Soils contain most of the planet’s undiscovered biodiversity and yet we know very little about it. The soil biota is vital: they recycle nutrients, produce and consume gases that affect global climate, destroy pollutants, treat wastes and can be used for biocontrol of plant and animal pests. Microorganisms including bacteria and fungi are key agents controlling and regulating these processes and interactions.
The research in the Microbial Ecology Group is aiming at identifying the microorganisms that carry out carbon and nitrogen turnover in soils, particularly forest soils, characterize these processes and identify how they are regulated under different environmental scenarios. A major focus is on symbiotic interactions between fungi and plants roots. We are also studying parasitic interactions between fungi and soil-living nematodes. Evolution of symbiotic and parasitic fungi is examined using tools of genomics and functional genomics.
We have excellent facilities for research on soil microorganisms including growth chambers, microscopes, HPLC and GC for lipid biomarker analysis, UV and emission fluorescence spectrophotometers. We are host for the Lund University DNA Sequencing Facility.
We are active as teachers in a number of courses at undergraduate and PhD level in the areas of terrestrial ecology, soil ecology, molecular ecology, environmental sciences and genomics.
Over a number of years we have focused our scientific efforts on problems related to the ecology of soil microorganisms, including their interactions with plants and animals. We use a combination of different approaches; from detailed mechanistic experiments on organisms in well defined laboratory systems to studies on microbial communities in natural soils. Members in our group has played a key role in introducing new methods to assess the biomass, growth and activity of saprophytic and symbiotic (ectomycorrhizal) fungi in soils. These methods are used in several projects that study the effects of environmental factors (like temperature and pollution) on the growth and activity of fungi (including mycorrhiza) and bacteria in soils.
The diversity of microbial communities is commonly analyzed using molecular methods like ribosomal DNA sequences. The molecular mechanisms and evolution of symbiotic and parasitic fungal-host interactions are examined using tools of genomics and functional genomics. Stable isotopes are used for identifying key microorganisms involved in C and N fluxes and to track the flow of C from plant through microorganisms to the soil. Radioactive isotopes are used to determine microbial growth rates in soil. Field studies are conducted on various sites in Sweden and Europe that have been subjected to controlled experimental manipulations like different loads of nitrogen input.
A large part of our research addresses fundamental questions in soil microbial ecology. The work is also of importance for applied problems such as the effects of pollutants and global climate change on soil ecosystems. Several of us are active in the strategic research initiative BECC - Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate, the Linneus-program LUCCI – Centre for Studies of Carbon Cycle and Climate interactions, and the research program Molecular Interactions Controlling soil Carbon Sequestration – MICCS, funded by the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
Dept of Biology, Lund University
Ecology Building (Sölvegatan 37)
SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden