Research at the Mofettes (Natural CO2 Springs)
If we want to learn, how to prevent biodiversity loss and maintain soil health and ecosystem services, we have to understand the ecology and function of soil biota. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are a very important and abundant functional group of soil microorganisms in practically all terrestrial ecosystems.
It is still not clear, what structures AM fungal communities in natural environments. There is some evidence that where an extreme environmental stress occurs in soils, there are a small number of AM fungal lineages that are better able to tolerate those conditions, which results in unique, adapted populations. Hypoxia is a common transition property of the soil that appears often in waterlogged and flooded soils. We study biodiversity, ecology, function, and evolution of AM fungi in soils with an extreme but localized abiotic stress (high soil CO2 concentration and consequently low O2 availability – hypoxia) to determine how these organisms respond to strong abiotic selection pressures.
For this purpose we use extreme natural ecosystems, mofettes (natural CO2 springs), ambient temperature CO2-exhaling gas vents occurring in regions of tectonic or volcanic activity worldwide. These specific environments are characterized by high soil CO2 (up to 99.9%), and reduced soil O2 concentrations, leading to a locally hypoxic environment, a long-term abiotic selection pressure affecting soil biota. Information on AM fungal communities from mofette areas or in general, hypoxic environments, is very limited. Nevertheless, the quantification of AM fungi from plant roots sampled in the Stavešinci mofette area (Slovenia), confirmed the presence of apparently unique fungal assemblages across a range of soil CO2 concentrations and currently we are trying to isolate and describe those potentially new AM (and other) fungal species from the mofette environments.
SCOPES Project – Bodiversity of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and its Importance for Sustainable Land-use in Selected Areas of Balkan Peninsula (BALKANAM)
This is a study on diversity, ecology and biogeography of AM fungi in selected biodiversity rich areas of Balkan Peninsula. The work is based on concomitant morphological and molecular phylogenetic analyses.
Swiss Contribution Project – Slovenian Collection of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Application of Mycorrhiza in Agroecosystems and Environmental Protection (SI-AMF)
In the frame of the Swiss Contribution Small Partnership Project the Slovenian Collection of AM fungi (SI-AMF) will be established. Soil inocula will be collected from different terrestrial habitats in Slovenia and pot cultures to propagate, isolate and identify different taxa of AM fungi will be established. In the frame of the project, several promotion activities will be run, in order to inform general public and specific stakeholders about the ecology, biology and possible application of AM fungi in agroecosystems and in environmental protection.