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Working Groups

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Contribution to ZALF research

Comprising six working groups at present, Research Area 1 “Landscape Functioning” is performing knowledge-oriented research on deepening our understanding of processes, cause-and-effect relationships and causal chains as well as the interactions within and among the different landscape elements such as cropland, grassland, waterbodies and forests. In this context, memory effects must also be considered, i.e. mid- to long-term effects of previous actions or interventions in agricultural landscapes. Research activities in Research Area 1 include the detection and analysis of new phenomena, the continuous improvement and development of research methods as well as the analysis of process dynamics by coupling data with models.

The aim of our research is to improve the understanding of biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, silicon) and their driving forces (soil, plants, microorganisms) in agricultural landscapes. This is where the research of our individual working groups is interlinked. The results are incorporated into the development of sustainable land management systems, as it is being done in Research Areas 2 and 3. For cross-scale research questions, Research Area 1 works closely with the Research Platforms Data and Models & Simulation as well as Research Area 3 Landscape Research Synthesis. The central platform for investigations and experiments on the field and landscape scale is the AgroScapeLab Quillow of the Experimental Infrastructure Platform.


Contribution of the research area to ZALF research 


Working Groups


Landscape Pedology

Image of the WG Landscape Pedology 

It is the strategic aim of this working group to develop an improved understanding of the dynamics and functionality of soil landscapes from the micro to the landscape scale by coupling soil processes and functions with spatially and temporally variable structures across scales. By combining experimental approaches, long-term measurements, modelling and continuous method development, particularly landscape-scale C and nutrient dynamics, feedback mechanisms of soil erosion (e.g. wind), the long-term dynamics of soil landscapes and their impact on soil fertility will be investigated.

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Contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Sommer



Image of the WG Hydropedology

This working group investigates the interactions between pedological and hydrological processes and characteristics to describe the water and element dynamics in landscapes and ecosystems, particularly in the soil and the unsaturated zone below the rooting zone to the groundwater (critical zone). The focus lies on the impact of the pore and soil structure on element fluxes and biogeochemical changes of soils and soil landscapes as well as their effects on soil functions, soil development and ecosystem stability. Both objectives will be achieved by means of structural and process modelling (numerical simulation models) in combination with model-based experiments (tracer experiments, percolation experiments with soil columns).

Contact: PD Dr. Horst Gerke


Silicon Biogeochemistry

Image of the WG Silicon Biogeochemistry  

The focus of this working group is to improve the understanding of the silicon (Si) cycle in agricultural systems. Research questions thus address temporal Si dynamics, the drivers of Si cycling in agricultural systems as well as the relevance of the biogenic Si pool. In a first step, answers to these questions will be derived from long-term field trials (e.g. BonaRes project) and intensively studied experimental sites such as CarboZALF-D, which allow for the quantification of all relevant Si fluxes.

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Contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Sommer


Isotope Biogeochemistry and Gas Fluxes

Image of the WG Isotope Biogeochemistry & Gas Fluxes  

The working group studies the dynamics of biogenic volatile organic compounds (bVOCs), C and N in agricultural landscapes using mass spectrometry, gas chroma­tography, spectroscopy and optical methods as well as isotope dilution and tracer techniques. Particularly the combination of isotope techniques with gas measurement methods and multi-scale studies will help to investigate the interactions between the structure of microbial communities and the (trans)formation processes of gaseous C and N compounds as well as the impact of erosion- and deep tillage-derived saturation deficits in the soil C and N pool on C and N input and transformation processes.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Augustin


Microbial Biogeochemistry

Image of the WG Microbial Biogeochemistry  

MicGeo – Terrestrial Microbiota in Action. The group explores the importance of the microbiota for (i) climate, (ii) soil carbon stocks, and (iii) plant resilience. It investigates the microbiota in landscape elements of agricultural landscapes. The focus of the research is on croplands and grasslands. Selected cereal and tree species serve as model plants. The group uses gene markers, metagenomics, stable isotope probing, and RNA-based methods including bioinformatics to determine functions and dynamics of plant and soil microbiota. It also uses soil enzyme measurements and gas analytics to characterize microbial metabolism and emissions of greenhouse gases and volatiles. Experimental studies are conducted both at the scale of the individual plant (pot experiments) and at the ecosystem level (field & landscape). In addition, the ecophysiology of methylotrophs and nitrate-reducers (incl. anaerobic cultivation & genomics) is a subject of investigation.

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Contact: Prof. Dr. Steffen Kolb


Fungal Interactions

Image of the WG Fungal Interactions  

The focus of this working group is on interactions between phytopathogenic fungi and bacteria or other fungi and the associated effects on crop biomass productivity, particularly for wheat (Triticum L.). It is the long-term objective to investigate these interactions in integrated laboratory and climate chamber experiments, plot and field trials, followed by subsequent landscape experiments to understand mechanisms and drivers at the landscape scale. The working group uses mycological and phytotoxological methods and combines mycological and biogeochemical methods with micrometeorology and remote sensing.

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Contact: Dr. Marina Müller


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