Soil Ecology

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Since the retirement of Erwin Meyer, former Head of the Group, the activities are affiliated to
Molecular Ecology and Applied and Trophic Ecology

Our work addresses the biology and ecology of alpine soil invertebrates, focussing on structural and functional aspects. We use traditional field and laboratory as well as modern techniques such as stable isotopes and molecular tools to investigate the composition of soil animal communities, their functional role in decomposition processes, in nutrient cycling and soil formation. A further aspect of our studies concerns the effect of land-use changes on these communities. Current work deals with the soil invertebrate community in high alpine soils, in particular the role of diperan larvae in humus and soil formation. In cooperation with the Institute of Microbiology, we investigate whether the gut microbiota of soil invertebrates is diet-related or species-specific to get a better understanding of microorganism-macrodecomposer relationships in a changing environ­ment. Longterm research projects include monitoring the macrofauna of forest soils and the evaluation of biodiversity in cultivated and natural land.


Group Members

  • Erwin Meyer,  Dr. Ao. Univ.-Prof.
       Expertise: animal ecology, soil zoology
  • Julia Seeber, Dr.
       Expertise: alpine soil ecology, alpine dipterans, stable isotopes, DNA barcodes, statistics
  • Alexander Rief, Mag.
       Expertise: spider taxonomy, alpine dipterans, stable isotopes, DNA barcodes
  • Thomas Peham , DI
       Expertise: soil macrofauna, soil biological field and lab methods, agro-ecology
  • Michael Steinwandter, MSc.
       Expertise: soil macrofauna, stable isotopes
  • Regina Medgyesy
    Technical assistant
  • Irene Schatz, Dr.
    affiliated researcher
  • Heinz Schatz, Dr.
    affiliated researcher
  • Barbara Thaler-Knoflach, Dr.
    affiliated researcher
  • Gregor Degasperi 

PhD Students

Thomas Peham
Alexander Rief
Michael Steinwandter

MSc Students

Andrea Schwemberger


Our latest papers

 Traugott M, Kamenova S, Ruess L, Seeber J, Plantegenest M, 2013.Empirically characterizing trophic networks: what DNA-based methods, stable isotope and fatty acid analyses offer. Advances in Ecological Research 49, 177-224.

Rief A, Knapp BA, Seeber J, 2012. Palatability of selected alpine plant litters for the decomposer Lumbricus rubellus (Lumbricidae). PLoS ONE 7(9), e45345. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045345. Paper

Seeber J, Rief A, Richter A, Traugott M, Bahn M, 2012. Drought-induced reduction in uptake of recently photosynthesized carbon by springtails and mites in alpine grassland. Soil Biol Biochem 55, 37,39. pdf

Peham T, Bruckner A, 2012: Optimising whole-soil multiple substrate-induced respiration (MSIR) of soil microbiota for large scale surveillance and monitoring. Eur J Soil Biol 50, 182-190. doi: 10.1016/j.ejsobi.2012.02.006. Abstract

Knapp BA, Rief A, Seeber J, 2011. Microbial litter decomposition on managed and abandoned alpine pastureland. Biol Fert Soils 47, 845-851. Abstract


Current research Projects

Previous projects

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