Microorganisms play a crucial role in ecosystem performance and functioning. They are ubiquitous, possess enormous genetic, metabolic and physiological potential and are responsible for virtually all biogeochemical cycling processes. Ecosystems are composed of several trophic levels which interact with each other. In order to understand the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, we thus need to take into account these multiple trophic levels.
The aim of the Microbial Systems Ecology group is to gain a better understanding of the ecology of microbial systems and the importance of microbial biodiversity for ecosystem functioning by incorporating the interactions within and between trophic levels. Next to applying a variety of molecular biological and omics-tools for analyzing field samples this also requires testing ecological and evolutionary theories with microbial systems
. Our group focuses on the interactions of all major microbial players (bacteria, viruses (phage) and protists) in different habitats (soils, freshwater, host-associated).
Current and future research topics of the group include amongst others:
- the biodiversity of and interactions between bacteria, viruses (bacteriophages) and protists in soils along land-use gradients and in the critical zone (CZ)
- the influence of global change (e.g. climate change, pollution, invasive pathogens) on microbial communities and interactions in rivers and in mountain lakes
- the relevance of microbial interactions for the resilience and stability of microbial communities under stress conditions
- the application of phage therapy to treat pathogenic bacteria and its consequences for host-associated microbiomes