DP ABGC Student Paper Award 2019

The DP Outstanding Student Paper Award 2019 has been awarded to Andreas Bär for his review paper on „Fire effects on tree physiology“, published in New Phytologist. Additional DP Student Paper Awards were awarded to Teofana Chonova, Nadine Präg, Elena Tello Garcia and Brenda Zoderer. Find a summary for each of the awarded papers below.

DP ABGC Student Paper Awardees 2019

DP ABGC Student Paper Awardees Teofana Chonova, Elena Tello-Garcia, Nadine Praeg and Andreas Bär (left to right)



Fire effects on tree physiology

Low- to moderate-intensity fires often do not constitute a direct lethal threat to mature trees, but rather, may cause a variety of injuries that can initiate a cascade of complex mechanisms that affect physiology and functionality of trees after fires.
In the paper below, we summarize the physiological processes after fires and explain how they may interact with disturbances such as drought, insects and pathogens. By focusing on carbon and water as currencies of plant functioning, we outline a conceptual framework that unifies the involved processes, their interconnections, and possible feedbacks.
Evaluating the precise process relationships will be crucial for fully understanding how fires can affect tree functionality. Especially considering future climate-driven increases in fire frequency and intensity, knowledge of the physiological tree responses is important to better estimate postfire ecosystem dynamics and interactions with climate disturbances.



Overview of fire effects in trees. Heat transfer into crown, stem and root tissues is mediated by functional traits and can immediately lead to first-order injuries, which potentially can induce second-order effects. Both first- and second-order effects can lead to physiological impairments in tree carbon (C) and water relations, consequently limiting functioning and growth. Depending on postfire environmental conditions and species-specific traits (e.g. abilities to balance C and/or water restrictions), affected trees may either recover from postfire limitations or succumb to fire legacy effects.

For his paper in the journal New Phytologist DP-member Andreas Bär received the DP ABGC Outstanding Student Paper Award 2019.

Bär A, Michaletz ST, Mayr S. (2019) Fire effects on tree physiology. New Phytologist 4:233, https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15871

Benthic Diatom Communities in an Alpine River Impacted by Waste Water Treatment Effluents as Revealed Using DNA Metabarcoding

Freshwater ecosystems are continuously affected by anthropogenic pressure. Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents represent one of the main contamination sources. Compared to urban effluents, hospital ones usually contain more pharmaceutical substances that may affect recipient aquatic ecosystems. Benthic algae diatoms are ubiquitous and used for water quality monitoring worldwide. In this study advanced metabarcoding was applied to characterize diatom community composition in response to urban vs hospital treated waste effluents.

Diatom communities within treated effluents were dominated by a few rather resistant groups and were found either associated with beta-blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in urban effluents or antibiotics and nutrients (phosphate) in hospital effluents. Furthermore, 27% of the diatom groups detected in the river downstream from the WWTP output were found to indicate treated effluents and could be used as bioindicators in the future. The biological diatom index (BDI) calculated to evaluate the ecological status of the sampling site suggested a local water quality decrease linked to the release of WWTP effluents.

Thus, in-depth assessment of diatom community composition using DNA metabarcoding is proposed as a promising technique to highlight the disturbing effect of pollutants in Alpine rivers.

Science Flash Chonova

 (A) Sampling site map; (B) Relative abundances of diatom genera; (C) Phylogenetic tree of benthic diatoms. Colors delineate indicator OTUs for each location. U - urban treated effluent (in blue); H - hospital treated effluent (in black); RU - river upstream (in green); RD - river downstream (in red).

For her paper in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology DP-member Teofana Chonova received the LFUI Best Student Paper Award 2019 and the DP ABGC Student Paper Award 2019.

Chonova T, Kurmayer R, Rimet F, Labanowski J, Vasselon V, Keck F, Illmer P, Bouchez A. (2019) Benthic diatom communities in an Alpine river impacted by waste water treatment effluents as revealed using DNA metabarcoding. Frontiers in Microbiology 10:653, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.00653

The microbiome of plants: R. glacialis and its rhizobiome along a high-alpine altitudinal gradient

Rhizosphere zones of plants are known to be hot-spots for microbial diversity. To determine the importance of environmental parameters and the roots’ influence on shaping the soil microbial community, we investigated microbial communities in the rhizosphere of Ranunculus glacialis and bulk soil along a high-alpine altitudinal gradient (2,600 – 3,400 m a.s.l.) at Mount “Schrankogel” in the Central Alps of Tyrol (Austria).

