Universität Innsbruck

Seminar of the Department of Microbiology


Effects of air pressure on upwards shifting alpine ecosystems

Andreas Meul - AG Illmer (Supervision: Illmer & Präg), Department of Microbiology, University of Innsbruck

19.01.2023, 11:00 - Hybrid

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Abstract

Climate change is affecting ecosystems across the globe. In alpine ecosystems, species will have to face new conditions, either by adapting their life to warming or by migrating upwards into a new environment to track their thermal niche. Many studies have revealed the effects of changing climate on plant species and their upwards migration in this context are well described. In contrast, little is known about the ability of (associated) soil microorganisms to shift their ranges and establish new co-occurrences and interactions with shifting and resident plants. While temperature effects have been intensively studied, upwards migrating species will experience no change in temperature but in particular lower atmospheric pressure due to higher elevation instead. Reduced air pressure is known to affect biologically relevant physical parameters such as vapor pressure deficit and CO2 partial pressure but the impact of moderate pressure reduction on plants and soil microorganisms still needs to be investigated.

Thus, the main goals of my investigations are i) to assess how soil microorganisms react to lower air pressure in terms of diversity, activity, and biomass production and ii) to investigate new and altered associations with plants. For that purpose, we set up elevation gradient scenarios by lowering the air pressure to simulate different elevational levels (250 m to 4,000 m asl) in terraXcube hypobaric chambers while temperature, humidity and solar radiation are kept constant. Together with botanical, eco-physiological and chemical investigations, the current project should give insights in atmospheric pressure as a possible effector on upwards migrating plants and soil microorganisms and their (novel) associations.