• 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

Coupled carbon and nitrogen losses in response to seven years of chronic warming in subarctic soils

Increasing temperatures may alter the stoichiometric demands of soil microbes and impair their capacity to stabilize carbon (C) and retain nitrogen (N), with critical consequences for the soil C and N storage at high latitude soils. Geothermally active areas in Iceland provided wide, continuous and stable gradients of soil temperatures to test this hypothesis. In order to characterize the stoichiometric demands of microbes from these subarctic soils, we incubated soils from ambient temperatures after the factorial addition of C, N and P substrates separately and in combination. In a second experiment, soils that had been exposed to different in situ warming intensities (+0, +0.5, +1.8, +3.4, +8.7, +15.9 °C above ambient) for seven years were incubated after the combined addition of C, N and P to evaluate the capacity of soil microbes to store and immobilize C and N at the different warming scenarios. The seven years of chronic soil warming triggered large and proportional soil C and N losses (4.1 ± 0.5% °C−1 of the stocks in unwarmed soils) from the upper 10 cm of soil, with a predominant depletion of the physically accessible organic substrates that were weakly sorbed in soil minerals up to 8.7 °C warming. Soil microbes met the increasing respiratory demands under conditions of low C accessibility at the expenses of a reduction of the standing biomass in warmer soils. This together with the strict microbial C:N stoichiometric demands also constrained their capacity of N retention, and increased the vulnerability of soil to N losses. Our findings suggest a strong control of microbial physiology and C:N stoichiometric needs on the retention of soil N and on the resilience of soil C stocks from high-latitudes to warming, particularly during periods of vegetation dormancy and low C inputs.

Marañon-Jimenez S, Peñuelas J, Richter A, Sigurdsson BD, Fuchslueger L, Leblans NIW, Janssens IA
2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 134: 152-161

Variation in rhizosphere priming and microbial growth and carbon use efficiency caused by wheat genotypes and temperatures

Living roots can influence microbial decomposition of soil organic matter, which has been referred to as the rhizosphere priming effect (RPE). Both microbial carbon efficiency (CUE) and microbial growth and turnover rates are associated with microbial decomposition and respiration of soil-derived C, but their linkage to the RPE remains poorly understood. Here we used a natural 13C tracer method to determine the RPE in soils planted with two wheat genotypes (249 or IAW2013) grown at high (30/24 °C during day/night) and low temperature (25/17 °C during day/night). We also determined microbial CUE, growth and biomassturnover rate using a substrate-independent H218O labeling method. The RPE varied from −2 to +455%, with significant effects of genotype, sampling date and their interaction with temperature. Compared to the unplanted control, microbial biomass C and growth/turnover rate were both enhanced in planted pots, with an average increase of 17% and 70%, respectively. Microbial CUE was lowest in pots planted with IAW2013 at low temperature, but there were no significant main effects of planting and temperature. Microbial biomass growth/turnover rate together with CUE accounted for 83% of the variation in soil-derived CO2, with a relatively larger contribution of microbial biomass growth/turnover rate (52%) than CUE (31%). Furthermore, using linear regression, we demonstrated that the RPE was significantly positively related to microbial biomass growth/turnover rate. No net soil organic C (SOC) loss or gain was detected, indicating that any increase in SOC due to increased microbial growth/turnover was counteracted by C loss caused by a higher RPE during the relatively short time of planting. These findings suggest that microbial biomass turnover associated with growth could control the loss of SOC with planting. We highlight the importance of plant-induced changes in microbial CUE and biomass growth/turnover for long-term soil C dynamics.

Yin L, Corneo PE, Richter A, Wang P, Cheng W, Dijkstra FA
2019 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 134: 54-61

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

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