Publications

Publications in peer reviewed journals

21 Publications found
  • Functional leaf traits of vascular epiphytes: vertical trends within the forest, intra- and interspecific trait variability, and taxonomic signals

    Petter G, Wagner K, Wanek W, Delago EJS, Zotz G, Cabral JS, Kreft H
    2016 - Functional Ecology, 30: 188-198

    Abstract: 

    Summary

    1. Analysing functional traits along environmental gradients can improve our understanding of the mechanisms structuring plant communities. Within forests, vertical gradients in light intensity, temperature and humidity are often pronounced. Vascular epiphytes are particularly suitable for studying the influence of these vertical gradients on functional traits because they lack contact with the soil and thus individual plants are entirely exposed to different environmental conditions, from the dark and humid understorey to the sunny and dry outer canopy.
    2. In this study, we analysed multiple aspects of the trait-based ecology of vascular epiphytes: shifts in trait values with height above ground (as a proxy for vertical environmental gradients) at community and species level, the importance of intra- vs. interspecific trait variability, and trait differences among taxonomic groups. We assessed ten leaf traits for 1151 individuals belonging to 83 epiphyte species of all major taxonomic groups co-occurring in a Panamanian lowland forest.
    3. Community mean trait values of many leaf traits were strongly correlated with height and particularly specific leaf area and chlorophyll concentration showed nonlinear, negative trends.
    4. Intraspecific trait variability was pronounced and accounted for one-third of total observed trait variance. Intraspecific trait adjustments along the vertical gradient were common and seventy per cent of all species showed significant trait–height relationships. In addition, intraspecific trait variability was positively correlated with the vertical range occupied by species.
    5. We observed significant trait differences between major taxonomic groups (orchids, ferns, aroids, bromeliads). In ferns, for instance, leaf dry matter content was almost twofold higher than in the other taxonomic groups. This indicates that some leaf traits are taxonomically conserved.
    6. Our study demonstrates that vertical environmental gradients strongly influence functional traits of vascular epiphytes. In order to understand community composition along such gradients, it is central to study several aspects of trait-based ecology, including both community and intraspecific trends of multiple traits.
  • Mycorrhizas across scales: a journey between genomics, global patterns of biodiversity and biogeochemistry

    Chagnon P, Rineau F, Kaiser C
    2016 - New Phytologist, 209: 913-916

    Abstract: 

    Mycorrhizal fungi are found in almost all ecosystems of the planet.
    They interact with a majority of plant species, and it seems that
    every single aspect of the life history of a plant individual is affected
    by the presence of mycorrhizal fungal symbion ts in its roots (van der
    Heijden et al., 2015). Mycorrhizal fungi are also known to affect
    plant population-level and community-level dynamics. Yet, classic
    800-page plant ecology textbooks typically devote only one to two
    pages to mycorrhizal symbioses. Is it time to put mycorrhizal
    ecologists on the editorial boards of these textbooks? Meetings like
    the International Conference on Mycorrhizas (ICOM) tend to
    suggest that this might not be a bad idea.
    On August 37, 2015, mycorrhizal researchers from around the
    world shared their thoughts and empirical results on these globally
    widespread symbioses at a comfortable elevation of 2135 m in
    Flagstaff, Arizona, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, like
    widespread Ponderosa Pine forests, the San Francisco Peaks area,
    and the impressive Grand Canyon. New Phytologist was present
    as a sponsor, continuing its ongoing support of mycorrhizal
    research (Selosse & Martin, 2013; Dickie et al., 2015). Through
    talks and posters, mycorrhizal researchers literally took us on a
    journey across all scales of observation of this symbiosis: from the
    intracellular environment to global patterns of mycorrhizal
    fungal diversity and biogeochemical cycles (Fig. 1).

    Mycorrhizal fungi are found in almost all ecosystems of the planet.

    They interact with a majority of plant species, and it seems that
    every single aspect of the life history of a plant individual is affected
    by the presence of mycorrhizal fungal symbion ts in its roots (van der
    Heijden et al., 2015). Mycorrhizal fungi are also known to affect
    plant population-level and community-level dynamics. Yet, classic
    800-page plant ecology textbooks typically devote only one to two
    pages to mycorrhizal symbioses. Is it time to put mycorrhizal
    ecologists on the editorial boards of these textbooks? Meetings like
    the International Conference on Mycorrhizas (ICOM) tend to
    suggest that this might not be a bad idea.
    On August 37, 2015, mycorrhizal researchers from around the
    world shared their thoughts and empirical results on these globally
    widespread symbioses at a comfortable elevation of 2135 m in
    Flagstaff, Arizona, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, like
    widespread Ponderosa Pine forests, the San Francisco Peaks area,
    and the impressive Grand Canyon. New Phytologist was present
    as a sponsor, continuing its ongoing support of mycorrhizal
    research (Selosse & Martin, 2013; Dickie et al., 2015). Through
    talks and posters, mycorrhizal researchers literally took us on a
    journey across all scales of observation of this symbiosis: from the
    intracellular environment to global patterns of mycorrhizal
    fungal diversity and biogeochemical cycles (Fig. 1).
  • Geothermal ecosystems as natural climate change experiments: The ForHot research site in Iceland as a case study

