• 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

Cyanate and urea are substrates for nitrification by Thaumarchaeota in the marine environment

Ammonia-oxidizing archaea of the phylum Thaumarchaeota are among the most abundant marine microorganisms1. These organisms thrive in the oceans despite ammonium being present at low nanomolar concentrations2,3. Some Thaumarchaeota isolates have been shown to utilize urea and cyanate as energy and N sources through intracellular conversion to ammonium4,5,6. Yet, it is unclear whether patterns observed in culture extend to marine Thaumarchaeota, and whether Thaumarchaeota in the ocean directly utilize urea and cyanate or rely on co-occurring microorganisms to break these substrates down to ammonium. Urea utilization has been reported for marine ammonia-oxidizing communities7,8,9,10, but no evidence of cyanate utilization exists for marine ammonia oxidizers. Here, we demonstrate that in the Gulf of Mexico, Thaumarchaeota use urea and cyanate both directly and indirectly as energy and N sources. We observed substantial and linear rates of nitrite production from urea and cyanate additions, which often persisted even when ammonium was added to micromolar concentrations. Furthermore, single-cell analysis revealed that the Thaumarchaeota incorporated ammonium-, urea- and cyanate-derived N at significantly higher rates than most other microorganisms. Yet, no cyanases were detected in thaumarchaeal genomic data from the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, we tested cyanate utilization in Nitrosopumilus maritimus, which also lacks a canonical cyanase, and showed that cyanate was oxidized to nitrite. Our findings demonstrate that marine Thaumarchaeota can use urea and cyanate as both an energy and N source. On the basis of these results, we hypothesize that urea and cyanate are substrates for ammonia-oxidizing Thaumarchaeota throughout the ocean.

Kitzinger K, Padilla CC, Marchant HK, Hach PF, Herbold CW, Kidane AT, Könneke M, Littmann S, Mooshammer M, Niggemann J, Petriv S, Richter A, Stewart FJ, Wagner M, Kuypers MMM, Bristow LA
2019 - Nature Microbiology, 4: 234-243

Vertical Redistribution of Soil Organic Carbon Pools After Twenty Years of Nitrogen Addition in Two Temperate Coniferous Forests

Nitrogen (N) inputs from atmospheric deposition can increase soil organic carbon (SOC) storage in temperate and boreal forests, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on global climate. However, direct evidence of N-induced SOC sequestration from low-dose, long-term N addition experiments (that is, addition of < 50 kg N ha−1 y−1 for > 10 years) is scarce worldwide and virtually absent for European temperate forests. Here, we examine how tree growth, fine roots, physicochemical soil properties as well as pools of SOC and soil total N responded to 20 years of regular, low-dose N addition in two European coniferous forests in Switzerland and Denmark. At the Swiss site, the addition of 22 kg N ha−1 y−1 (or 1.3 times throughfall deposition) stimulated tree growth, but decreased soil pH and exchangeable calcium. At the Danish site, the addition of 35 kg N ha−1 y−1 (1.5 times throughfall deposition) impaired tree growth, increased fine root biomass and led to an accumulation of N in several belowground pools. At both sites, elevated N inputs increased SOC pools in the moderately decomposed organic horizons, but decreased them in the mineral topsoil. Hence, long-term N addition led to a vertical redistribution of SOC pools, whereas overall SOC storage within 30 cm depth was unaffected. Our results imply that an N-induced shift of SOC from older, mineral-associated pools to younger, unprotected pools might foster the vulnerability of SOC in temperate coniferous forest soils.

Forstner, SJ, Wechselberger V, Müller S, Keiblinger KM, Díaz-Pinés E, Wanek W, Scheppi P, Hagedorn F, Gundersen P, Tatzber M, Gerzabek MH, Zechmeister-Boltenstern S
2019 - Ecosystems, 22: 379-400

Beta diversity and oligarchic dominance in the tropical forests of Southern Costa Rica

Recent studies have reported a consistent pattern of strong dominance of a small subset of tree species in neotropical forests. These species have been called “hyperdominant” at large geographical scales and “oligarchs” at regional‐landscape scales when being abundant and frequent. Forest community assembly is shaped by environmental factors and stochastic processes, but so far the contribution of oligarchic species to the variation of community composition (i.e., beta diversity) remains poorly known. To that end, we established 20.1‐ha plots, that is, five sites with four forest types (ridge, slope and ravine primary forest, and secondary forest) per site, in humid lowland tropical forests of southwestern Costa Rica to (a) investigate how community composition responds to differences in topography, successional stage, and distance among plots for different groups of species (all, oligarch, common and rare/very rare species) and (b) identify oligarch species characterizing changes in community composition among forest types. From a total of 485 species of trees, lianas and palms recorded in this study only 27 species (i.e., 6%) were nominated as oligarch species. Oligarch species accounted for 37% of all recorded individuals and were present in at least half of the plots. Plant community composition significantly differed among forest types, thus contributing to beta diversity at the landscape scale. Oligarch species was the component best explained by geographical and topographic variables, allowing a confident characterization of the beta diversity among tropical lowland forest stands.

Morera-Beita A, Sánchez D, Wanek W, Hofhansl F, Huber W, Chacón-Madrigal E, Montero-Munoz JL, Silla F
2019 - Biotropica, 51: 117-128

Lecture series

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

When are Mycorrhizas Mutualisms?

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