• 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

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

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.

Oberleitner F, Egger C, Oberdorfer S, Dullinger S, Wanek W, Hietz P
2020 - Forest Ecology and Management, 479: Article 118580

Cutting out the middle clam: lucinid endosymbiotic bacteria are also associated with seagrass roots worldwide

Seagrasses and lucinid bivalves inhabit highly reduced sediments with elevated sulphide concentrations. Lucinids house symbiotic bacteria (Ca. Thiodiazotropha) capable of oxidising sediment sulphide, and their presence in sediments has been proposed to promote seagrass growth by decreasing otherwise phytotoxic sulphide levels. However, vast and productive seagrass meadows are present in ecosystems where lucinids do not occur. Hence, we hypothesised that seagrasses themselves host these sulphur-oxidising Ca. Thiodiazotropha that could aid their survival when lucinids are absent. We analysed newly generated and publicly available 16S rRNA gene sequences from seagrass roots and sediments across 14 seagrass species and 10 countries and found that persistent and colonising seagrasses across the world harbour sulphur-oxidising Ca. Thiodiazotropha, regardless of the presence of lucinids. We used fluorescence in situ hybridisation to visually confirm the presence of Ca. Thiodiazotropha on roots of Halophila ovalis, a colonising seagrass species with wide geographical, water depth range, and sedimentary sulphide concentrations. We provide the first evidence that Ca. Thiodiazotropha are commonly present on seagrass roots, providing another mechanism for seagrasses to alleviate sulphide stress globally.

Martin BC, Middleton JA, Fraser MW, Marshall IPG, Scholz VV, Hausl B, Schmidt H
2020 - The ISME Journal, in press

Climatic and edaphic controls over tropical forest diversity and vegetation carbon storage

Tropical rainforests harbor exceptionally high biodiversity and store large amounts of carbon in vegetation biomass. However, regional variation in plant species richness and vegetation carbon stock can be substantial, and may be related to the heterogeneity of topoedaphic properties. Therefore, aboveground vegetation carbon storage typically differs between geographic forest regions in association with the locally dominant plant functional group. A better understanding of the underlying factors controlling tropical forest diversity and vegetation carbon storage could be critical for predicting tropical carbon sink strength in response to projected climate change. Based on regionally replicated 1-ha forest inventory plots established in a region of high geomorphological heterogeneity we investigated how climatic and edaphic factors affect tropical forest diversity and vegetation carbon storage. Plant species richness (of all living stems >10 cm in diameter) ranged from 69 to 127 ha−1 and vegetation carbon storage ranged from 114 to 200 t ha−1. While plant species richness was controlled by climate and soil water availability, vegetation carbon storage was strongly related to wood density and soil phosphorus availability. Results suggest that local heterogeneity in resource availability and plant functional composition should be considered to improve projections of tropical forest ecosystem functioning under future scenarios.

Hofhansl F, Chacón-Madrigal E, Fuchslueger L, Jenking D, Morera-Beita A, Plutzar C, Silla F, Andersen KM, Buchs DM, Dullinger S, Fiedler K, Franklin O, Hietz P, Huber W, Quesada CA, Rammig A, Schrodt F, Vincent AG, Weissenhofer A, Wanek W
2020 - Scientific Reports, 10: Article 5066

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