Biological soil crust algae in the polar regions - biodiversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem resilience under global change scenarios



Professor Dr. Burkhard Becker
Universität zu Köln
Biozentrum Köln
Botanisches Institut

Professor Dr. Burkhard Büdel
Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Fachbereich Biologie
Abteilung Pflanzenökologie und Systematik

Professor Dr. Ulf Karsten
Universität Rostock
Institut für Biowissenschaften
Lehrstuhl Angewandte Ökologie und Phykologie




Terrestrial green algae and cyanobacteria are typical and abundant components of biological soil crusts in the polar regions. These communities form water-stable aggregates that have important ecological roles in primary production, nitrogen fixation, nutrient cycling, water retention and stabilization of soils. Although available data on green algae and cyanobacteria are generally very limited for the Arctic and Antarctica, their functional importance as ecosystem developers in nutrient poor environments is regarded as high. Therefore, the main goal of the interdisciplinary project is, for the first time, a precise evaluation of their 1.) biodiversity as well as of 2.) the infra-specific genetic diversity, 3.) ecophysiological performance and 4.) transcriptomics of the most abundant taxa in biological soil crusts isolated from the Antarctic Peninsula and Arctic Svalbard. Biodiversity will be investigated using a classical culture approach in combination with molecular-taxonomical methods as well as with metagenomics. The infra-specific genetic diversity of the most abundant green algae and cyanobacteria will be studied using fingerprinting techniques, and a range of selected populations characterised in relation to their physiological plasticity. Temperature and water availability, two key environmental factors for terrestrial organisms, are currently changing in polar regions due to global warming, and hence their effect on growth and photosynthesis response patterns will be comparatively investigated. The data will indicate whether and how global change influence population structure and ecological performance of key organisms in polar soil crusts, and help to make predictions on the future significance of the ecological functions of these pioneer communities. Such a multiphasic approach has never been applied before to soil algae and cyanobacteria in both polar regions, and hence represents one of the key innovations of this proposal.


DFG-Verfahren: Infrastruktur-Schwerpunktprogramme

Internationaler Bezug: Neuseeland, Norwegen, Ukraine

Beteiligte Personen: Dr. Craig Cary; Professor Dr. Thomas Friedl; Dr. Steffi Gäbler-Schwarz; Dr. Tatyana Mikhailyuk; Dr. Sabina Wodniok

Förderung von 2013 bis 2017