We demonstrated that the composition of microbial communities could be categorized according to the alpine, alpine-nival and nival zone. Environmental parameters explained 41% of the total variation of soil prokaryotic communities, with pH and temperature being the strongest influencing factors. The effects of the roots accounted for about one third of the explained variation. Fungal communities were nearly exclusively influenced by environmental parameters.

A mid-altitudinal zone at 3,000 - 3,100 m was shown to harbor highest microbial diversities and specialized biomarker taxa. This transition zone lies between the (lower) alpine grassland/tundra zone and the (upper) sparsely vegetated nival zone and was shown to correspond with the summer snow line. Climate change and the associated increase in temperature will shift this transition zone upwards, which could have significant impact on microbial diversity and thus occurring taxa being specialized to this zone.

Science Flash Praeg

 The rhizobiome of Ranunculus glacialis was investigated along an altitudinal gradient (2,600 – 3,400 m a.s.l.) and compared with surrounding bulk soils (Photo: R. glacialis, at 2630 m a.s.l. on Mount Schrankogel, Stubai Alps)

For her paper in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology DP-member Nadine Präg received the DP ABGC Student Paper Award 2019.

Präg N, Pauli H, Illmer P (2019) Microbial Diversity in Bulk and Rhizosphere Soil of Ranunculus glacialis Along a High-Alpine Altitudinal Gradient. Frontiers in Microbiology 10:1429. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.01429

Drought- and heat-induced shifts in vegetation composition impact biomass production and water use of Alpine grasslands

The frequency and intensity of droughts are expected to increase in the Alpine grasslands. Grassland communities will adjust to altered climatic conditions by optimising water use according to the individual strategies of plant species and competitive interactions between them. To gain better insights into the effects of climate change, we assessed the reaction of an intensive Alpine grassland, commonly used for hay production, to periods of extensive drought and heat – specified for plant functional group level.

The drought and heating experiment showed that the soil water was used continuously until it was almost no longer available. At this point, evapotranspiration had to be stopped, thereby significantly lowering biomass production. After rewetting, the grassland community recovered and revealed a shift in the plant community composition. Legumes were most affected by drought and recovered with difficulty, while grasses showed an even enhanced productivity. This shift from legumes to grasses was beneficial in terms of water use and grassland productivity, but its effect on soil nutrients, forage quality and future resistance to drought remains unclear.



Experimental plot, where lysimeters filled with Alpine grassland monoliths were subjected to drought and heat conditions. The transparent film sheltered off precipitation and the ceramic infrared heat plates enhanced the canopy surface temperature by 2K.

For her paper in the journal Environmental and Experimental Botany DP-member Elena Tello-Garcia received the DP ABGC Student Paper Award 2019.


Tello-Garcia E, Huber L, Leitinger G, Peters A, Newesely C, Ringler ME, Tasser E. (2020) Drought- and heat-induced shifts in vegetation composition impact biomass production and water use of Alpine grasslands. Environmental and Experimental Botany 169:103921, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envexpbot.2019.103921

An integrated method for the mapping of landscape preferences at the regional scale

While much landscape planning and decision-making operates at the regional scale, capturing public's preferences of specific landscapes at scales beyond the local remains a challenge especially in geographically diverse areas such as mountain regions. This study presents a new method for the mapping of landscape preferences at regional scales by combining elements from landscape and ecosystem service research. It can be seen as a balancing act that seeks to maintain a balance between the consideration of both the contextual and multifaceted nature of landscape preferences and the need to generalise these preferences beyond the level of particular landscapes. The proposed method can be applied to regions of different size, varying geographical complexity and for different beneficiary groups. Designed as a decision-support tool, it can support the identification of priority areas for intervention and the evaluation of the impacts of alternative trajectories of landscape change for different societal groups. This opens up new opportunities for integrating bottom-up approaches into landscape planning, ultimately fostering more sustainable and socially just planning outcomes.


Proposed method to map public landscape preferences at the regional scale.

For her paper in the journal Ecological Indicators DP-member Brenda Maria Zoderer received the DP ABGC Student Paper Award 2019.

Zoderer BM, Tasser E, Carver S, Tappeiner U. (2019) An integrated method for the mapping of landscape preferences at the regional scale. Ecological Indicators 106:105430. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.05.061

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