Core project 8 - Microorganisms: Soil microbial diversity and community composition of grassland and forest ecosystems along land use gradients in three German Biodiversity Exploratories


Scientific investigators:

Prof. Dr. Francois Buscot

Dr. Kezia Goldmann

Ali Nawaz

Beatrix Schnabel

(Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research -UFZ, Halle)

Prof. Dr. Jörg Overmann

Dr. Johannes Sikorski

Dr. Selma Vieira

Franziska Burkart

Anika Methner

(DSMZ Braunschweig)

Prof. Dr. Michael Schloter

(TU München)

Dr. Barbara Stempfhuber

(Helmholtz Zentrum München)

Microorganisms are all organisms smaller than 50µm and include bacteria, archaea, fungi as well as unicellular small eukaryotes like protists. They constitute the major fraction of the living biomass in soils and form associations with tight functional interactions, also termed microbiomes.

Soils are a hotspot for microbial diversity on earth, and soil microorganisms contribute strongly to the services provided by soils. This includes the promotion of plant growth, driving food, feed and fuel production, the sequestration of carbon triggering mitigation of climate change effects, the degradation of pollutants resulting maintaining drinking water resources and a general protection function also for higher trophic levels.

In addition to site specific conditions including soil type and local climate, land use and land use intensity are important drivers of soil microbial diversity. To date, the role and the interactions of environmental factors for soil microbial diversity and functioning are still little understood.


The main goals of the core project Microorganisms are:

  1. To monitor soil microbial communities of archaea, bacteria and fungi in all 300 grassland and forest experimental plots (EPs) of the Biodiversity Exploratories. Based on these diversity data, to unravel network structures, identify keystone species as well as major functional traits of the soil microbiome, and bring them into a spatial temporal context in relation to land use.
  2. Next to coordinated soil sampling campaigns in May 2011, 2014, and 2017, this core project will organize an upcoming sampling of all EPs from all three Expoloratories in May 2021.
  3. Further soil samples from manipulation experiments in grasslands and forests will be taken and studied.
  4. Members of the Core project will extract DNA and RNA using highly standardized protocols to perform the necessary diversity analysis and supply the data obtained to the contributing projects. In addition, purified and standardized extracts of nucleic acids will be provided to other projects.
  5. In addition Core project 8 develops preservation and biobanking strategies to ensure a sustainable back up of soil samples as well as extracts of nucleic acids for future projects.
  6. Core project 8 engages in multiple synthesis activities of the Biodiversity Exploratories.

Actual cooperation with contributing projects

Due to the Covid 19 pandemie the central sampling of the 300 EPS has been postponed from spring 2020 to spring 2021; only than the effective cooperation with contributing projects can be fixed.


Partnership in central experiments:

  • In the past phases: BELOW, SADE, SCALEMIC, BEECH Transplant,
  • In the actual phase: Forest Gap Experiment (FOX), Reduced Land-Use Intensity Experiment (REX), Land Use Experiment (LUX)


Project in previous phases


Further project contribution of Prof. Dr. Francois Buscot: BLD-FFD-HZG I-III
Previous project contribution of
Prof. Dr. Francois Buscot: MicroSYSteM I-II, SOILFUNGI, Funwood I-III, Soil (biotic)

Previous project contribution of Prof. Dr. Jörg Overmann: ProFIL, ProFunD I-II, MicroSYSteM I-II

Previous project contribution of Prof. Dr. Michael Schloter: INDILAP, InDiLaNi, ForNit, MicroBEEs, Crustfunction II, KiWion

To top