    Sigurdsson BD, Leblans NIW, Dauwe S, Guðmundsdóttir E, Gundersen P, Gunnarsdóttir GE, Holmstrup M, Ilieva-Makulec K, Kätterer T, Marteinsdóttir B, Maljanen M, Oddsdóttir ES, Ostonen I, Peñuelas J, Poeplau C, Richter A, Sigurðsson P, Van Bodegom P, Wallander H, Weedon J, Janssens I
    2016 - Icelandic Agricultural Sciences (IAS), 29: 53-71

    Abstract: 

    This article describes how natural geothermal soil temperature gradients in Iceland have been used to study terrestrial ecosystem responses to soil warming. The experimental approach was evaluated at three study sites in southern Iceland; one grassland site that has been warm for at least 50 years (GO), and another comparable grassland site (GN) and a Sitka spruce plantation (FN) site that have both been warmed since an earthquake took place in 2008. Within each site type, five ca. 50 m long transects, with six permanent study plots each, were established across the soil warming gradients, spanning from unwarmed control conditions to gradually warmer soils. It was attempted to select the plots so the annual warming levels would be ca. +1, +3, +5, +10 and +20 °C within each transect. Results of continuous measurements of soil temperature (Ts) from 2013-2015 revealed that the soil warming was relatively constant and followed the seasonal Ts cycle of the unwarmed control plots. Volumetric water content in the top 5 cm of soil was repeatedly surveyed during 2013-2016. The grassland soils were wetter than the FN soils, but they had sometimes some significant warming-induced drying in the surface layer of the warmest plots, in contrast to FN. Soil chemistry did not show any indications that geothermal water had reached the root zone, but soil pH did increase somewhat with warming, which was probably linked to vegetation changes. As expected, the potential decomposition rate of organic matter increased significantly with warming. It was concluded that the natural geothermal gradients at the ForHot sites in Iceland offered realistic conditions for studying terrestrial ecosystem responses to warming with minimal artefacts. 

  • Little effects on soil organic matter chemistry of density fractions after seven years of forest soil warming

    Schnecker J, Borken W, Schindlbacher A, Wanek W
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 103: 300-307

    Abstract: 

    Rising temperatures enhance microbial decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM) and thereby increase the soil CO2 efflux. Elevated decomposition rates might differently affect distinct SOM pools, depending on their stability and accessibility. Soil fractions derived from density fractionation have been suggested to represent SOM pools with different turnover times and stability against microbial decomposition.

    To investigate the effect of soil warming on functionally different soil organic matter pools, we here investigated the chemical and isotopic composition of bulk soil and three density fractions (free particulate organic matter, fPOM; occluded particulate organic matter, oPOM; and mineral associated organic matter, MaOM) of a C-rich soil from a long-term warming experiment in a spruce forest in the Austrian Alps. At the time of sampling, the soil in this experiment had been warmed during the snow-free period for seven consecutive years. During that time no thermal adaptation of the microbial community could be identified and CO2 release from the soil continued to be elevated by the warming treatment. Our results, which included organic carbon content, total nitrogen content, δ13C, Δ14C, δ15N and the chemical composition, identified by pyrolysis-GC/MS, showed no significant differences in bulk soil between warming treatment and control. Surprisingly, the differences in the three density fractions were mostly small and the direction of warming induced change was variable with fraction and soil depth. Warming led to reduced N content in topsoil oPOM and subsoil fPOM and to reduced relative abundance of N-bearing compounds in subsoil MaOM. Further, warming increased the δ13C of MaOM at both sampling depths, reduced the relative abundance of carbohydrates while it increased the relative abundance of lignins in subsoil oPOM. As the size of the functionally different SOM pools did not significantly change, we assume that the few and small modifications in SOM chemistry result from an interplay of enhanced microbial decomposition of SOM and increased root litter input in the warmed plots. Overall, stable functional SOM pool sizes indicate that soil warming had similarly affected easily decomposable and stabilized SOM of this C-rich forest soil.

