• Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science

  • CUBE - Computational Systems Biology

  • DOME - Microbial Ecology

  • EDGE - Environmental Geosciences

  • TER - Terrestrial Ecosystem Research


Latest publications

Key principles and operational practices for improved nanotechnology environmental exposure assessment

Nanotechnology is identified as a key enabling technology due to its potential to contribute to economic growth and societal well-being across industrial sectors. Sustainable nanotechnology requires a scientifically based and proportionate risk governance structure to support innovation, including a robust framework for environmental risk assessment (ERA) that ideally builds on methods established for conventional chemicals to ensure alignment and avoid duplication. Exposure assessment developed as a tiered approach is equally beneficial to nano-specific ERA as for other classes of chemicals. Here we present the developing knowledge, practical considerations and key principles need to support exposure assessment for engineered nanomaterials for regulatory and research applications.

Claus Svendsen, Lee A. Walker, Marianne Matzke, Elma Lahive, Samuel Harrison, Alison Crossley, Barry Park, Stephen Lofts, Iseult Lynch, Socorro Vázquez-Campos, Ralf Kaegi, Alexander Gogos, Christof Asbach, Geert Cornelis, Frank von der Kammer, Nico W. van den Brink, Claire Mays, David J. Spurgeon
2020 - Nature Nanotechnology, 15: 731–742

Recovery of aboveground biomass, species richness and composition in tropical secondary forests in SW Costa Rica

Tropical secondary forests comprise about half of the world’s tropical forests and are important as carbon sinks and to conserve biodiversity. Their rate of recovery varies widely; however, particularly older secondary forests are difficult to date so that the recovery rate is uncertain. As a consequence, factors affecting recovery are difficult to analyse. We used aerial surveys going back to 1968 to date 12 secondary forests in the wet tropics of SW Costa Rica and evaluated the recovery of aboveground biomass, tree species richness and tree species composition in relation to nearby old-growth forests and previous land use. To confirm the validity of the space-for-time substitution, the plots were re-censused after four years. We found fast rates of aboveground biomass accumulation, especially in the first years of succession. After 20 years AGB had reached c. 164 Mg/ha equivalent to 52% of the biomass in old-growth forests in the region. Species richness increased at a slower pace and had reached c. 31% of old-growth forests after 20 years. Recovery rates differed substantially among forests, with biomass at least initially recovering faster in forests after clearcuts whereas species numbers increased faster in forests recovering from pastures. Biomass recovery was positively related to the forest cover in the vicinity and negatively to species richness, whereas species richness was related to soil parameters. The change during the four years between the censuses is broadly in line with the initial chronosequence. While the recovery of tropical secondary forests has been studied in many places, our study shows that various environmental parameters affect the speed of recovery, which is important to include in efforts to manage and restore tropical landscapes.

Oberleitner F, Egger C, Oberdorfer S, Dullinger S, Wanek W, Hietz P
2020 - Forest Ecology and Management, 479: Article 118580

Cutting out the middle clam: lucinid endosymbiotic bacteria are also associated with seagrass roots worldwide

Seagrasses and lucinid bivalves inhabit highly reduced sediments with elevated sulphide concentrations. Lucinids house symbiotic bacteria (Ca. Thiodiazotropha) capable of oxidising sediment sulphide, and their presence in sediments has been proposed to promote seagrass growth by decreasing otherwise phytotoxic sulphide levels. However, vast and productive seagrass meadows are present in ecosystems where lucinids do not occur. Hence, we hypothesised that seagrasses themselves host these sulphur-oxidising Ca. Thiodiazotropha that could aid their survival when lucinids are absent. We analysed newly generated and publicly available 16S rRNA gene sequences from seagrass roots and sediments across 14 seagrass species and 10 countries and found that persistent and colonising seagrasses across the world harbour sulphur-oxidising Ca. Thiodiazotropha, regardless of the presence of lucinids. We used fluorescence in situ hybridisation to visually confirm the presence of Ca. Thiodiazotropha on roots of Halophila ovalis, a colonising seagrass species with wide geographical, water depth range, and sedimentary sulphide concentrations. We provide the first evidence that Ca. Thiodiazotropha are commonly present on seagrass roots, providing another mechanism for seagrasses to alleviate sulphide stress globally.

Martin BC, Middleton JA, Fraser MW, Marshall IPG, Scholz VV, Hausl B, Schmidt H
2020 - The ISME journal, in press

Lecture series

Speciation of trace metals in wetlands and their implications for carbon and nitrogen cycling

Prof. Dr. Daniel Giammar
Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, Washington University, US
17:00 h

Speleothems and Sediments as Archives for Paleogenetic Research on Human Evolution

Dr. Mareike Stahlschmidt
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany
17:00 h

Photochemically produced halogen radicals: contaminant degradation, organic matter bleaching and coral death

Prof. Dr. William Mitch
Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, US
17:00 h