• 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

Life at 0 °C: the biology of the alpine snowbed plant Soldanella pus

All plant species reach a low temperature range limit when either low temperature extremes exceed their freezing tolerance
or when their metabolism becomes too restricted. In this study, we explore the ultimate thermal limit of plant tissue formation
exemplified by a plant species that seemingly grows through snow. By a combination of studies in alpine snowbeds and
under controlled environmental conditions, we demonstrate and quantify that the clonal herb Soldanella pusilla (Primulaceae)
does indeed grow its entire flowering shoot at 0 °C. We show that plants resume growth under 2–3 m of snow in mid-winter,
following an internal clock, with the remaining period under snow until snow melt (mostly in July) sufficient to produce a
flowering shoot that is ready for pollination. When snow pack gets thin, the flowering shoot intercepts and re-radiates longwave
solar radiation, so that snow and ice gently melt around the fragile shoot and the flowers emerge without any mechanical
interaction. We evidence bud preformation in the previous season and enormous non-structural carbohydrate reserves
in tissues (mainly below ground) in the form of soluble sugars (largely stachyose) that would support basic metabolism for
more than 2 entire years under snow. However, cell-wall formation at 0 °C appears to lack unknown strengthening factors,
including lignification (assessed by confocal Raman spectroscopy imaging) that require between a few hours or a day of
warmth after snow melt to complete tissue strengthening. Complemented with a suite of anatomical data, the work opens a
window towards understanding low temperature limits of plant growth in general, with potential relevance for winter crops
and trees at the natural climatic treeline.

Körner C, Riedl S, Keplinger T, Richter A, Wiesenbauer J, Schweingruber F, Hiltbrunner E
2019 - Alpine Botany, 129: 63-80

Characterization of a thaumarchaeal symbiont that drives incomplete nitrification in the tropical sponge Ianthella basta

Marine sponges represent one of the few eukaryotic
groups that frequently harbour symbiotic members of
the Thaumarchaeota, which are important chemoautotrophic
ammonia-oxidizers in many environments.
However, in most studies, direct demonstration of
ammonia-oxidation by these archaea within sponges
is lacking, and little is known about sponge-specific
adaptations of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Here,
we characterized the thaumarchaeal symbiont of the
marine sponge Ianthella basta using metaproteogenomics,
fluorescence in situ hybridization, qPCR
and isotope-based functional assays. ‘Candidatus
Nitrosospongia ianthellae’ is only distantly related
to cultured AOA. It is an abundant symbiont that is
solely responsible for nitrite formation from ammonia
in I. basta that surprisingly does not harbour nitriteoxidizing
microbes. Furthermore, this AOA is equipped
with an expanded set of extracellular subtilisin-like proteases,
a metalloprotease unique among archaea, as
well as a putative branched-chain amino acid ABC
transporter. This repertoire is strongly indicative of a
mixotrophic lifestyle and is (with slight variations) also
found in other sponge-associated, but not in free-living
AOA. We predict that this feature as well as an expanded
and unique set of secreted serpins (protease inhibitors),
a unique array of eukaryotic-like proteins, and a DNAphosporothioation
system, represent important adaptations
of AOA to life within these ancient filter-feeding

Moeller FU, Webster NS, Herbold CW, Behmann F, Domman D, Albertsen M, Mooshammer M, Market S, Turaev D, Becher D, Rattei T, Schweder T, Richter A, Watzka M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M
2019 - Environmental Microbiology, 21: 3831-3854

Editorial: Rhizosphere Functioning and Structural Development as Complex Interplay Between Plants, Microorganisms and Soil Minerals

Mueller CW, Carminati A, Kaiser C, Subke JA, Gutjahr C
2019 - Frontiers in Environmental Science, 7: Article 130

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