Publications in peer reviewed journals

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

    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


    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.

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

    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


    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.

  • Permafrost causes unique fine-scale spatial variability across tundra soils

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


    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.

  • Recovery of aboveground biomass, species richness and composition in tropical secondary forests in SW Costa Rica

    Oberleitner F, Egger C, Oberdorfer S, Dullinger S, Wanek W, Hietz P
    2021 - Forest Ecology and Management, 479: Article 118580


    Tropical secondary forests comprise about half of the world’s tropical forests and are important as carbon sinks and to conserve biodiversity. Their rate of recovery varies widely; however, particularly older secondary forests are difficult to date so that the recovery rate is uncertain. As a consequence, factors affecting recovery are difficult to analyse. We used aerial surveys going back to 1968 to date 12 secondary forests in the wet tropics of SW Costa Rica and evaluated the recovery of aboveground biomass, tree species richness and tree species composition in relation to nearby old-growth forests and previous land use. To confirm the validity of the space-for-time substitution, the plots were re-censused after four years. We found fast rates of aboveground biomass accumulation, especially in the first years of succession. After 20 years AGB had reached c. 164 Mg/ha equivalent to 52% of the biomass in old-growth forests in the region. Species richness increased at a slower pace and had reached c. 31% of old-growth forests after 20 years. Recovery rates differed substantially among forests, with biomass at least initially recovering faster in forests after clearcuts whereas species numbers increased faster in forests recovering from pastures. Biomass recovery was positively related to the forest cover in the vicinity and negatively to species richness, whereas species richness was related to soil parameters. The change during the four years between the censuses is broadly in line with the initial chronosequence. While the recovery of tropical secondary forests has been studied in many places, our study shows that various environmental parameters affect the speed of recovery, which is important to include in efforts to manage and restore tropical landscapes.

  • Empirical support for the biogeochemical niche hypothesis in forest trees

    Sardans J, Vallicrosa H, Zuccarini P, Farré-Armengol G, Fernández-Martínez M, Guille P, Gargallo-Garriga A, Ciais P, Janssens IA, Obersteiner M, Richter A, Peñuelas J
    2021 - Nature Ecology & Evolution, 5: 184-194


    The possibility of using the elemental compositions of species as a tool to identify species/genotype niche remains to be tested at a global scale. We investigated relationships between the foliar elemental compositions (elementomes) of trees at a global scale with phylogeny, climate, N deposition and soil traits. We analysed foliar N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S concentrations in 23,962 trees of 227 species. Shared ancestry explained 60–94% of the total variance in foliar nutrient concentrations and ratios whereas current climate, atmospheric N deposition and soil type together explained 1–7%, consistent with the biogeochemical niche hypothesis which predicts that each species will have a specific need for and use of each bio-element. The remaining variance was explained by the avoidance of nutritional competition with other species and natural variability within species. The biogeochemical niche hypothesis is thus able to quantify species-specific tree niches and their shifts in response to environmental changes.

  • Comparable canopy and soil free-living nitrogen fixation rates in a lowland tropical forest

    Van Langenhove L, Depaepe T, Verryckt LT, Fuchslueger L, Leroy JDC, Moorthy SMK, Gargallo-Garriga A, Ellwood MDF, Verbeeck H, Van Der Straeten D, Peñuelas J, Janssens IA
    2021 - Science of The Total Environment, 754: Article 142202


    Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is a fundamental part of nitrogen cycling in tropical forests, yet little is known about the contribution made by free-living nitrogen fixers inhabiting the often-extensive forest canopy. We used the acetylene reduction assay, calibrated with 15N2, to measure free-living BNF on forest canopy leaves, vascular epiphytes, bryophytes and canopy soil, as well as on the forest floor in leaf litter and soil. We used a combination of calculated and published component densities to upscale free-living BNF rates to the forest level. We found that bryophytes and leaves situated in the canopy in particular displayed high mass-based rates of free-living BNF. Additionally, we calculated that nearly 2 kg of nitrogen enters the forest ecosystem through free-living BNF every year, 40% of which was fixed by the various canopy components. Our results reveal that in the studied tropical lowland forest a large part of the nitrogen input through free-living BNF stems from the canopy, but also that the total nitrogen inputs by free-living BNF are lower than previously thought and comparable to the inputs of reactive nitrogen by atmospheric deposition.

  • Acidobacteria are active and abundant members of diverse atmospheric H2-oxidizing communities detected in temperate soils

    Eichorst S, Giguere A, Meier D, Herbold C, Richter A, Greening C, Woebken D
    2021 - ISME Journal, 15: 363-376


    Significant rates of atmospheric dihydrogen (H2) consumption have been observed in temperate soils due to the activity of high-affinity enzymes, such as the group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenase. We designed broadly inclusive primers targeting the large subunit gene (hhyL) of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases for long-read sequencing to explore its taxonomic distribution across soils. This approach revealed a diverse collection of microorganisms harboring hhyL, including previously unknown groups and taxonomically not assignable sequences. Acidobacterial group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenase genes were abundant and expressed in temperate soils. To support the participation of acidobacteria in H2 consumption, we studied two representative mesophilic soil acidobacteria, which expressed group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases and consumed atmospheric H2 during carbon starvation. This is the first time mesophilic acidobacteria, which are abundant in ubiquitous temperate soils, have been shown to oxidize H2 down to below atmospheric concentrations. As this physiology allows bacteria to survive periods of carbon starvation, it could explain the success of soil acidobacteria. With our long-read sequencing approach of group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenase genes, we show that the ability to oxidize atmospheric levels of H2 is more widely distributed among soil bacteria than previously recognized and could represent a common mechanism enabling bacteria to persist during periods of carbon deprivation.

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