density (decrease in soil porosity) at elevated temperature. We conclude that a trophic downgrading may have important implications for soil carbon sequestration and nutrient dynamics in a warming world.

  • Nutrient controls on carbohydrate and lignin decomposition in beech litter

    Kohl L, Wanek W, Keiblinger K, Hämmerle I, Fuchslueger L, Schneider T, Riedel K, Eberl L, Zechmeister-Boltenstern S, Richter A
    2023 - Geoderma, 429: Article 116276

    Abstract: 

    Nutrient pollution has increased plant litter nutrient concentrations in many ecosystems, which may profoundly impact litter decomposition and change the chemical composition of litter inputs to soils. Here, we report on a mesocosm experiment to study how variations in the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in Fagus sylvatica (European beech) litter from four sites differing in bedrock, atmospheric deposition, and climate affect lignin and carbohydrate loss rates and residual litter chemistry. We show with pyrolysis GC/MS and elemental analysis that nutrient concentrations had a strong influence on changes in litter chemistry during early decomposition (0–181 days), when greater lignin loss rates were associated with low P concentrations, whereas carbohydrate and bulk C loss were associated with high N concentrations. Nutrient concentrations, in contrast, did not influence changes in litter chemistry in the later decomposition stage (181–475 days), where the decomposition rates of lignin, carbohydrates, and bulk C all increased with litter N concentration and no differences in decomposition rates between major compound classes were detected. Our data indicate that these differences were related to the transition from increasing to constant or declining microbial biomass, and an associated decrease in microbial dependence on the mobilization of nutrients from the insoluble litter fraction.

  • Phosphorus limitation reduces microbial nitrogen use efficiency by increasing extracellular enzyme investments

    Sun L, Li J, Qu L, Wang X, Sang C, Wang J, Sun M, Wanek W, Moorhead DL, Bai E, Wang C
    2023 - Geoderma, 432: Article 116416

    Abstract: 

    Microbial nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), which reflects the proportion of nitrogen (N) taken up to be allocated to microbial biomass and growth, is central to our understanding of soil N cycling. However, the factors influencing microbial NUE remain unclear. Here, we explored the effects of climate factors, soil properties, and microbial variables on microbial NUE based on a survey of soils from 11 locations along a forest transect in eastern China. We found microbial NUE decreased with the ratio of acid phosphatase (AP) activity versus microbial growth rate. This suggested that increased microbial phosphorus acquisition decreased microbial NUE due to increasing investment in AP. However, microbial NUE increased with soil organic carbon content, because soil organic carbon is the source of material and energy for microbial growth and metabolism. Soil pH and mean annual temperature indirectly affected microbial NUE through their effects on the ratio of AP activity relative to microbial growth rate and soil organic carbon content, respectively. Our results improve our understanding and prediction of microbial NUE on a large spatial scale and emphasize the importance of phosphorus in affecting microbial metabolic efficiency.

  • Increase in carbon input by enhanced fine root turnover in a long-term warmed forest soil

    Kengdo SK, Ahrens B, Tian Y, Heinzle J, Wanek W, Schindlbacher A, Borken W
    2023 - Science of The Total Environment, 855: Article 15800

    Abstract: 

    Fine root litter represents an important carbon input to soils, but the effect of global warming on fine root turnover (FRT) is hardly explored in forest ecosystems. Understanding tree fine roots' response to warming is crucial for predicting soil carbon dynamics and the functioning of forests as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). We studied fine root production (FRP) with ingrowth cores and used radiocarbon signatures of first-order, second- to third-order, and bulk fine roots to estimate fine root turnover times after 8 and 14 years of soil warming (+4 °C) in a temperate forest. Fine root turnover times of the individual root fractions were estimated with a one-pool model. Soil warming strongly increased fine root production by up to 128 % within one year, but after two years, the production was less pronounced (+35 %). The first-year production was likely very high due to the rapid exploitation of the root-free ingrowth cores. The radiocarbon signatures of fine roots were overall variable among treatments and plots. Soil warming tended to decrease fine root turnover times of all the measured root fractions after 8 and 14 years of warming, and there was a tendency for trees to use older carbon reserves for fine root production in warmed plots. Furthermore, soil warming increased fine root turnover from 50 to 106 g C m−2 yr−1 (based on two different approaches). Our findings suggest that future climate warming may increase carbon input into soils by enhancing fine root turnover. If this increase may partly offset carbon losses by increased mineralization of soil organic matter in temperate forest soils is still unclear and should guide future research.

