Dr. Jörg Luster

Dr. Jörg Luster


Responsabile d'unità di ricerca ad interim


Suoli forestali e giogeochimica


Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf


WSL Birmensdorf Bi MG C 52

Main Research Interests

I study biogeochemical cycles in soils of near-natural ecosystems, including plant-soil-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere. Based on an improved understanding of these processes, I assess different soil functions and their sensitivity to effects caused by changes in climate and land use management. The most recent studies focus on the interaction of soil moisture regimes, e.g. drying and rewetting cycles, with the availability and leaching of nutrients and the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2, N2O, CH4).

For details on processes at the interface between plant root and soil see research focus "Rhizosphere".


Born: December 17, 1960

Academic Qualifications

  • 1985: Diploma in chemistry, ETH Zurich
  • 1990: Ph.D., ETH Zurich

Professional Experience

  • 1985: Chemist, EMPA – Materials Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 1985–1986: Teaching Assistant, Laboratory for Inorganic Chemistry, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1990-1992: Postdoctoral Researcher, Dept. of Soil Science, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.
  • 1992-2003: Head Soil Chemistry Laboratory, WSL
  • 1992–2006: Research Scientist, Dept. Soil Ecology, WSL
  • 1992-2007: Chair Supervising Committee of the Central Analytical Laboratory, WSL
  • since 2006: Head of Research Group „Soil Structure and Function“ and deputy head of the Research Unit „Soil Sciences“, WSL
  • since 2008: Chair Laboratory Commission, WSL
  • since 2010: Head of Research Group „Soil Functions and Soil Protection“ and deputy head of Research Unit „Forest Soils and Biogeochemistry“, WSL

Professional Activities

  • 1997: Environmental Risk Assessment for NEAT tunnel construction
  • 2002-2006: Co-Chair Working Group 2 and Coordinator of Swiss Research Activities COST 631 (Understanding and Modelling of Processes in the Rhizosphere Environment)
  • 2003-2004: Scientific Committee „Rhizosphere 2004; perspectives and challenges - A tribute to Lorenz Hiltner“, München
  • 2005: Organising Committee „Metal fluxes and stresses in terrestrial ecosystems“, Centro Stefano Franscini Monte Verità, Ascona
  • 2010: Scientific Committee "Eurosoil 2012", Bari Italy

Bachelor and Master Theses

Digit Soil - A rapid measurement of soil health (M.Sc. thesis project)

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), a quarter of the global surface of agricultural land is already highly degraded, therefore maintaining long-term soil health gains importance. Nevertheless, there are currently no easy, fast, and reliable ways to assess the effects of soil management on soil health and in particular on soil biology.
The planned Thesis-project seeks to support development of an easy-to-use, portable sensor (Digit Soil), measuring the activity of soil enzymes as a soil health indicator.

Starting date: any time 2021 or beginning of 2022

For more information contact joerg.luster@wsl.ch or sonia.meller@wsl.ch

Ph.D. students

Alexander Heim

  • 1997-2000
  • Committee: E. Frossard (ETHZ), N. Amrein (ETHZ), A. Göttlein (TU München), J. Luster (WSL)
  • Project: "The role of root exudates in the aluminum tolerance of Norway spruce"

David Rais

  • 2001-2005
  • Committee: R. Schulin (ETHZ), B. Nowack (ETHZ, EMPA St. Gallen), J. Luster (WSL)
  • Project: "From Cell to Tree: the Soil"

Jacynthe Dessureault-Rompré (co-supervision)

  • 2003-2007
  • Committee: R. Schulin (ETHZ), E. Frossard (ETHZ), B. Nowack (ETHZ, EMPA St. Gallen), J. Luster (WSL)
  • Project: "Root exudation by Lupinus albus and Thlaspi species and effects on trace metal mobility in soils"

Juna Shrestha

  • 2008-2011
  • Committee: E. Frossard (ETHZ), K. Tockner (IGB Berlin, EAWAG), P. Niklaus (University of Zürich), J. Luster (WSL)
  • Project: "Nitrogen cycling in floodplain soils"

Benjamin Huber (co-supervision)

  • 2008-2012
  • Committee: S. Bernasconi (ETHZ), B. Wehrli (ETHZ), W. Borken (University of Bayreuth), E. Graf-Pannatier (WSL), J. Luster (WSL)
  • Project: "Tracing nitrate in water from the forest to the aquifer using stable isotopes of oxygen and nitrogen"