National Park Hainich,Thuringia. Photo: Beatrix Schnabel/UFZ

Research Field:

Structural & Functional Biodiversity

Soil, litter or dead wood represent complex and heterogeneous habitats for all types of below ground organisms (i.e. algae, animals and microorganisms). Our department mainly investigates bacteria and fungi, which apart contribution the largest part of the below ground biomass, also display a broad range of functions and lifestyles such as saprotrophs, mutualistic or detrimental symbionts.

The structural and functional diversity of soil microbes is extremely high, but only 1 % of them can currently be grown under laboratory conditions. In the last decades the development of diverse molecular methods and in particular next-generation sequencing and the taxonomical or functional assignments of microorganisms by use of customized databases prompted the exploration the soil microbial diversity and its link to functions.

The department Soil Ecology combines traditional cultivation methods with modern molecular techniques to unravel the structural and functional soil microbial diversity in relation to land use, above ground biodiversity and climatic context.



Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Photo: Kezia Goldmann/UFZ
Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Photo: Kezia Goldmann/UFZ
Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Cross window trap for insects. Photo: Beatrix Schnabel/UFZ
Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Soil core. Photo: Beatrix Schnabel/UFZ
Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Photo: Beatrix Schnabel/UFZ
Biodiversity Exploratories, Hainich National Park, Thuringia, Germany. Fungi on dead wood. Photo: Beatrix Schnabel/UFZ

SoilForEUROPE. Sampling in forest, Romania. Photo: J. Wambsganss
SoilForEUROPE. Lichen symbiosis, Finland. Photo: J. Wambsganss
SoilForEUROPE. Sampling tools and soil cores, Italy. Photo: J. Wambsganss

Diversity of soil bacteria and fungi. Photo: Thomas Reitz/UFZ
Pot experiment to study bacterial dynamics in soils. Photo: Thomas Reitz/UFZ
Field experiment to study the relationship between microbes, soil nutrients and plants. Limitation of phosphorus leads to a strong maturation delay of winter barley. Photo: Thomas Reitz/UFZ