Running projects

Alien invaders

Dynamic interactions between Darwin's finches and an alien parasite in the early phase of invasion on the Galapagos Islands

Invasions or accidental introduction of bird parasites are responsible for many of the declines in avian biodiversity and are increasing as a result of an expanding global network of pathways. Parasites cause direct or indirect fitness loss by impairing reproduction and survival, and thus represent a major selective force. The fitness loss of hosts caused by pathogens , which is taken here as the working definition of virulence can arise via weight loss, anemia, reduced growth and effects on other life-history parameters. Virulence levels within and among host species can vary greatly and depend on a number of interrelated factors including the costs of virulence, the tolerance and resistance levels of the host, historical constraints, ecological factors and epidemiological features of the host–parasite interaction.
We aim to understand how a parasite establishes itself in a new host environment and how previously naive hosts respond to this challenge. Regarding the parasite, the focus of the current proposal is to assess differences in life history strategies between the ancestral continental population and the Galapagos population, and to investigate the factors driving the forward-shift of this parasite's life cycle on the Galapagos Islands.

Vienna Urban Carbon Laboratory - Isotopes
  • Stable carbon isotope measurements for monitoring urban CO2 emissions in the city of Vienna
  • Characterization of the isotope carbon signature of various CO2 sources
  • Methodological aspects for implementing a cavity ring-down laser absorption spectrometer for long-term monitoring and integration in an eddy covariance isoflux system
  • Analysis and interpretation of measured ambient isotopes and isofluxes

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On the way to a climate-friendly, sustainable cultivation of agricultural soils

The overall aim of the EJP-SOIL is to build a sustainable European integrated research system for agricultural soils. A frame of reference for climate-friendly and sustainable agricultural land management is to be developed and implemented. This creates an environment in which the contribution of agricultural soils to major societal challenges is maximized. These challenges include food and water security, sustainable agricultural production, adaptation to climate change, climate protection, provision of ecosystem services, conservation of biodiversity and human health.

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Organic carbon sequestration potential in agricultural soils in Europe

Storing carbon in soils reduces emissions and can help curb climate change. However, there is a lack of a comprehensive assessment of how much organic carbon (SOC) can be bound in European soils with different management options, especially taking into account national data on agricultural management. The aim of this project is to estimate the realizable SOC storage potential, taking into account technical and socio-economic constraints, and is based on current FAO activity for a global SOC storage potential map. The key to SOC storage is increased input of biomass (e.g. plant residues) into the soil. For this purpose, a new database is being created to facilitate model runs with RothC and other soil SOC models for various management scenarios. The potential implementation area is being developed together with all CarboSeq partners and the national expert centers. The maps of the SOC storage potential for various management options point to the most efficient agricultural management options at the regional level in order to store the SOC for climate protection and thus serve the political decision-makers.

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Sustainable Management of Soil Organic Matter to Middle Trade-offs between C sequestration and nitrous oxide, methane and nitrate losses

The SOMMIT project will evaluate trade-offs and synergies between soil carbon sequestration, nitrous oxide, methane and nitrate losses that are influenced by soil management options to increase soil carbon storage.
The integrated and interdisciplinary approach will address the main pedoclimatic conditions and agricultural systems in Europe through
1) Synthesis and meta-analysis of available literature and data;
2) targeted, novel measurements on key experiments; and
3) Simulation of long-term agro-ecological system reactions to contrasting management options.
In addition, the data obtained are synthesized by a fuzzy expert system, the
4) an evidence-based identification of optimal strategies for alleviating conflicting goals and
5) enables effective stakeholder engagement.

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Optimizing roots for sustainable crop production in Europe - pure cultures and cover crops.

To reduce the effect of climate change on food security, carbon farming is indispensable. Mobilizing crop producers to support this transformation requires promotion of cropping systems with equivalent profitability, but higher soil C sequestration. The most viable yet neglected option is through increased and deeper roots of main and cover crops. MaxRoot-C will pioneer assessment methods closing this knowledge gap by providing robust hard data on the root C inputs of main crop varieties and different cover crops across the EU, to determine main drivers and model the C sequestering potential therein. It will provide policy relevant data on which to base future CAP instruments and contribute to the development of future carbon sequestration standards for the EU approved seed lists.

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Are mixed species systems fostering belowground C inputs and C sequestration?

MixRoot-C project aims to measure in situ root carbon (C) production and to propose root traits related to soil organic C storage in topsoil and subsoil in the context of diversified agrosystems in Europe (e.g. intercropping, grasslands, and agroforestry). The project accounts for the interactions between climate, soil type, above- and belowground plant compartments, plant species and soil C. In order to provide a reliable assessment of belowground C inputs of mixed species systems across Europe and to assess the related co-benefits and trade-offs associated to an increase in root productivity, MixRoot-C will use complementary approaches, including literature reviewing, collection of existing and new data from long-term field experiments, and process-based modelling.

