• Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science

  • CUBE - Computational Systems Biology

  • DOME - Microbial Ecology

  • EDGE - Environmental Geosciences

  • TER - Terrestrial Ecosystem Research


Latest publications

Technology readiness and overcoming barriers to sustainably implement nanotechnology-enabled plant agriculture

Nanotechnology offers potential solutions for sustainable agriculture, including increasing nutrient utilization efficiency, improving the efficacy of pest management, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and reducing adverse environmental impacts of agricultural food production. Many promising nanotechnologies have been proposed and evaluated at different scales, but several barriers to implementation must be addressed for technology to be adopted, including efficient delivery at field scale, regulatory and safety concerns, and consumer acceptance. Here we explore these barriers, and rank technology readiness and potential impacts of a wide range of agricultural applications of nanotechnology. We propose pathways to overcome these barriers and develop effective, safe and acceptable nanotechnologies for agriculture.

Thilo Hofmann, Gregory Victor Lowry, Subhasis Ghoshal, Nathalie Tufenkji, Davide Brambilla, John Robert Dutcher, Leanne M. Gilbertson, Juan Pablo Giraldo, Joseph Matthew Kinsella, Markita Patricia Landry, Wess Lovell, Rafik Naccache, Mathews Paret, Joel Alexander Pedersen, Jason Michael Unrine, Jason Christopher White, Kevin James Wilkinson
2020 - Nature food, 1: 416–425

Exploring the upper pH limits of nitrite oxidation: diversity, ecophysiology, and adaptive traits of haloalkalitolerant Nitrospira

Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria of the genus Nitrospira are key players of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. However, little is known about their occurrence and survival strategies in extreme pH environments. Here, we report on the discovery of physiologically versatile, haloalkalitolerant Nitrospira that drive nitrite oxidation at exceptionally high pH. Nitrospiradistribution, diversity, and ecophysiology were studied in hypo- and subsaline (1.3-12.8 g salt/l), highly alkaline (pH 8.9-10.3) lakes by amplicon sequencing, metagenomics, and cultivation-based approaches. Surprisingly, not only were Nitrospira populations detected, but they were also considerably diverse with presence of members of Nitrospira lineages I, II and IV. Furthermore, the ability of Nitrospira enrichment cultures to oxidize nitrite at neutral to highly alkaline pH of 10.5 was demonstrated. Metagenomic analysis of a newly enriched Nitrospira lineage IV species, “Candidatus Nitrospira alkalitolerans”, revealed numerous adaptive features of this organism to its extreme environment. Among them were a sodium-dependent N-type ATPase and NADH:quinone oxidoreductase next to the proton-driven forms usually found in Nitrospira. Other functions aid in pH and cation homeostasis and osmotic stress defense. “Ca. Nitrospira alkalitolerans” also possesses group 2a and 3b [NiFe] hydrogenases, suggesting it can use hydrogen as alternative energy source. These results reveal how Nitrospira cope with strongly fluctuating pH and salinity conditions and expand our knowledge of nitrogen cycling in extreme habitats.

Daebeler A, Kitzinger K, Koch H, Herbold CW, Steinberger M, Schwarz J, Zechmeister T, Karst S, Albertsen M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M, Daims H
2020 - ISME J, in press

Composition and activity of nitrifier communities in soil are unresponsive to elevated temperature and CO2, but strongly affected by drought

Nitrification is a fundamental process in terrestrial nitrogen cycling. However, detailed information on how climate change affects the structure of nitrifier communities is lacking, specifically from experiments in which multiple climate change factors are manipulated simultaneously. Consequently, our ability to predict how soil nitrogen cycling will change in a future climate is limited. We conducted a field experiment in a managed grassland and simultaneously tested the effects of elevated atmospheric COand temperature, and drought on the abundance of active ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA), comammox (CMX) Nitrospira, and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB), and on gross mineralization and nitrification rates. We found that N transformation processes, as well as gene and transcript abundances, and nitrifier community composition were remarkably resistant to individual and interactive effects of elevated COand temperature. During drought however, process rates were increased or at least maintained. At the same time, the abundance of active AOB increased probably due to higher  NH4availability. Both, AOA and comammox Nitrospira decreased in response to drought and the active community composition of AOA and NOB was also significantly affected. In summary, our findings suggest that warming and elevated COhave only minor effects on nitrifier communities and soil biogeochemical variables in managed grasslands, whereas drought favors AOB and increases nitrification rates. This highlights the overriding importance of drought as a global change driver impacting on soil microbial community structure and its consequences  for N cycling.

Séneca J, Pjevac P, Canarini A, Herbold CW, Zioutis C, Dietrich M, Simon E, Prommer J, Bahn M, Pötsch E, Wagner M, Wanek W, Richter A
2020 - ISME J, in press