  • Revisiting process-based simulations of soil nitrite dynamics: Tighter cycling between nitrite and nitrate than considered previously

    Zheng J, Fujii K, Koba K, Wanek W, Müller C, Jansen-Willems AB, Nakajima Y, Wagai R, Canarini A
    2023 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 178: Article 108958

    Abstract: 

    Nitrite is an important precursor of many environmentally hazardous compounds (e.g., nitrate, nitrous oxide, and nitrous acid). However, its dynamics in the soil environment are not yet fully understood. The NtraceNitrite tool has been successful in analyzing 15N tracing data. Here, based on a 15N tracing experiment (under aerobic condition) where either the nitrite, the nitrate, or the ammonium pool was labelled, we developed an extended model (NO2Trace), which was featured by the addition of coupled nitrate reduction and nitrite re-oxidation and the separation of the nitrate pool in two sub-pools. With 5 additional parameters optimized, NO2Trace was able to achieve a superior fit to the data, as compared to the NtraceNitrite tool. The additional features might offer a suitable explanation for the isotopic composition of nitrate produced via nitrification in terrestrial ecosystems. Our results carry two important implications: (i) a key assumption of the classical isotope pool dilution technique (i.e., no reflux of tracer) for estimating gross nitrate fluxes is violated, leading to considerable underestimations (22–99% in the datasets tested); (ii) re-oxidation can dominate the consumption (∼75%) of nitrite derived from nitrate reduction, indicating the potential of this process as a target for nitrogen retention mechanism against gaseous nitrogen losses (through nitrite reduction). The additional features of the extended model show a tighter cycle between soil nitrite and nitrate than considered previously and provide a more comprehensive description of soil nitrite transformations. This study also highlights that more work is needed to develop methods capable of separating process- and pathways-specific nitrate and nitrite pools.

  • Long-term soil warming decreases microbial phosphorus utilization by increasing abiotic phosphorus sorption and phosphorus losses

    Tian Y, Shi C, Malo CU, Kendo SK, Heinzle J, Inselsbacher E, Ottner F, Borken W, Michel K, Schindlbacher A, Wanek W
    2023 - Nature Communications, 14: Article 864

    Abstract: 

    Phosphorus (P) is an essential and often limiting element that could play a crucial role in terrestrial ecosystem responses to climate warming. However, it has yet remained unclear how different P cycling processes are affected by warming. Here we investigate the response of soil P pools and P cycling processes in a mountain forest after 14 years of soil warming (+4 °C). Long-term warming decreased soil total P pools, likely due to higher outputs of P from soils by increasing net plant P uptake and downward transportation of colloidal and particulate P. Warming increased the sorption strength to more recalcitrant soil P fractions (absorbed to iron oxyhydroxides and clays), thereby further reducing bioavailable P in soil solution. As a response, soil microbes enhanced the production of acid phosphatase, though this was not sufficient to avoid decreases of soil bioavailable P and microbial biomass P (and biotic phosphate immobilization). This study therefore highlights how long-term soil warming triggers changes in biotic and abiotic soil P pools and processes, which can potentially aggravate the P constraints of the trees and soil microbes and thereby negatively affect the C sequestration potential of these forests.

  • A rapid and sensitive assay to quantify amino sugars, neutral sugars and uronic acid necromass biomarkers using pre-column derivatization, ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry

    Salas E, Gorfer M, Bandian D, Wang B, Kaiser C, Wanek W
    2023 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 177: Article 108927

    Abstract: 

