Microbes alter successional pathways

Main funder

Funder's project number: 287545

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 426 811,00

Funding program

  • Academy Project, AoF (Academy of Finland)

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2015

Project end date: 31/08/2019


In this project, we seek to provide the answer for the existence of different trajectories of ecosystem development by including microbes as key players in the system development. We test whether the model aeolian sand ecosystems in the north present cases of alternative stable state plant communities. In particular, we test the novel idea whether biological soil crust biota may act as plant endophytes and whether they may explain successional trajectories and the formation of alternate stable states in the system. Plant endophytes is a novel line of research and the first reports on their existence and importance have revealed them essential to plant functions in temperate and tropical ecosystems. There are no previous studies of the role of microbes in establishment of plant cover in northern inland Aeolian sand ecosystems, although the role of microbes in forming biological soil crusts which facilitate plant establishment are considered critical in southern aeolian ecosystems. At the practical level, we explore an ecosystem type, the northern aeolian ecosystems that are likely to have unique characteristics, but have not yet been studied. Inland northern aeolian systems cover large circumpolar areas that are currently under intensive pressure of land use due to reindeer herding, tourism and increasing mining activities. Furthermore, climate change models predict that these areas will receive more precipitation during winter-time which is likely to affect the biological crust development and consequently ecosystem functions. In our research, we explore the effect of changing snow cover on biological soil crust and consequent ecosystem functions. This information can then be incorporated into ecosystem management practices in order to ensure continuity of ecosystem functions.
The international research team consists of experts on arctic ecology, biological soil crust biology and microbiology. Main site of research is a long-term field experimental site in northern Finland and Jyväskylä university where the new laboratory center provides exceptional facilities for the research.

Principal Investigator

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Last updated on 2019-08-10 at 11:18