• Our new home,

    from summer 2021

  • 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

The effect of salinity, light regime and food source on C and N uptake in a benthic foraminifera

Foraminifera are unicellular organisms that play an important role in marine organic matter cycles. Some species are able to isolate chloroplasts from their algal food source and incorporate them as kleptoplasts into their own metabolic pathways, a phenomenon known as kleptoplastidy. One species showing this ability is Elphidium excavatum, a common foraminifer in the Kiel Fjord, Germany. The Kiel Fjord is fed by several rivers and thus forms a habitat with strongly fluctuating salinity. Here, we tested the effects of the food source, salinity and light regime on the food uptake (via 15N and 13C algal uptake) in this kleptoplast-bearing foraminifer. In our study E. excavatum was cultured in the lab at three salinity levels (15, 20 and 25) and uptake of C and N from the food source Dunaliella tertiolecta (Chlorophyceae) and Leyanella arenaria (Bacillariophyceae) were measured over time (after 3, 5 and 7 d). The species was very well adapted to the current salinity of the sampling region, as both algal N and C uptake was highest at a salinity of 20. It seems that E. excavatum coped better with lower than with higher salinities. The amount of absorbed C from the green algae D. tertiolecta showed a tendency effect of salinity, peaking at a salinity of 20. Nitrogen uptake was also highest at a salinity of 20 and steadily increased with time. In contrast, C uptake from the diatom L. arenaria was highest at a salinity of 15 and decreased at higher salinities. We found no overall significant differences in C and N uptake from green algae vs. diatoms. Furthermore, the food uptake at a light–dark rhythm of 16:8h was compared to continuous darkness. Darkness had a negative influence on algal C and N uptake, and this effect increased with incubation time. Starving experiments showed a stimulation of food uptake after 7 d. In summary, it can be concluded that E. excavatum copes well with changes of salinity to a lower level. For changes in light regime, we showed that light reduction caused a decrease of C and N uptake by E. excavatum.

Lintner M, Lintner B, Wanek W, Keul N, Heinz P
2021 - Biogeosciences, 18: 1395–1406

Functional traits of a rainforest vascular epiphyte community: trait covariation and indications for host specificity

Trait matching between interacting species may foster diversity. Thus, high epiphyte diversity in tropical forests may be partly due to the high diversity of trees and some degree of host specificity. However, possible trait matching between epiphyte and host is basically unexplored. Since the epiphytic habitat poses particular challenges to plants, their trait correlations should differ from terrestrial plants, but to what extent is unclear as epiphytes are underrepresented or missing in the large trait databases. We quantified 28 traits of 99 species of vascular epiphytes in a lowland forest in Panama that were related to plant size, leaf, stem, and root morphology; photosynthetic mode; and nutrient concentrations. We analyzed trait covariation, community weighted means, and functional diversity for assemblages on stems and in crowns of four tree species. We found intriguing differences between epiphytes and terrestrial plants regarding trait covariation in trait relations between plant maximal height, stem specific density, specific root length, and root tissue den-sity, i.e., stem and root economic spectra. Regarding host specificity, we found strong evidence for environmental filtering of epiphyte traits, but only in tree crowns. On stems, community weighted means differed in only one case, whereas > 2/3 of all traits differed in tree crowns. Although we were only partly able to interpret these differences in the light of tree trait differences, these findings mark an important step towards a functional understanding of epiphyte host specificity.

Wagner K, Wanek W, Zotz G
2021 - Diversity, 13: 97

Denitrification is the major nitrous acid production pathway in boreal agricultural soils

Nitrous acid (HONO) photolysis produces hydroxyl radicals—a key atmospheric oxidant. Soils are strong HONO emitters, yet HONO production pathways in soils and their relative contributions are poorly constrained. Here, we conduct 15N tracer experiments and isotope pool dilution assays on two types of agricultural soils in Finland to determine HONO emission fluxes and pathways. We show that microbial processes are more important than abiotic processes for HONO emissions. Microbial nitrate reduction (denitrification) considerably exceeded ammonium oxidation as a source of nitrite—a central nitrogen pool connected with HONO emissions. Denitrification contributed 97% and 62% of total HONO fluxes in low and high organic matter soil, respectively. Microbial ammonium oxidation only produced HONO in high organic matter soil (10%). Our findings indicate that microbial nitrate reduction is an important HONO production pathway in aerobic soils, suggesting that terrestrial ecosystems favouring it could be HONO emission hotspots, thereby influencing atmospheric chemistry.

Bhattarai HR, Wanek W, Siljanen H, Ronkainen J, Liimatainen M, Hu Y, Nykänen H, Biasi C, Maljanen M
2021 - Communications Earth and Environment, 2: 54

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