    Microbial necromass comprises a large fraction of soil organic matter (SOM) due to the accumulation and stabilization of microbial residues from dead archaea, bacteria and fungi. Amino sugars, neutral sugars and uronic acids have been used as microbial necromass biomarkers to trace the origin and composition of microbial residues in the SOM pool. Due to the structural complexity of sugars, derivatization reactions and high-throughput analytical methods are required to separate and quantify these sugar-related compounds. Our aim was to develop a rapid and sensitive assay to measure amino sugar, neutral sugar and uronic acid compounds using pre-column 1-phenyl-3-methyl-5-pyrazolone (PMP) derivatization. PMP-derivatives were separated and quantified via reversed phase (RP) ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to high-resolution Orbitrap mass spectrometry (MS). The method was validated and applied on hydrolyzed peptidoglycans and the biomass of archaeal, bacterial, fungal and plant species, as well as with soils. This developed PMP method allowed the separation and quantification of 18 sugar-related compounds, including four amino sugars, three N-acetyl amino sugars, eight neutral sugars, and three uronic acids within 20 min. This PMP method showed a precision for isotope enrichment detection of 0.03–0.05 atom % 13C for D-glucose and D-glucosamine. This is the first time talosaminuronic acid (deriving from archaeal pseudopeptidoglycan) was identified and quantified using PMP derivatization. The application of this novel PMP method on pure hydrolyzed biomass and soils, showed the successful chromatographic and mass spectrometric separation and quantification of amino sugar, neutral sugar and uronic acid compounds. A multivariate analysis using these sugar-related PMP derivatives showed a clustering of the species according to their respective taxonomic group (archaea, gram-positive bacteria, gram-negative bacteria, fungi and plants). The modified PMP method can be applied to identify and quantify soil microbial necromass biomarkers, as well as their contribution to SOM. The sensitive isotope tracer detection allows tracing isotopically labeled materials into necromass biomarkers in SOM pools.

  • Rapid nitrification involving comammox and canonical Nitrospira at extreme pH in saline-alkaline lakes

    Daebler A, Güell-Bujons Q, Mooshammer M, Zechmeister T, Herbold CW, Richter A, Wagner M, Daims H
    2023 - Environmental Microbiology, 25: 1055-1067

    Abstract: 

    Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) catalyse the second nitrification step and are the main biological source of nitrate. The most diverse and widespread NOB genus is Nitrospira, which also contains complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox) that oxidize ammonia to nitrate. To date, little is known about the occurrence and biology of comammox and canonical nitrite oxidizing Nitrospira in extremely alkaline environments. Here, we studied the seasonal distribution and diversity, and the effect of short-term pH changes on comammox and canonical Nitrospira in sediments of two saline, highly alkaline lakes. We identified diverse canonical and comammox Nitrospira clade A-like phylotypes as the only detectable NOB during more than a year, suggesting their major importance for nitrification in these habitats. Gross nitrification rates measured in microcosm incubations were highest at pH 10 and considerably faster than reported for other natural, aquatic environments. Nitrification could be attributed to canonical and comammox Nitrospira and to Nitrososphaerales ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Furthermore, our data suggested that comammox Nitrospira contributed to ammonia oxidation at an extremely alkaline pH of 11. These results identify saline, highly alkaline lake sediments as environments of uniquely strong nitrification with novel comammox Nitrospira as key microbial players.

  • Close coupling of plant functional types with soil microbial community composition drives soil carbon and nutrient cycling in tundra heath

    Koranda M, Rinnan R, Michelsen A
    2023 - Plant and soil, in press

    Abstract: 

    Aims

    This study aimed at elucidating divergent effects of two dominant plant functional types (PFTs) in tundra heath, dwarf shrubs and mosses, on soil microbial processes and soil carbon (C) and nutrient availability, and thereby to enhance our understanding of the complex interactions between PFTs, soil microbes and soil functioning.

    Methods

    Samples of organic soil were collected under three dwarf shrub species (of distinct mycorrhizal association and life form) and three moss species in early and late growing season. We analysed soil C and nutrient pools, extracellular enzyme activities and phospholipid fatty acid profiles, together with a range of plant traits, soil and abiotic site characteristics.

    Results

    Shrub soils were characterised by high microbial biomass C and phosphorus and phosphatase activity, which was linked with a fungal-dominated microbial community, while moss soils were characterised by high soil nitrogen availability, peptidase and peroxidase activity associated with a bacterial-dominated microbial community. The variation in soil microbial community structure was explained by mycorrhizal association, root morphology, litter and soil organic matter quality and soil pH-value. Furthermore, we found that the seasonal variation in microbial biomass and enzyme activities over the growing season, likely driven by plant belowground C allocation, was most pronounced under the tallest shrub Betula nana.

    Conclusion

    Our study demonstrates a close coupling of PFTs with soil microbial communities, microbial decomposition processes and soil nutrient availability in tundra heath, which suggests potential strong impacts of global change-induced shifts in plant community composition on carbon and nutrient cycling in high-latitude ecosystems.

