• Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science

  • CUBE - Computational Systems Biology

  • DOME - Microbial Ecology

  • EDGE - Environmental Geosciences

  • TER - Terrestrial Ecosystem Research


Latest publications

Warming and elevated CO2 intensify drought and recovery responses of grassland carbon allocation to soil respiration

Photosynthesis and soil respiration represent the two largest fluxes of CO2 in terrestrial ecosystems and are tightly linked through belowground carbon (C) allocation. Drought has been suggested to impact the allocation of recently assimilated C to soil respiration; however, it is largely unknown how drought effects are altered by a future warmer climate under elevated atmospheric CO2 (eT_eCO2). In a multifactor experiment on managed C3 grassland, we studied the individual and interactive effects of drought and eT_eCO2 (drought, eT_eCO2, drought × eT_eCO2) on ecosystem C dynamics. We performed two in situ 13CO2 pulse-labeling campaigns to trace the fate of recent C during peak drought and recovery. eT_eCO2 increased soil respiration and the fraction of recently assimilated C in soil respiration. During drought, plant C uptake was reduced by c. 50% in both ambient and eT_eCO2 conditions. Soil respiration and the amount and proportion of 13C respired from soil were reduced (by 32%, 70% and 30%, respectively), the effect being more pronounced under eT_eCO2 (50%, 84%, 70%). Under drought, the diel coupling of photosynthesis and SR persisted only in the eT_eCO2 scenario, likely caused by dynamic shifts in the use of freshly assimilated C between storage and respiration. Drought did not affect the fraction of recent C remaining in plant biomass under ambient and eT_eCO2, but reduced the small fraction remaining in soil under eT_eCO2. After rewetting, C uptake and the proportion of recent C in soil respiration recovered more rapidly under eT_eCO2 compared to ambient conditions. Overall, our findings suggest that in a warmer climate under elevated CO2 drought effects on the fate of recent C will be amplified and the coupling of photosynthesis and soil respiration will be sustained. To predict the future dynamics of terrestrial C cycling, such interactive effects of multiple global change factors should be considered.

Meeran K, Ingrisch J, Reinthaler D, Canarini A, Müller L, Pötsch E, Richter A, Wanek W, Bahn M
2021 - Global Change Biology, 27: 3230-3243

The effect of global change on soil phosphatase activity

Soil phosphatase enzymes are produced by plant roots and microorganisms and play a key role in the cycling of phosphorus (P), an often-limiting element in terrestrial ecosystems. The production of these enzymes in soil is the most important biological strategy for acquiring phosphate ions from organic molecules. Previous works showed how soil potential phosphatase activity is mainly driven by climatic conditions and soil nitrogen (N) and carbon. Nonetheless, future trends of the activity of these enzymes under global change remain little known. We investigated the influence of some of the main drivers of change on soil phosphatase activity using a meta-analysis of results from 97 published studies. Our database included a compilation of N and P fertilization experiments, manipulation experiments with increased atmospheric CO2 concentration, warming, and drought, and studies comparing invaded and non-invaded ecosystems. Our results indicate that N fertilization leads to higher phosphatase activity, whereas P fertilization has the opposite effect. The rise of atmospheric CO2 levels or the arrival of invasive species also exhibits positive response ratios on the activity of soil phosphatases. However, the occurrence of recurrent drought episodes decreases the activity of soil phosphatases. Our analysis did not reveal statistically significant effects of warming on soil phosphatase activity. In general, soil enzymatic changes in the reviewed experiments depended on the initial nutrient and water status of the ecosystems. The observed patterns evidence that future soil phosphatase activity will not only depend on present-day soil conditions but also on potential compensations or amplifications among the different drivers of global change. The responses of soil phosphatases to the global change drivers reported in this study and the consideration of cost–benefit approaches based on the connection of the P and N cycle will be useful for a better estimation of phosphatase production in carbon (C)–N–P models.

Margalef O, Sardans J, Maspons J, Molowny-Horas R, Fernández-Martínez M, Janssens IA, Ciais P, Richter A, Obersteiner M, Peñuelas J
2021 - Global Change Biology, 27: 5681-6003

Tradeoffs and synergies in tropical root traits linked to nutrient and water acquisition

Vegetation processes are fundamentally limited by nutrient and water availability, the uptake of which is mediated by plant roots in terrestrial ecosystems. While tropical forests play a central role in global water, carbon, and nutrient cycling, we know very little about tradeoffs and synergies in root traits that respond to resource scarcity. Tropical trees face a unique set of resource limitations, with rock-derived nutrients and moisture seasonality governing many ecosystem functions, and nutrient versus water availability often separated spatially and temporally. Root traits that characterize biomass, depth distributions, production and phenology, morphology, physiology, chemistry, and symbiotic relationships can be predictive of plants’ capacities to access and acquire nutrients and water, with links to aboveground processes like transpiration, wood productivity, and leaf phenology. In this review, we identify an emerging trend in the literature that tropical fine root biomass and production in surface soils are greatest in infertile or sufficiently moist soils. We also identify interesting paradoxes in tropical forest root responses to changing resources that merit further exploration. For example, specific root length, which typically increases under resource scarcity to expand the volume of soil explored, instead can increase with greater base cation availability, both across natural tropical forest gradients and in fertilization experiments. Also, nutrient additions, rather than reducing mycorrhizal colonization of fine roots as might be expected, increased colonization rates under scenarios of water scarcity in some forests. Efforts to include fine root traits and functions in vegetation models have grown more sophisticated over time, yet there is a disconnect between the emphasis in models characterizing nutrient and water uptake rates and carbon costs versus the emphasis in field experiments on measuring root biomass, production, and morphology in response to changes in resource availability. Closer integration of field and modeling efforts could connect mechanistic investigation of fine-root dynamics to ecosystem-scale understanding of nutrient and water cycling, allowing us to better predict tropical forest-climate feedbacks.

Cusack D, Addo-Danso SD, Agee EA, Andersen KM, Arnaud M, Batterman SA, Brearley F, Ciochina MI, Cordeiro AL, Diaz-Toribio MH, Dietterich LH, Fisher JB, Fleischer K, Fortunel C, Fuchslueger L, Guerrero-Ramírez NR, Kotowska M, Lugli LF, Marín C, McCulloch LA, Maeght JL, Metcalf D, Norby RJ, Oliveira R, Powers JS, Reichert T, Smith SW, Smith-Martin CM, Soper FM, Toro L, Umana MN, Vlaverde-Barrantes OJ, Weemstra M, Werden LK, Wong M, Wright SJ, Yaffar D
2021 - Frontiers in Global Change – Forest soils, 4: Article 704469

Lecture series

CMESS Lecture: "Biological control of waterborne viruses"

Tamar Kohn
Professor for Environmental Chemistry, EPFL, Switzerland
12:00 h