     
  • Microbial decomposition of 13C- labeled phytosiderophores in the rhizosphere of wheat: Mineralization dynamics and key microbial groups involved

    Oburger E, Gruber B, Wanek W, Watzinger A, Stanetty C, Schindlegger Y, Hann S., Schenkeveld WDC, Kraemer SM, Puschenteiter M
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 98: 196-207

    Abstract: 

    Being low molecular weight carbon (LMW-C) compounds, phytosiderophores (PS) released by strategy II plants are highly susceptible to microbial decomposition. However, to date very little is known about the fate of PS in soil. Using in-house synthesized 13C4-2′-deoxymugineic acid (DMA), the main PS released by wheat, we investigated DMA mineralization dynamics, including microbial incorporation into phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA), in the wheat rhizosphere and bulk soil of two alkaline and one acidic soil. Half-lives of the intact DMA molecule (3–8 h) as well as of DMA-derived C-compounds (8–38 days) were in the same order of magnitude as those published for other LMW-C compounds like sugars, amino acids and organic acids. Combining mineralization with PLFA data showed that between 40 and 65% of the added DMA was either respired or incorporated into soil microbial biomass after 24 h, with the largest part of total incorporated DMA-13C being recovered in gram negative bacteria. Considering root growth dynamics and that PS are mainly exuded from root tips, the significantly slower mineralization of DMA in bulk soil is of high ecological importance to enhance the Fe scavenging efficiency of PS released into the soil.

  • Stable isotope signatures reflect dietary diversity in European forest moths

    Adams MO, Seifert CL, Lehner L, Truxa C, Wanek W, Fiedler K
    2016 - Frontiers in Zoology, 13: 1-10

    Abstract: 

    Background: Information on larval diet of many holometabolous insects remains incomplete. Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotope analysis in adult wing tissue can provide an efficient tool to infer such trophic relationships. The present study examines whether moth feeding guild affiliations taken from literature are reflected in isotopic signatures. Results: Non-metric multidimensional scaling and permutational analysis of variance indicate that centroids of dietary groups differ significantly. In particular, species whose larvae feed on mosses or aquatic plants deviated from those that consumed vascular land plants. Moth δ15N signatures spanned a broader range, and were less dependent on species identity than δ13C values. Comparison between moth samples and ostensible food sources revealed heterogeneity in the lichenivorous guild, indicating only Lithosia quadra as an obligate lichen feeder. Among root-feeding Agrotis segetum, some specimens appear to have developed on crop plants in forest-adjacent farm land. Reed-feeding stem-borers may partially rely on intermediary trophic levels such as fungal or bacterial growth. Conclusion: Diagnostic partitioning of moth dietary guilds based on isotopic signatures alone could not be achieved, but hypotheses on trophic relationships based on often vague literature records could be assessed with high resolution. Hence, the approach is well suited for basic categorization of moths where diet is unknown or notoriously difficult to observe (i.e. Microlepidoptera, lichen-feeders). Keywords: δ13C, δ15N, Larval diet, Trophic position Abbreviations: C, Chemical symbol for carbon; IAEA-CH-6, Reference standard for 13C/12C ratios derived from sucrose and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-CH-7, Reference standard for 13C/12C ratios derived from polyethylene and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-N-1, Reference standard for 15N/ 14N ratios derived from ammonium sulfate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-N- 2, Reference standard for 15N/14N ratios derived from ammonium sulfate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); IAEA-NO-3, Reference standard for 15N/14N ratios derived from potassium nitrate and provided by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA); MMDS, Metric multi-dimensional scaling; N, Chemical symbol for nitrogen; NMDS, Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling; SD, Standard deviation; TLE, Trophic level enrichment; δ 13C, Shift in the 13C/12C ratio of the sample relative to the reference standard (i.e. Pee Dee Belemnite); δ 15N, Shift in the 15N/14N ratio of the sample relative to the reference standard (i.e. atmospheric nitrogen)

  • Microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover times depending on soil depth - Implications for carbon cycling.

    Spohn M, Klaus K, Wanek W, Richter A
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 96: 74-81

    Abstract: 

    Processing of organic carbon (C) by soil microorganisms is a key process of terrestrial C cycling. For this reason we studied (i) microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE) defined as C allocated to growth over organic C taken up by the microbial community, and (ii) the turnover time of microbial biomass in a pasture and in two forest soils. We hypothesized that microbial CUE decreases in mineral soils with depth from the topsoil to the subsoil, while the turnover time of the microbial biomass increases due to energetic constrains. We determined microbial CUE and turnover of microbial biomass C using a novel substrate-independent method based on incorporation of 18O from labeled water into microbial DNA with concurrent measurements of basal respiration. Microorganisms showed decreasing C uptake rates with decreasing C contents in the deeper soil layers. In the forest soils, no adaptation of microbial CUE with soil depth took place, i.e., microbes in the forest topsoil used C at the same efficiency as microbes in the subsoil. However, in the pasture soil, microbial CUE decreased in the lower soil layers compared to the topsoil, indicating that microorganisms in the deeper soil layers allocated relatively more C to respiration. In the organic soil layer, microorganisms respired more per unit microbial biomass C than in the subsoil, but had a similar CUE despite the high C-to-nitrogen and C-to-phosphorus ratios of the litter layers. The turnover time of microbial biomass increased with soil depth in the two forest soils. Thus, in the forest soils, a lower microbial C uptake rate in the deeper soil layers was partially compensated by a longer turnover time of microbial biomass C. In conclusion, our findings emphasize that in addition to microbial CUE, the turnover time of the microbial biomass strongly affects soil C cycling.