  • Does long-term soil warming affect microbial element limitation? A test by short-term assays of microbial growth responses to labile C, N and P additions

    Shi C, Urbina-Malo C, Tian Y, Heinzle J, Kendo SK, Inselsbacher E, Borken W, Schindlbacher A, Wanek W
    2023 - Global Change Biology, 29: 2188-2202

    Abstract: 

    Increasing global temperatures have been reported to accelerate soil carbon (C) cycling, but also to promote nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems. However, warming can differentially affect ecosystem C, N and P dynamics, potentially intensifying elemental imbalances between soil resources, plants and soil microorganisms. Here, we investigated the effect of long-term soil warming on microbial resource limitation, based on measurements of microbial growth (18O incorporation into DNA) and respiration after C, N and P amendments. Soil samples were taken from two soil depths (0–10, 10–20 cm) in control and warmed (>14 years warming, +4°C) plots in the Achenkirch soil warming experiment. Soils were amended with combinations of glucose-C, inorganic/organic N and inorganic/organic P in a full factorial design, followed by incubation at their respective mean field temperatures for 24 h. Soil microbes were generally C-limited, exhibiting 1.8-fold to 8.8-fold increases in microbial growth upon C addition. Warming consistently caused soil microorganisms to shift from being predominately C limited to become C-P co-limited. This P limitation possibly was due to increased abiotic P immobilization in warmed soils. Microbes further showed stronger growth stimulation under combined glucose and inorganic nutrient amendments compared to organic nutrient additions. This may be related to a prolonged lag phase in organic N (glucosamine) mineralization and utilization compared to glucose. Soil respiration strongly positively responded to all kinds of glucose-C amendments, while responses of microbial growth were less pronounced in many of these treatments. This highlights that respiration–though easy and cheap to measure—is not a good substitute of growth when assessing microbial element limitation. Overall, we demonstrate a significant shift in microbial element limitation in warmed soils, from C to C-P co-limitation, with strong repercussions on the linkage between soil C, N and P cycles under long-term warming.

  • Spectroscopic analysis of sequestered chloroplasts in Elphidium williamsoni (Foraminifera)

    Lintner M, Wildner M, Lintner B, Wanek W, Heinz P
    2023 - Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 238: Article 112623

    Abstract: 

    Foraminifera are unicellular, marine organisms that occur worldwide. A very common species in the German Wadden Sea is Elphidium williamsoni. Some foraminifera (such as elphidia) are able to use kleptoplastidy, which allows them to incorporate chloroplasts from their algal food source into their own cell body. The experiments reported here are based on the fact that chlorophyll (a and c) can be detected in the intact cells with spectroscopic methods in the visible spectral range, which allows an indirect investigation of the presence of sequestered chloroplasts. Starving experiments of E. williamsoni in the light (24 h continuous) showed that the greatest decrease in chlorophyll content was recorded within the first 20–30 days. From day 60 on, chlorophyll was hardly detectable. Through subsequent feeding on a renewed algal food source a significant increase in the chlorophyll content in foraminifera was noticed. The degradation of chlorophyll in the dark (24 h continuous darkness) during the starving period was much more complex. Chlorophyll was still detected in the cells after 113 days of starving time. Therefore, we hypotheses that the effect of photoinhibition applies to chloroplasts in foraminifera under continuous illumination.

  • Loss of nitrogen fixing capacity in a montane lichen is linked to increased nitrogen deposition

    Crittenden PD, Ellis CJ, Smith RI, Wanek W, Thornton B
    2023 - Journal of Ecology, 111: 288-299

    Abstract: 

