• 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

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

Traits indicating a conservative resource strategy are weakly related to narrow range size in a group of neotropical trees

Biological traits may co-determine differences in geographical range sizes among closely related species. In plants, trait values linked to a conservative resource-use strategy have been hypothesised to be associated with small range sizes. However, the empirical support is mixed and limited to extra-tropical species so far. Here, we analyse the relationship between range size and eight functional traits linked to the plant economics spectrum in congeneric pairs of neotropical tree species of Costa Rica with contrasting range sizes. In the lowland tropical rainforests of southern Costa Rica, we sampled 345 trees from 35 species in 14 genera and measured leaf thickness, leaf dry matter content, specific leaf area, wood specific gravity (WSG), leaf nitrogen (N), leaf phosphorus, leaf potassium and leaf N:P ratio. For each species, we estimated range size as the extent of occurrence using known localities of occurrence. We correlated range sizes with trait data scaled within-genus and with the principal components of the multivariate trait space. WSG was higher and leaf N was lower in species with small range sizes in univariate regression models, although these traits were only weakly related to range size. None of the other six traits was correlated with range size. Results were similar for a model using the principal components of the multivariate trait space, which explained 36% of the variation in species’ extent of occurrence. Again, the traits most strongly associated with the selected components were WSG and leaf N. Although high WSG and low leaf N can be interpreted as indicators of conservative resource-use, we could not detect strong relationships between the respective trait syndrome and range size in our sample of species. Traits related to conservative resource use may hence be involved in determining the range size of the species analysed, but other factors are apparently more important.

Chacón-Madrigal E, Wanek W, Hietz P, Dullinger S
2018 - Perspectives in Plant Ecology Evolution and Systematics, 32: 30-37

Lecture series

Routing while Scouting: How a Slime Mould Optimizes its Transportation Network during Exploration

DANIEL SCHENZ
Hokkaido University, Japan
24.04.2018
15:00 h
Seminar room DOME, UZA 1, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna