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A look below ground: soil and cycles

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Forests can only provide ecosystem services like clean water, pure air and nutrients for plants when the soil is healthy. We examine how external factors like pollutants, climate change and land management affect the functions and biogeochemical cycles in the soils of near-natural ecosystems.


External influences such as pollution, rising temperatures and human interventions alter the water and nutrient cycle and therefore the growth conditions for roots and microorganisms in the soil. The composition of the soil community also changes as a result. Managing woods using heavy forestry machinery, for example, consequently has an impact on soil fertility.

We investigate these interactions through field and laboratory experiments and long-term monitoring projects. With the findings, we are able to draw conclusions on the living conditions encountered by trees, their roots and soil organisms – both now and in the future – in forest soils and other uncultivated soils as well as the networks in which they are linked.



Forest-site ecology

We investigate why plant species grow at certain sites and how well they thrive there.

The rhizosphere

We investigate how interactions between roots, microorganisms and soil influence nutrients and pollutants in the soil.

Soil water

We investigate the chemical and physical properties of water in soils. Thus we provide the forest sector with a sound basis for decision-making.

Microbial ecology

Bacteria in the soil play a crucial role in global material cycles. We research the effects of soil pollution on soil microbes.

Hidden below ground: Roots

We investigate the roots: How they take up water and nutrients, how they store carbon and how they stabilise soils and trees.

Soil protection

We are looking for indicators for the condition of soils and investigate how forest soils can be protected.

Nutrient cycles

We study nutrient cycles in order to understand the effects of nutrient inputs on natural ecosystems.