    1. The circumboreal/circumpolar N2-fixing lichen Stereocaulon vesuvianum is among the most widespread and abundant fruticose species in montane Britain but has lost the capacity to fix N2 over large areas of the country.
    2. To investigate whether loss of N2-fixation in S. vesuvianum is linked to increased N deposition, we examined thallus morphology, physiology and chemistry at twelve locations representing an N deposition gradient of 3–40 kg ha−1 year−1. Measurements were made in parallel on a non-N2-fixing reference species (Parmelia saxatilis). The presence or absence of cephalodia (N2-fixing nodules containing the cyanobacterium Stigonema sp) was recorded in over 500 herbarium specimens of S. vesuvianum dating back to 1820.
    3. Cephalodium abundance in S. vesuvianum, and 15N concentration in S. vesuvianum and P. saxatilis, were strongly negatively correlated with N deposition and particularly with dry deposited N; cephalodia do not form at total N deposition rates ≥8–9 kg ha−1 year−1. Other morphological oddities in S. vesuvianum at N-polluted sites include increased apothecium (fungal reproductive structure) production and green algal biofilm development. Biofilm covered thalli without cephalodia lacked nitrogenase activity and cephalodia at sites where they rarely develop had nitrogenase activities typical for this species. The presence or absence of cephalodia in herbarium specimens of S. vesuvianum suggest that the present-day N-deposition linked gradient in N2-fixing capacity did not exist in the 19th century and largely developed between 1900–1940.
    4. Synthesis. We provide clear evidence that N2-fixing capacity in S. vesuvianum has been lost in regions subjected to many decades of enhanced atmospheric N deposition. This loss is consistent with established models of diazotrophy, which identify supply of combined N as an inhibitor of N2-fixation. Progressive depletion of thallus 15N with increasing N deposition is in line with available data indicating that much atmospheric N pollution is 15N-depleted. Rates of nitrogenase activity in S. vesuvianum are low compared to other symbiotic systems and perhaps more likely supplanted by elevated N deposition. We suggest that other ecosystem compartments with low rates of fixation (e.g. soils) might also be susceptible to N pollution and merit investigation.
    • The circumboreal/circumpolar N2-fixing lichen Stereocaulon vesuvianum is among the most widespread and abundant fruticose species in montane Britain but has lost the capacity to fix N2 over large areas of the country.
    • To investigate whether loss of N2-fixation in S. vesuvianum is linked to increased N deposition, we examined thallus morphology, physiology and chemistry at twelve locations representing an N deposition gradient of 3–40 kg ha−1 year−1. Measurements were made in parallel on a non-N2-fixing reference species (Parmelia saxatilis). The presence or absence of cephalodia (N2-fixing nodules containing the cyanobacterium Stigonema sp) was recorded in over 500 herbarium specimens of S. vesuvianum dating back to 1820.
    • Cephalodium abundance in S. vesuvianum, and 15N concentration in S. vesuvianum and P. saxatilis, were strongly negatively correlated with N deposition and particularly with dry deposited N; cephalodia do not form at total N deposition rates ≥8–9 kg ha−1 year−1. Other morphological oddities in S. vesuvianum at N-polluted sites include increased apothecium (fungal reproductive structure) production and green algal biofilm development. Biofilm covered thalli without cephalodia lacked nitrogenase activity and cephalodia at sites where they rarely develop had nitrogenase activities typical for this species. The presence or absence of cephalodia in herbarium specimens of S. vesuvianum suggest that the present-day N-deposition linked gradient in N2-fixing capacity did not exist in the 19th century and largely developed between 1900–1940.
    • Synthesis. We provide clear evidence that N2-fixing capacity in S. vesuvianum has been lost in regions subjected to many decades of enhanced atmospheric N deposition. This loss is consistent with established models of diazotrophy, which identify supply of combined N as an inhibitor of N2-fixation. Progressive depletion of thallus 15N with increasing N deposition is in line with available data indicating that much atmospheric N pollution is 15N-depleted. Rates of nitrogenase activity in S. vesuvianum are low compared to other symbiotic systems and perhaps more likely supplanted by elevated N deposition. We suggest that other ecosystem compartments with low rates of fixation (e.g. soils) might also be susceptible to N pollution and merit investigation.
  • Tracing 33P-labelled organic phosphorus compounds in two soils: New insights into decomposition dynamics and direct use by microbes

    Wasner D, Prommer J, Zezula D, Mooshammer M, Hu Y, Wanek W
    2023 - Frontiers in Soil Science, 3: Article 1097965

    Abstract: 

    Introduction: Organic phosphorus (Po) compounds constitute an important pool in soil P cycling, but their decomposition dynamics are poorly understood. Further, it has never been directly tested whether low molecular weight Po compounds are taken up by soil microbes in an intact form, which reduces the dependence of their P acquisition on extracellular phosphatases.

    Methods: We investigated the short-term fate (24 h) of five 33P-labelled Po compounds (teichoic acids, phospholipids, DNA, RNA and soluble organophosphates) and 33P-labelled inorganic P (Pi) in two soils.

    Results: We found indications that soil microbial breakdown of phosphodiesters was limited by the depolymerization step, and that direct microbial uptake of Po occurred to a substantial extent.

    Discussion: We postulate a trade-off between direct Po uptake and complete extracellular Po mineralization. These findings have profound consequences for our understanding of microbial P cycling in soils.

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