Controlling Chemicals’ Fate 

Our modern way of life would not be as it is without chemicals. Many of these however end up in the environment –whether intentionally or unintentionally. Nature thereby is only capable of counterbalancing the adverse effects of chemicals to a certain degree. Hence, what can be done when the number and amounts of chemicals in the environment is increasing, when pollutants are toxic already in the smallest of doses or when chemicals have a prolonged residence time in ecosystems because they are very difficult to attenuate?

We perceive the biodegradation of a chemical as an ecosystem property. On these grounds, we link knowledge about the chemical´s molecular determinants governing (bio-)transformation with the biogeochemical and ecological drivers of ecosystem functioning. We want to identify and control the key factors that make an ecosystem robust against chemicals and are thus effective in the attenuation of contaminants. We are thereby implementing experimental as well as multi-scale modelling systems to understand and predict the ecosystem service „natural biodegradation of chemicals“. Even if chemicals may no longer be foul-smelling, and even may be safer and more environmentally-sound these days, there is still a long way to go to make chemicals environmentally acceptable (´eco-compatible´) and to develop management options that will effectively eliminate chemicals from the ecosystem level.