    Keywords

    • Soil microbial carbon use efficiency
    • Growth efficiency
    • Organic matter decomposition;
    • Microbial metabolism
    • Stoichiometry
    • Microbial biomass carbon turnover
  • Drought history affects grassland plant and microbial carbon turnover during and after a subsequent drought event

    Fuchslueger L, Bahn M, Hasibeder R, Kienzl S, Fritz K, Schmitt M, Watzka M, Richter A
    2016 - Journal of Ecology, 104: 1453-1465

    Abstract: 

    Summary

    1. Drought periods are projected to become more severe and more frequent in many European regions. While effects of single strong droughts on plant and microbial carbon (C) dynamics have been studied in some detail, impacts of recurrent drought events are still little understood.
    2. We tested whether the legacy of extreme experimental drought affects responses of plant and microbial C and nitrogen (N) turnover to further drought and rewetting. In a mountain grassland, we conducted a 13C pulse-chase experiment during a naturally occurring drought and rewetting event in plots previously exposed to experimental droughts and in ambient controls (AC). After labelling, we traced 13C below-ground allocation and incorporation into soil microbes using phospholipid fatty acid biomarkers.
    3. Drought history (DH) had no effects on the standing shoot and fine root plant biomass. However, plants with experimental DH displayed decreased shoot N concentrations and increased fine root N concentrations relative to those in AC. During the natural drought, plants with DH assimilated and allocated less 13C below-ground; moreover, fine root respiration was reduced and not fuelled by fresh C compared to plants in AC.
    4. Regardless of DH, microbial biomass remained stable during natural drought and rewetting. Although microbial communities initially differed in their composition between soils with and without DH, they responded to the natural drought and rewetting in a similar way: gram-positive bacteria increased, while fungal and gram-negative bacteria remained stable. In soils with DH, a strongly reduced uptake of recent plant-derived 13C in microbial biomarkers was observed during the natural drought, pointing to a smaller fraction of active microbes or to a microbial community that is less dependent on plant C.
    5. Synthesis. Drought history can induce changes in above- vs. below-ground plant N concentrations and affect the response of plant C turnover to further droughts and rewetting by decreasing plant C uptake and below-ground allocation. DH does not affect the responses of the microbial community to further droughts and rewetting, but alters microbial functioning, particularly the turnover of recent plant-derived carbon, during and after further drought periods.
  • Exploring the metabolic potential of microbial communities in ultra-basic, reducing springs at The Cedars, CA, USA: Experimental evidence of microbial methanogenesis and heterotrophic acetogenesis

    Kohl L, Cumming E, Cox A, Rietze A, Morrissey L, Lang SQ, Richter A, Suzuki S, Nealson KH, Morrill PL
    2016 - Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences, 4: 1203-1220

    Abstract: 

    Present-day serpentinization generates groundwaters with conditions (pH > 11, Eh < −550 mV) favorable for the microbial and abiotic production of organic compounds from inorganic precursors. Elevated concentrations of methane, C2-C6 alkanes, acetate, and formate have been detected at these sites, but the microbial or abiotic origin of these compounds remains unclear. While geochemical data indicate that methane at most sites of present-day serpentinization is abiogenic, the stable carbon, hydrogen, and clumped isotope data as well as the hydrocarbon gas composition from The Cedars, CA, USA, are consistent with a microbial origin for methane. However, there is no direct evidence of methanogenesis at this site of serpentinization. We report on laboratory experiments in which the microbial communities in fluids and sediments from The Cedars were incubated with 13C labeled substrates. Increasing methane concentrations and the incorporation of 13C into methane in live experiments, but not in killed controls, demonstrated that methanogens converted methanol, formate, acetate (methyl group), and bicarbonate to methane. The apparent fractionation between methane and potential substrates (α13CCH4-CO2(g) = 1.059 to 1.105, α13CCH4-acetate = 1.042 to 1.119) indicated that methanogenesis was dominated by the carbonate reduction pathway. Increasing concentrations of volatile organic acid anions indicated microbial acetogenesis. α13CCO2(g)-acetate values (0.999 to 1.000), however, were inconsistent with autotrophic acetogenesis, thus suggesting that acetate was produced through fermentation. This is the first study to show direct evidence of microbial methanogenesis and acetogenesis by the native microbial community at a site of present-day serpentinization.