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External organic matters for climate mitigation and soil health

EOM4SOIL aims at proposing best management practices of external organic matter (EOM) pre-processing and application on soil to contribute to climate change mitigation and improve soil health. Representative farming systems in Europe (arable crops and vineyards) are selected, taking into account the diversity of pedoclimatic conditions. The net budget of soil C storage and greenhouse gas emission including the pre-process step and field application, is assessed as well as the multiple effects of EOM application on soils including contaminants are quantified. Innovative pre-processing are recommended to improve C budget and soil health. The best management practices are defined from scenarios of use assessed with a multicriteria simulation tool, parameterized from long-term experiments.

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Riparian strips

Efficiency of riparian strips to protect water quality against pollution from land use and climate change

Almost half of the land area in Lower Austria is used for agriculture. In the Mostviertel in particular, an intensification of fertilization has been observed in areas near streams in the last 5-10 years. This leads to an increased entry of phosphorus and nitrogen into the waters, which are deposited in the sediments and - especially in the case of phosphorus - can lead to chronic eutrophication of the streams due to redissolution. The problem becomes particularly clear when there are long dry periods with low water levels, as in summer 2018. Increased water temperatures and nutrient concentrations lead to microbial oxygen consumption in the sediment, which can be felt in the water column. In addition, the sediments can act as accumulators for faecal-borne pathogens that enter the waters via sewage, but also via organic fertilizers.

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The CHARBAK project helps itself with the development of the physically basic biochar filters for groundwater remediation. The focus is on the correct establishment of a biofilm in the biochar filter to not only sorb the contaminants, but also to hear them. Chlorinated hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are examined using naphthalene as an example. The development process has the initial production and the biofilms used in the process. The sorption and degradation of pollutants are improved and listened to under the working conditions in batch and crevice tests with the help of component-specific isotope analyzes.

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Spruce is the most economically relevant and most common tree species in Austrian forests. Due to its shallow roots, its water availability is limited, so that drought and high temperatures particularly favor drought stress and its risk of bark beetle infestation. Signatures of stable isotopes (13C, 18O) in tree rings provide detailed information on past climatic fluctuations as well as on physiological responses of a tree to environmental and geomorphological conditions (e.g. availability and utilization of soil water). This knowledge can significantly improve our understanding of past and future impacts of climate change (temperature increase, changing precipitation patterns: extreme summer drought, low snowfall, ...). Drought stress detected by measuring tree ring isotope chronology can be a good way of predicting susceptibility to subsequent bark beetle infestation. Such information provides the basis for the creation of drought and bark beetle risk maps, which, combined with growth models, facilitate the development of long-term climate change adaptation strategies for possible climate scenarios.

The project will use isotope methods at well-characterized sites to empirically determine the effects of climate change on the physiology (water use efficiency, stomatal conductance and photosynthetic capacity) of spruce in Austria and, if present, also allow conclusions to be drawn about an increased risk of bark beetle infestation.

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Bundesforschungszentrum für Wald

Closed projects


At present, for gas emission measurements, sampling of the atmosphere must be carried out with the help of towers or airplanes - capital-intensive methods. Easy access to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has opened up new possibilities for gas sampling. The Iso-2-Drone project aims to develop and produce a modular UAV-based gas monitoring system for emission measurements in order to replace current, expensive technologies additional Information

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The "Iso-Potential" project enables the renewal and peripheral expansion of the isotope mass spectrometer (IRMS) equipment fleet in the stable isotope laboratory at the university and research site in Tulln (UFT). The old device to be replaced (GC-IRMS Delta S) has reached the end of its useful life and no longer corresponds to the state of the art. The project enables the acquisition of a modern and further developed device (GC-GasBench-IRMS). This not only replaces an old device, but also creates the possibility of methodically processing additional research topics (climate-relevant gases, water quality) by expanding the periphery.

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Heavy Metal City-Zen

Heavy metal contamination on human health often outweighs the real risk. Part of the problem is the lack of data in the context of urban production. In addition, collecting city-wide data on the condition of the soil is often difficult and expensive. In this project we want to try to overcome these problems by attracting citizens to simple collaborative experiments in their city gardens. From this data we will create a city map that will provide information about the health of the soil as well as the potential risk of heavy metal contamination. We will also provide information on ways in which these risks can be mitigated in an urban horticultural context.

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We plan to undertake research and development in the area of plant nutrition using a worm compost and to test a series of different compost mixtures. We will also undertake varietal testing and determine the quality and nutrient uptake from the different mixtures and the how the compost acts as a potting compost for nursery gardeners. We will specifically test how biochar interacts with the worms and how the microbial composition of the compost changes with biochar addition.

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Biochar NET-2-U-2

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Garden Soil

In this project, a gentle floor washing technology developed by the University of Ljubljana is being used at two locations in Slovenia and Austria. Together with the BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, the soil functions of the affected soil are being improved and examined using isotope-based methods and monitored. The overarching goal of this project is to investigate the ecological, economic and social potential of this cost-effective floor washing technology. The patented process is not only able to remove lead and other toxic elements, but also to conserve soil as a resource.

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