Research

We carry out a number of projects, most of which are externally funded. Most projects are themed broadly around global change, biodiversity, and the functions and ecology of soil fungi.

Global change biology

Several projects address elements of global change, which includes land use change (see Biodiversity Exploratories) and microplastic. An ERC Advanced Grant (2016-2021) examines global change particularly in terms of rates of change. We are very interested in the effects of different factors of global change on soil processes and soil biota, and in particular how joint impacts of many factors influence soil processes and biodiversity.

Novel soil contaminants/ microplastics

We scan for potential future issues that could affect soils. Currently, we look at potential effects of microplastic on soil biota. But we’re always interested in new ideas…

Fungal ecology in agricultural systems

There are currently a number of projects underway themed around the biodiversity and ecology of fungi in agricultural systems. These are funded by the BMBF initiative BonaRes  (the projects are Soil3 and INPLAMINT), and by others.

Ecological synthesis and analysis

There are a number of projects in which different lab members engage in re-analysis and synthesis of existing ecological data in order to gain new insights. One commonly used set of techniques are meta-analyses. In addition we use research weaving, that is a combination of systematic mapping and bibliometrics. We also work in the development of concepts, for example community coalescence.

Trait-based approaches in fungal ecology

We are interested in applying trait-based approaches to the ecology of fungi, and have engaged in a number of conceptual exercises. We are using a culture collection consisting of 30 isolates to establish a suitable model system with which to test some of these ideas.

DFG German Biodiversity Exploratories

The lab is part of the DFG-funded German Biodiversity Exploratories program (speaker: Prof. M. Fischer). The Exploratories are large-scale laboratories in three locations in the north, middle and south of Germany in which replicated plots are located. The goal is to uncover interrelationships among biodiversity, land use and ecosystem processes. We have been contributing projects on a range of topics within this framework, mostly focused on soil fungi.

Soil biota and soil aggregation

We have several projects related to the process of soil aggregation, i.e. the formation of soil structure. We are most interested in the role of soil biota in this process, for example mycorrhizal fungi and saprobic fungi.

Communities of AM fungi and other soil fungi

We engage in a number of projects in which we seek to understand what controls the structure of AM fungal communities or communities of other fungi. This typically involves applying molecular ecology methods, high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics.

Priming and memory

We are a member of the collaborative research center (Sonderforschungsbereich) on Priming and memory; our project deals with thermo-priming in fungi (both saprobic fungi and mycorrhizal fungi), in other words, how fungi remember past stress events and how this affects renewed exposure to stress. It is our most physiologically oriented project in the lab.