  • Moss δ13C: Implications for subantarctic palaeohydrological reconstructions

    Bramley-Alves J, Wanek W, Robinson SA
    2016 - Palaeogeography, 453: 20-29

    Abstract: 

    Southern Ocean Islands, despite their equitable oceanic climates, have recently experienced a number of pronounced climate variations. Shifts in water availability in this region are of concern; however, methods of measuring water availability are currently inadequate. Recent advances using stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) in Antarctic mosses to record long-term variations in water availability suggest that this technique might be applicable in other locations where conditions are cold enough to produce meaningful moss growth for reconstructions. Verification of this technique at each new location is essential, however, due to disparity between species and climates. Here, variations in δ13CBULK with growth water availability were measured in three moss species on subantarctic Macquarie Island. We found these subantarctic mosses showed no difference in δ13CBULK signatures between growth water environments and displayed more negative δ13CBULK ranges than those from East Antarctica, suggesting that climatic differences override the microclimate signal. Despite significant differences in leaf cell morphology there was no variation in δ13CBULK between these subantarctic species. It may be that these species are unsuitable as biological proxies due to their growth form being less dense than the turf forming Antarctic species. This underlines the need to carryout preliminary research into moss carbon isotope fractionation for each new region, and for each species, where palaeohydrological reconstructions are planned – a step that is often not given appropriate consideration in palaeo-research.

  • Metabolism of mineral-sorbed organic matter and microbial lifestyles in fluvial ecosystems

    Hunter WR, Niederdorfer R, Gernand A, Veuger B, Prommer J, Mooshammer M, Wanek W, Battin TJ
    2016 - Geophysical Research Letters, 43: 1582-1588

    Abstract: 

    In fluvial ecosystems mineral erosion, carbon (C), and nitrogen (N) fluxes are linked via organomineral complexation, where dissolved organic molecules bind to mineral surfaces. Biofilms and suspended aggregates represent major aquatic microbial lifestyles whose relative importance changes predictably through fluvial networks. We tested how organomineral sorption affects aquatic microbial metabolism, using organomineral particles containing a mix of 13C, 15N-labeled amino acids. We traced 13C and 15N retention within biofilm and suspended aggregate biomass and its mineralization. Organomineral complexation restricted C and N retention within biofilms and aggregates and also their mineralization. This reduced the efficiency with which biofilms mineralize C and N by 30% and 6%. By contrast, organominerals reduced the C and N mineralization efficiency of suspended aggregates by 41% and 93%. Our findings show how organomineral complexation affects microbial C:N stoichiometry, potentially altering the biogeochemical fate of C and N within fluvial ecosystems.

  • Synergistic effects of diffusion and microbial physiology reproduce the Birch effect in a micro-scale model

    Evans S, Dieckmann U, Franklin O, Kaiser C
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 93: 28-37

    Abstract: 

    Large rainfall events following drought cause pulses of CO2 flux that are higher than models predict. This phenomenon, named the “Birch effect” after its discoverer, has been observed for decades, and will influence carbon-climate feedbacks as drying–rewetting (DRW) cycles become more common under intensified climates. Yet, the many interacting factors that determine how soil DRW cycles affect C balance have been difficult to separate empirically. Here we use a spatially explicit biogeochemical–microbial model to examine the mechanisms underlying CO2 dynamics under DRW. We independently model physiological activity and diffusion based on how they vary with (constant) moisture levels in nature, and subject the model to DRW to test the importance of different mechanisms in models with one or two microbial functional groups (cheaters and producers). Our model reproduces respiration patterns similar to empirical observations of the Birch effect when we include mechanisms that link water content to microbial growth and to diffusion rate, whereas inclusion of either mechanism alone produces significantly lower pulses upon rewetting. Diffusion limitation under drought increases substrate availability under rewetting, a process mediated by biogeochemical hotspots and continued enzyme activity under drought. At the same time, high microbial growth under rewetting is needed to replenish enzyme pools and to sustain the biomass required to generate respiration pulses under repeated DRW. Inclusion of cheaters in the model dampens the size of the rewetting pulse and the cumulative amount of CO2release, as cheaters outcompete producers and reduce overall biomass. Our results provide several novel hypotheses regarding the microbial, biogeochemical, and spatial processes that mediate the Birch effect, which will contribute to a better mechanistic understanding of this important deviation from model predictions.

    Keywords

    • Dry/wet cycles
    • Birch effect
    • Microbial communities
    • Spatial dynamics
    • Individual-based model
    • Carbon cycling
    • Rainfall timing
  • Stress-induced changes in carbon allocation among metabolite pools influence isotope-based predictions of water use efficiency in Phaseolus vulgaris

    Lockhart R, Wild B, Richter A, Simonin K, Merchant A
    2016 - Functional Plant Biology, 1149-1158

    Abstract: 

