Welcome to the Grassland Group
The research interests of the Grassland Science group are mainly concerned with the physiology of grassland plants and the ecology of grassland ecosystems in Europe, South America and Central Asia. Clearly, the interests are broad-scale and multidisciplinary, and they involve interactions with ecology, soil science, biogeochemistry, and animal and plant science. Oneresearch focus is centered on carbon metabolism (processes of photosynthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, allocation and respiration) and interdependent water and nutrient dynamics, which underlie plant performance. This research field interlinks with morphogenetic studies of shoot (leaf, tiller) and root growth and development,their functions and organ longevity.The studies make use of unique, tightly-controlled environments, which permit high-precision 13C/12C-, 18O/16O-CO2 and 2H/1H- and 18O/16O-H2O exchange studies with individual plants and plant communities, and similar specially-designed systems for studies in natural conditions in the field. A second focus is concerned with the response of grassland ecosystems to Climate Change in the last century. This work has established an increasing intrinsic water use efficiency of Alpine and British lowland grassland (including interacting effects with nutrient supplies), and an expansion of C4 species in Central Asia grasslands.That work made use of carbon isotope analysis in soil samples, archived plant material(Park Grass Experiment, Rothamsted, England) and herbivore tissues (e.g. wool/hair and horn collected in field trips or obtained from Museums). A third focus deals with domestic grazed grassland and investigates the effect of grazing pressure and water availability on carbon-, water and nitrogen fluxes in grassland ecosystems and on plant species dynamics in sown and permanent grassland. This experiment (now discontinued because of the loss of the research station to the Munich airport) included long-term eddy flux measurements and a MIBA (moisture isotopes in biosphere and atmosphere) experiment (which was initiated/inspired by IAEA). Also, this work has provided much methodic and basic insight in the usefulness of grazer tissues as natural isotopic (13C, 15N, 18O) recorders of biogeochemical processes in grassland.