Functional Ecology

The Research Group Functional Ecology studies plant, soil and ecosystem processes and how they are affected by global change. Our research topics include a.o. plant-soil interactions, greenhouse gas emissions, and the role of plants and their traits in ecosystem processes. In situ experimental manipulations and isotopic tracers of carbon, nitrogen and water are used to unravel the mechanisms underlying the ecosystem responses to environmental change.

In our current projects (listed below) we study the effects of drought and drought legacies on mountain grassland and forest at the LTER-site Stubai and on grassland mesocosms and young trees in the botanical garden; the effects of long term-warming on carbon cycling in subarctic grasslands in Iceland; the interactive effects of warming, elevated CO2 and drought on grassland biogeochemistry and ecohydrology; and the effects of snow cover changes on carbon cycling and soil communities and processes.

Publications since 2018
 Group Members

MSc Students
Trinidad Cerda
Deniz Scheerer
Carmen Telser
Maud Tissink

Recent group members
LFUI Guest Professor Jan-Mar 2020:  Richard Bardgett PhD, Chris Bowden (Student Intern June - August 2019), Stefanie Hörbst, MSc, Dr. Jasper Bloemen, Dr. Ute Krainer, Dr. Dagmar Rubatscher, Dr. Michael Schmitt

Former Master students 
Melissa Morcote-Martinez, Michael Metzler, Sarah Geiger, Sonja Pirchmoser, Alexander Kiessling, Magdalena Haidegger, Sylvia Flucher, Lena Drexler,  Helene Solderer, Veronika Brune, Sacha Ribeyron (Internship Feb-Aug 2018, Université Jean Monnet - Saint-Etienne), Claudia Gstir, Sebastian Gertloff, Michaela Krohn, Lisa Schwarz, Stefan Roth, Karina Fritz, Eric Walter, Sarah Scheld, Andrea Weinfurtner, Arne Schultz

Co-supervised students from collaborating institutions:
PhD students:
Stefan Karlowsky (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena), Alba Anadon Rosell  (University of Barcelona), Konstantin Gavazov (EPFL), Lucia Fuchslueger (University of Vienna)
Master students: Lukas Huss, Camilla Bateni, Martino Gambacorti-Passerini, Oliver Rohrmoser, Florian Senoner (all: Free University of Bozen)

Current Projects

Future Arctic: A glimpse into the Arctic future: equipping a unique natural experiment  for next-generation ecosystem research
Funded by EU-Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Actions – Innovative Training Networks ITN | 2019-2023 |

Consequences of seasonal snow cover for carbon cycling of world forests: direct and legacy effects
Funded by NSF | 2020-2021 | co-investigator (PI: Dave Bowling, University of Utah) |
ForHot: Plant-soil carbon responses to warming and nitrogen
Funded by FWF | 2017-2020 | principle investigator (international partner PI: Ivan Janssens, Antwerp)

 Cross-season legacy effects of climate extremes on alpine soil microbial communities: resilience, regimes shifts and biogeochemical cycles
Funded by University of Manchester  | 2020 - 2023 | co-investigator (PI: Richard Bardgett, Univ. of Manchester)

Remembering the drought: how soil memories affect grassland resilience
Funded by a Research Leaders 2025 Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant | 2020-2021 | PI: Natalie Oram 


  • ClimGrassHydro: Ecohydrology of mountain grassland under multiple global change: mechanisms and consequences
    Funded by ÖAW research programme "Earth System Sciences" (ESS) | 2019-2022 | principle investigator
  • ClimGrass: Grassland carbon dynamics in a changing climate
    Funded by FWF | 2016-2019 | principle investigator
  • ExtremeGrass - Interactive effects of warming, elevated CO2 and weather extremes on nitrogen gas fluxes in a managed grassland
    Funded by Austrian Climate Research Program (ACRP) | 2016-2019 | project partner

LTER-CWN Long-Term Ecosystem Research Infrastructure for Carbon, Water and Nitrogen
Funded by FFG-Austrian Research Promotion Agency | 2017-2022 | project partner

NitroTrace: Using isotopes to trace the effects of climate extremes on N2O emissions and the nitrogen cycle in managed grasslands 
funded by FWF | 2018-2021 | PI: Eliza Harris

Timberline - Legacy effects after summer and winter drought
Funded by FWF | 2019-2022 | co-investigator (PI: Stefan Mayr, Department of Botany)

Interactive effects of drought intensity and resilience on the response of grassland C dynamics to drought
Funded by TWF | 2020-2021 | PI: Johannes Ingrisch

Completed Projects (selected)
Soil microbial community dynamics and biogeochemical cycles under global change: effects of climate and vegetation change in alpine ecosystems
Funded by NERC |2017-2020|  project partner (PI: Richard Bardgett, Manchester)
ClimMani - Climate Change Manipulation Experiments in Terrestrial Ecosystems: Networking and Outreach
In the frame of COST Action ES1308 | 2014-2018
ClimLUC: Climate extremes and land-use change: effects on ecosystem processes and services
Funded by ÖAW research programme "Earth System Sciences" (ESS) | 2015-2018 | principle investigator
The role of respired CO2 recycling in tree carbon allocation (FWF Lise Meitner Programme) | 2014 – 2016

CARBO-Extreme The terrestrial Carbon cycle under Climate Variability and Extremes – a pan European synthesis(EU FP7, 2009 - 2013)

GHG Europe-Greenhouse gas management in European land use systems (EU FP7, 2010-2013)

REGARDS - REsilience of marginal GrAsslands and biodiveRsity management Decision Support 
Funded by FWF (ERA-net BiodivERsA) | 2013-2016 | project partner

SIGNAL - research project
Funded by the BiodivERsA call of the ERA-Net | 2013-2016

Climate extremes and grassland carbon dynamics (FWF P22214, 2010-2013)

VITAL (Ecosystem service proVIsion from coupled planT and microbial functionAL diversity in managed grasslands (Project BiodivERsA) (FWF I242, 2009-2013) 

CAMELEON - CArbon dynamics in Mountain Ecosystems : analyzing Landscape-scale Effects Of aNthropogenic changes (climate and land-use) (BMWF, "Circle Mountain" ERA-net, 2011-2013)

COST Action ES0806 SIBAE - Stable Isotopes in Biospheric-Atmospheric-Earth System Research SIBAE (2009-2013)

Plant and microbial controls on ecosystem respiration (FWF P18756, co-funded by TWF, 2006-2010)

Plant resource use in mountain grasslands differing in land use  (FWF P13003-B06, 1999-2002)

CarboMont (EU FP 5, EVK2-CT2001-00125, 2001-2004)

EcoMont (EU FP4, ENV4-CT95-0179, 1996-1999)


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