    Understanding how major food crops respond to environmental stress will expand our capacity to improve food production with growing populations and a changing climate. This study uses chemical and physiological adaptations to heat, water deficit and elevated light stresses in Phaseolus vulgaris L. to identify changes in carbon (C) allocation that, combined with post-photosynthetic fractionation of C isotopes, influences water use efficiency (WUE) predictions. The chemical stress response was explored through changes in C allocation to the carbohydrate and cyclitol pools using GC–triple quadrupole MS. Carbon allocation to the sucrose pool fluctuated significantly among treatments, and the putative osmolytes and osmoprotectants (myo-inositol and D-ononitol) accumulated under stress. Significant osmotic adjustment (P < 0.05), quantified via pressure–volume curve analysis, was detected between control and stress treatments, although this was not attributable to active accumulation of the metabolites. Compound-specific 13C isotope abundance was measured using liquid chromatography isotope ratio MS to predict intrinsic WUE. In contrast to other metabolites measured, the δ13C of the sucrose pool fluctuated according to treatment and was proportional to predicted values based upon modelled Δ13C from gas exchange data. The results suggest that the accuracy and precision of predicting WUE may be enhanced by compound-specific analysis of Δ13C and that changes in the allocation of C among metabolite pools may influence WUE predictions based upon analysis of total soluble C. Overall, the plants appeared to use a range of mechanisms to cope with adverse conditions that could be utilised to improve plant breeding and management strategies.

  • Environmental and landscape controls of soil organic carbon storage in continuous permafrost terrain of the Taymyr Peninsula (N Siberia, Russia)

    Palmtag J, Ramage J, Hugelius G, Gentsch N, Lashchinskiy N, Richter A, Kuhry P
    2016 - European Journal of Soil Science, 67: 478-491

    Abstract: 

    Summary


    This research examined soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN) and aboveground phytomass carbon (PhC) stocks in two areas of the Taymyr Peninsula, northern Siberia. We combined field sampling, chemical and 14C radiocarbon dating analyses with land cover classifications for landscape-level assessments. The estimated mean for the 0–100-cm depth SOC stocks was 14.8 and 20.8 kg C m−2 in Ary-Mas and Logata, respectively. The corresponding values for TN were 1.0 and 1.3 kg N m−2. On average, about 2% only (range 0–12%) of the total ecosystem C is stored in PhC. In both study areas about 34% of the SOC at 0–100 cm is stored in cryoturbated pockets, which have formed since at least the early Holocene. The larger carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio of this cryoturbated material indicates that it consists of relatively undecomposed soil organic matter (SOM). There are substantial differences in SOC stocks and SOM properties within and between the two study areas, which emphasizes the need to consider both geomorphology and soil texture in the assessment of landscape-level and regional SOC stocks.


    Highlights

    • This research addresses landscape-scale and regional variation in SOC stocks.
    • Landform and soil texture are taken into account in the analysis.
    • The contribution of phytomass to total ecosystem C stored is limited.
    • Large SOC stocks are susceptible to decomposition following permafrost thaw.

  • Soil microbial carbon use efficiency and biomass turnover in a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland

    Spohn M, Pötsch EM, Eichhorst SA, Woebken D, Wanek W, Richter A
    2016 - Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 97: 168-175

    Abstract: 

    Soil microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), defined as the ratio of organic C allocated to growth over organic C taken up, strongly affects soil carbon (C) cycling. Despite the importance of the microbial CUE for the terrestrial C cycle, very little is known about how it is affected by nutrient availability. Therefore, we studied microbial CUE and microbial biomass turnover time in soils of a long-term fertilization experiment in a temperate grassland comprising five treatments (control, PK, NK, NP, NPK). Microbial CUE and the turnover of microbial biomass were determined using a novel substrate-independent method based on incorporation of 18O from labeled water into microbial DNA. Microbial respiration was 28–37% smaller in all three N treatments (NK, NP, and NPK) compared to the control, whereas the PK treatment did not affect microbial respiration. N-fertilization decreased microbial C uptake, while the microbial growth rate was not affected. Microbial CUE ranged between 0.31 and 0.45, and was 1.3- to 1.4-fold higher in the N-fertilized soils than in the control. The turnover time ranged between 80 and 113 days and was not significantly affected by fertilization. Net primary production (NPP) and the abundance of legumes differed strongly across the treatments, and the fungal:bacterial ratio was very low in all treatments. Structural equation modeling revealed that microbial CUE was exclusively controlled by N fertilization and that neither the abundance of legumes (as a proxy for the quality of the organic matter inputs) nor NPP (as a proxy for C inputs) had an effect on microbial CUE. Our results show that N fertilization did not only decrease microbial respiration, but also microbial C uptake, indicating that less C was intracellularly processed in the N fertilized soils. The reason for reduced C uptake and increased CUE in the N-fertilization treatments is likely an inhibition of oxidative enzymes involved in the degradation of aromatic compounds by N in combination with a reduced energy requirement for microbial N acquisition in the fertilized soils. In conclusion, the study shows that N availability can control soil C cycling by affecting microbial CUE, while plant community-mediated changes in organic matter inputs and P and K availability played no important role for C partitioning of the microbial community in this temperate grassland.

