• 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

pH-Dependent Bioavailability, Speciation, and Phytotoxicity of Tungsten (W) in Soil Affect Growth and Molybdoenzyme Activity of Nodulated Soybeans

Increasing use of tungsten (W)-based products opened new pathways for W into environmental systems. Due to its chemical alikeness with molybdenum (Mo), W is expected to behave similarly to its “twin element”, Mo; however, our knowledge of the behavior of W in the plant−soil environment remains inadequate. The aim of this study was to investigate plant growth as well as W and nutrient uptake depending on soil chemical properties such as soil pH and texture. Soybean (Glycine max cv. Primus) was grown on two acidic soils differing in soil texture that were either kept at their natural soil pH (pH of 4.5−5) or limed (pH of ≥7) and amended with increasing concentrations of metallic W (control and 500 and 5000 mg kg−1 ). In addition, the activity of molybdoenzymes involved in N assimilation (nitrate reductase) and symbiotic N2 fixation (nitrogenase) was also investigated. Our results showed that the risk of W entering the food web was significantly greater in high-pH soils due to increased solubility of mainly monomeric W. The effect of soil texture on W solubility and phytoavailability was less pronounced compared to soil pH. Particularly at intermediate W additions (W 500 mg kg−1 ), symbiotic nitrogen fixation was able to compensate for reduced leaf nitrate reductase activity. When W soil solution concentrations became too toxic (W 5000 mg kg−1 ), nodulation was more strongly inhibited than nitrogenase activity in the few nodules formed, suggesting a more-efficient detoxification and compartmentalization mechanism in nodules than in soybean leaves. The increasing presence of polymeric W species observed in low-pH soils spiked with high W concentrations resulted in decreased W uptake. Simultaneously, polymeric W species had an overall negative effect on nutrient assimilation and plant growth, suggesting a greater phytotoxicity of W polymers. Our study demonstrates the importance of accounting for soil pH in risk assessment studies of W in the plant−soil environment, something that has been completely neglected in the past.

Oburger E, Cid CV, Preiner J, Hu J, Hann S, Wanek W, Richter A
2018 - Environmental Science & Technology, in press

A multi-isotopic approach to investigate the influence of land use on nitrate removal in a highly saline lake-aquifer system

Endorheic or closed drainage basins in arid and semi-arid regions are vulnerable to pollution. Nonetheless, in the freshwater-saltwater interface of endorheic saline lakes, oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions can attenuate pollutants such as nitrate (NO3-). This study traces the ways of nitrogen (N) removal in the Pétrola lake-aquifer system (central Spain), an endorheic basin contaminated with NO3- (up to 99.2mg/L in groundwater). This basin was declared vulnerable to NO3- pollution in 1998 due to the high anthropogenic pressures (mainly agriculture and wastewaters). Hydrochemical, multi-isotopic (δ18ONO3, δ15NNO3, δ13CDIC, δ18OH2O, and δ2HH2O) and geophysical techniques (electrical resistivity tomography) were applied to identify the main redox processes at the freshwater-saltwater interface. The results showed that the geometry of this interface is influenced by land use, causing spatial variability of nitrogen biogeochemical processes over the basin. In the underlying aquifer, NO3- showed an average concentration of 38.5mg/L (n=73) and was mainly derived from agricultural inputs. Natural attenuation of NO3- was observed in dryland farming areas (up to 72%) and in irrigation areas (up to 66%). In the Pétrola Lake, mineralization and organic matter degradation in lake sediment play an important role in NO3- reduction. Our findings are a major step forward in understanding freshwater-saltwater interfaces as reactive zones for NO3- attenuation. We further emphasize the importance of including a land use perspective when studying water quality-environmental relationships in hydrogeological systems dominated by density-driven circulation.

Valiente N, Carrey R, Otero N, Soler A, Sanz D, Muñoz-Martín A, Jirsa F, Wanek W, Gómez-Alday JJ
2018 - Science of The Total Environment, 631: 649-659

Is local trait variation related to total range size of tropical trees?

The reasons why the range size of closely related species often varies significantly have intrigued scientists for many years. Among other hypotheses, species with high trait variation were suggested to occupy more diverse environments, have more continuity in their distributions, and consequently have larger range sizes. Here, using 34 tree species of lowlands tropical rainforest in southern Costa Rica, we explored whether inherent trait variability expressed at the local scale in functional traits is related to the species’ total geographical range size. We formed 17 congeneric pairs of one narrow endemic and one widespread species, sampled 335 individuals and measured eight functional traits: leaf area, leaf thickness, leaf dry matter content, specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content, leaf nitrogen to phosphorus ratio, and wood specific gravity. We tested whether there are significant differences in the locally expressed variation of individual traits or in multidimensional trait variance between the species in congeneric pairs and whether species’ range size could hence be predicted from local trait variability. However, we could not find such differences between widely distributed and narrow range species. We discuss the possible reasons for these findings including the fact that higher trait variability of widespread species may result from successive local adaptations during range expansion and may hence often be an effect rather than the cause of larger ranges.

Chacón-Madrigal E, Wanek W, Hietz P, Dullinger S
2018 - PLoS One, 19

Lecture series

When are Mycorrhizas Mutualisms?

Nancy Collins Johnson
Northern Arizona University, USA
16:15 h
Hörsaal 2 (UZA 1), Althanstraße 14, 1090 Wien