  • Nitrogen isotope fractionation during N uptake via arbuscular mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal fungi into grey alder

    2016 - Journal of Plant Physiology, 205: 84-92

    Abstract: 

    Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi affect plant nitrogen (N) dynamics. Plant
    N isotope patterns have been used to characterise the contribution of ECM fungi to plant N uptake. By
    quantifying and comparing the effects of an AM and an ECM fungus on growth, N uptake and isotopic
    composition of one host plant grown at different relative N supply levels, the aim of this study was to
    improve the mechanistic understanding of natural 15N abundance patterns in mycorrhizal plants and
    their underlying causes.
    Grey alders were inoculated with one ECM fungus or one AM fungus or left non-mycorrhizal. Plants
    were grown under semi-hydroponic conditions and were supplied with three rates of relative N supply
    ranging from deficient to luxurious.
    Neither mycorrhizal fungus increased plant growth or N uptake. AM root colonisation had no effect
    on whole plant 15N and decreased foliar 15N only under N deficiency. The roots of these plants were
    15N-enriched. ECM root colonisation consistently decreased foliar and whole plant 15N.
    It is concluded, that both mycorrhizal fungi contributed to plant N uptake into the shoot. Nitrogen
    isotope fractionation during N assimilation and transformations in fungal mycelia is suggested to have
    resulted in plants receiving 15N-depleted N via the mycorrhizal uptake pathways. Negative mycorrhizal
    growth effects are explained by symbiotic resource trade on carbon and N and decreased direct plant N
    uptake.
    © 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

  • Carbon isotope composition of carbohydrates and polyols in leaf and phloem sap of Phaseolus vulgaris L. influences predictions of plant water use efficiency

    Smith M, Wild B, Richter A, Simonin K, Merchant A
    2016 - Plant and Cell Physiology, 57: 1756-1766

    Abstract: 

    The use of carbon isotope abundance (δ13C) to assess plant carbon acquisition and water use has significant potential for use in crop management and plant improvement programs. Utilising Phaseolus vulgaris L. as a model system, this study demonstrates the occurrence and sensitivity of carbon isotope fractionation during the onset of abiotic stresses between leaf and phloem carbon pools. In addition to gas exchange data; compound-specific measures of carbon isotope abundance and concentrations of soluble components of phloem sap were compared to major carbohydrate and sugar alcohol pools in leaf tissue. Differences in both δ13C and concentration of metabolites were found in leaf and phloem tissues, the magnitude of which responded to changing environmental conditions. These changes have inplications for the modelling of leaf level gas exchange based upon δ13C natural abundance. While estimates of δ13C of low molecular weight carbohydrates and polyols increased the precision of predictions of water use efficiency compared to those based on bulk soluble carbon. The use of this technique requires consideration of the dynamics of the δ13C pool under investigation. Understanding the dynamics of changes in δ13C during movement and incorporation into heterotrophic tissues is vital for the continued development of tools that provide information on plant physiological performance relating to water use.

  • Plant-derived compounds stimulate the decomposition of organic matter in arctic permafrost soils

    Wild B, Gentsch N, Capek P, Diakova K, Alves RJ, Barta J, Gittel A, Hugelius G, Knoltsch A, Kuhry P, Lashchinskiy N, Mikutta R, Palmtag J, Schleper C, Schnecker J, Shibistova O, Takriti M, Torsvik VL, Urich T, Watzka M, Santruckova H, Guggenberger G, Richter A
    2016 - Scientific Reports, 6: 11

    Abstract: 

    Arctic ecosystems are warming rapidly, which is expected to promote soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition. In addition to the direct warming effect, decomposition can also be indirectly stimulated via increased plant productivity and plant-soil C allocation, and this so called “priming effect” might significantly alter the ecosystem C balance. In this study, we provide first mechanistic insights into the susceptibility of SOM decomposition in arctic permafrost soils to priming. By comparing 119 soils from four locations across the Siberian Arctic that cover all horizons of active layer and upper permafrost, we found that an increased availability of plant-derived organic C particularly stimulated decomposition in subsoil horizons where most of the arctic soil carbon is located. Considering the 1,035 Pg of arctic soil carbon, such an additional stimulation of decomposition beyond the direct temperature effect can accelerate net ecosystem C losses, and amplify the positive feedback to global warming.

  • L-System model for the growth of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, both within and outside of their host roots

    Schnepf A, Leitner D, Schweiger P, Scholl P, Jansa J
    2016 - Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 117: 11

    Abstract: 

    Development of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization of roots and the surrounding soil is the central process of mycorrhizal symbiosis, important for ecosystem functioning and commercial inoculum applications. To improve mechanistic understanding of this highly spatially and temporarily dynamic process, we developed a three-dimensional model taking into account growth of the roots and hyphae. It is for the first time that infection within the root system is simulated dynamically and in a spatially resolved way. Comparison between data measured in a calibration experiment and simulated results showed a good fit. Our simulations showed that the position of the fungal inoculum affects the sensitivity of hyphal growth parameters. Variation in speed of secondary infection and hyphal lifetime had a different effect on root infection and hyphal length, respectively, depending on whether the inoculum was concentrated or dispersed. For other parameters (branching rate, distance between entry points), the relative effect was the same independent of inoculum placement. The model also indicated that maximum root colonization levels well below 100%, often observed experimentally, may be a result of differential spread of roots and hyphae, besides intrinsic plant control, particularly upon localized placement of inoculum and slow secondary infection.

  • Microbes as engines of ecosystem function: when does community structure enhance predictions of ecosystem processes?

    Graham EB, Knelman JE, Schindlbacher A, Siciliano S, Breulmann M, Yannarell A, Beman JM, Abell G, Philippot L, Prosser J, Foulquier A, Yuste JC, Glanville HC, Jones DL, Angel R, Salminen J, Newton RJ, Bürgmann H, Ingram LJ, Hamer U, Siljanen HM, Peltoniemi K, Potthast K, Bañeras L, Hartmann M, Banerjee S, Yu RQ, Nogaro G, Richter A, Koranda M, Castle SC, Goberna M, Song B, Chatterjee A, Nunes OC, Lopes AR, Cao Y, Kaisermann A, Hallin S, Strickland MS, Garcia-Pausas J, Barba J, Kang H, Isobe K, Papaspyrou S, Pastorelli R, Lagomarsino A, Lindström ES, Basiliko N, Nemergut DR
    2016 - Frontiers in microbiology, 7: 214

    Abstract: 

    Microorganisms are vital in mediating the earth's biogeochemical cycles; yet, despite our rapidly increasing ability to explore complex environmental microbial communities, the relationship between microbial community structure and ecosystem processes remains poorly understood. Here, we address a fundamental and unanswered question in microbial ecology: 'When do we need to understand microbial community structure to accurately predict function?' We present a statistical analysis investigating the value of environmental data and microbial community structure independently and in combination for explaining rates of carbon and nitrogen cycling processes within 82 global datasets. Environmental variables were the strongest predictors of process rates but left 44% of variation unexplained on average, suggesting the potential for microbial data to increase model accuracy. Although only 29% of our datasets were significantly improved by adding information on microbial community structure, we observed improvement in models of processes mediated by narrow phylogenetic guilds via functional gene data, and conversely, improvement in models of facultative microbial processes via community diversity metrics. Our results also suggest that microbial diversity can strengthen predictions of respiration rates beyond microbial biomass parameters, as 53% of models were improved by incorporating both sets of predictors compared to 35% by microbial biomass alone. Our analysis represents the first comprehensive analysis of research examining links between microbial communitystructure and ecosystem function. Taken together, our results indicate that a greater understanding of microbial communities informed by ecological principles may enhance our ability to predict ecosystem process rates relative to assessments based on environmental variables and microbial physiology.

  • Carbon and Nitrogen Uptake of Calcareous Benthic Foraminifera along a Depth-Related Oxygen Gradient in the OMZ of the Arabian Sea

    Enge AJ, Wukovits J, Wanek W, Watzka M, Witte UFM, Hunter WR, Heinz P
    2016 - Frontiers in microbiology, 7: 71

    Abstract: 

    Foraminifera are an important faunal element of the benthos in oxygen-depleted settings such as Oxygen Minimum Zones (OMZs) where they can play a relevant role in the processing of phytodetritus. We investigated the uptake of phytodetritus (labeled with 13C and 15N) by calcareous foraminifera in the 0–1 cm sediment horizon under different oxygen concentrations within the OMZ in the eastern Arabian Sea. The in situ tracer experiments were carried out along a depth transect on the Indian margin over a period of 4 to 10 days. The uptake of phytodetrital carbon within 4 days by all investigated species shows that phytodetritus is a relevant food source for foraminifera in OMZ sediments. The decrease of total carbon uptake from 540 to 1100 m suggests a higher demand for carbon by species in the low-oxygen core region of the OMZ or less food competition with macrofauna. Especially Uvigerinids showed high uptake of phytodetrital carbon at the lowest oxygenated site. Variation in the ratio of phytodetrital carbon to nitrogen between species and sites indicates that foraminiferal carbon and nitrogen use can be decoupled and different nutritional demands are found between species. Lower ratio of phytodetrital carbon and nitrogen at 540 m could hint for greater demand or storage of food-based nitrogen, ingestion, or hosting of bacteria under almost anoxic conditions. Shifts in the foraminiferal assemblage structure (controlled by oxygen or food availability) and in the presence of other benthic organisms are likely to account for observed changes in the processing of phytodetritus in the different OMZ habitats. Foraminifera dominate the short-term processing of phytodetritus in the OMZ core but are less important in the lower OMZ boundary region of the Indian margin as biological interactions and species distribution of foraminifera change with depth and oxygen levels.

Book chapters and other publications

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