Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Response of plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi to soil hypoxia

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.03.01  Biotechnical sciences  Plant production  Agricultural plants 

Code Science Field
B310  Biomedical sciences  Physiology of vascular plants 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
arbuscular mycorrhiza, fungi, endophytes, microorganisms, hypoxia, mofettes, natural CO2 springs, soil biodiversity, soil, mineral nutrients, community structure
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (17)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  29875  Marko Bajc  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Technical associate  2013 - 2016  280 
2.  24375  PhD Elena Bužan  Biology  Researcher  2014 - 2016  365 
3.  27641  PhD Tjaša Danevčič  Biotechnology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  183 
4.  24416  PhD Klemen Eler  Biology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  306 
5.  29164  PhD Mitja Ferlan  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  222 
6.  21242  PhD Tine Grebenc  Plant production  Researcher  2013 - 2016  485 
7.  34338  PhD Anela Kaurin  Plant production  Researcher  2016  49 
8.  07127  PhD Hojka Kraigher  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  1,331 
9.  21581  PhD Irena Maček  Biology  Head  2013 - 2016  136 
10.  24580  PhD Hans-Josef Schroers  Plant production  Researcher  2013 - 2016  195 
11.  26481  PhD Snežna Sodin Šemrl  Microbiology and immunology  Researcher  2013  319 
12.  13005  PhD David Stopar  Plant production  Researcher  2013 - 2016  469 
13.  31877  PhD Nataša Šibanc  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  85 
14.  32771  PhD Ines Štraus  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  52 
15.  24777  Barbara Štupar    Technical associate  2013 - 2016  29 
16.  14011  PhD Dominik Vodnik  Biology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  415 
17.  28401  PhD Peter Železnik  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2013 - 2016  188 
Organisations (4)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0401  Agricultural institute of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5055431  20,373 
2.  0404  Slovenian Forestry Institute  Ljubljana  5051673000  11,988 
3.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,215 
4.  2790  University of Primorska, Faculty of mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies  Koper  1810014009  17,630 
Soil microbial communities are largely uncharacterized, yet this uncharacterized diversity is responsible for key ecosystem services such as decomposition of organic material, biogeochemical cycling of essential macronutrients and minerals, and maintenance of soil structure. We propose a study of diversity, ecology and function of fungi in soils with an extreme but localized abiotic stress, soil hypoxia (lack of O2). A natural system where such conditions occur is natural CO2 springs or mofettes, with severe long-term change in soil gases (high CO2 concentration and hypoxia) due to geological ambient temperature CO2 exhalations. Soil hypoxia is also common in waterlogged and flooded soil.   Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are plant root endosymbionts and a ubiquitous functional group in soils. They improve plant mineral nutrition, water availability and pathogen resistance. It is still not clear what structures the AM fungal community in nature. Our previous studies have shown that in hypoxic soils AM fungal community composition drastically changes. With the employment of the metagenetic approaches (GS FLX Titanium, 454 Life Sciences Roche) we will study whether the hypoxia tolerant fungi in mofette soils are indeed new, adapted extremophilic taxa or just a subset of the rare taxa present in the surrounding control populations. In addition to arbuscular mycorrhizas studies, identification and isolation of different (potentially new) fungal species from other fungal groups, with the stress on dark septate endophytes (DSE) will be performed.   The functional aspect of root and soil fungal response to hypoxia will be characterised by measuring root and fungal biomass, and importance of the fungal path of nutrient uptake for the plants exposed to hypoxia by studying plant root and fungal energy metabolism (carbon flux through central metabolic pathways) and root (fungal) phosphate uptake. This will be done by measuring the activity of some key enzymes involved in glycolysis and respiration and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) concentration in roots and fungal tissues by biochemical approaches, and by measuring the activity of mycorrhiza induced phosphate transporters by molecular techniques.
Significance for science
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are present in almost all terrestrial ecosystems. They form symbiotic relationship with most of the terrestrial plants (over 90% of plant species are mycorrhizal) and have an ancient origin, since the relationship between plant and fungi has developed )400 million years ago, when plants invaded the land. Thus, better understanding of these ubiquitous organisms and their ecological role can represent an important contribution to the understanding of biological equilibrium and ecosystem services in many ecosystems, and to maintaining biodiversity (both in plant communities and soil). To our knowledge, apart from our initial study (Maček et al., AEM, 2011), there have been no reports on diversity, ecology or function of AM or any other fungal group from mofette areas before this research took place. In general, reports on any aspect of AM fungal biology from extreme habitats or hypoxic environment are relatively scarce. Hence, our research can contribute important new information on mycorrhizal fungal biodiversity and functional role at mofette areas with the possible extension of results to other extreme soil environments in general (e.g. heavy metal polluted soil). It is still not known what primarily drives AM fungal community structure and biodiversity in the field and which mechanisms promote the high level of AM fungal diversity in natural environments. In this respect, extreme environments could serve as novel study systems to examine how long-term abiotic selection pressures drive natural fungal communities and their evolution and possibly result in new specialist and extremophilic taxa (see our opinion paper; Maček et al., 2016, Advances in Ecological Research, Vol. 55). In this project recently developed metagenetic approaches have been used (Illumina HiSeq) in combination with more traditional approaches (e.g. AM fungal root colonisation measurements), interconnecting several fields: ecology, physiology, taxonomy, metagenetics, and bioinformatics. The project and research outputs are relevant to EU science research priorities, e.g. conservation of biodiversity, sustainable development and climate change studies (carbon cycling). In this respects our results will present important and novel information for scientific community.
Significance for the country
Soil fungi are a key component of soil biodiversity and function, and this project has enabled us to use advanced metagenetic approaches for monitoring and research into soil biodiversity within Slovenia for the first time. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) should be considered as an important biotic factor, affecting ecosystem services, also in conservation schemes, especially applicable in the areas of special ecological value and areas with sustainable agricultute. In this case, results on AMF ecological function in hypoxic soil and their benefits could be applied to sustainable agriculture practice (AMF inoculum as biofertiliser and AMF as biocontrol agent) and as a database source for the proper management of natural communities to support ecosystem services. AMF exploitation is of high environmental economic relevance and to reach the goal of production of high quality inoculums, a question addressed ‘Which factors preferentially determine AMF community composition in the field?’ needs an answer. Mofettes have proved to be a good system to test this (see the opinion paper Maček et al., 2016, Advances in Ecological Research, Vol. 55). Extreme environments are a source of specific organisms that can be used in biotechnology (Maček et al., 2016, Advances in Ecological Research). Mofettes represent a big potential for isolation of hypoxia tolerant species, that can show some potential for application in industry or can even be identified as human pathogens. Mofettes also have potential application to a wider stakeholder community as model systems that enable evaluation of the risks to native ecosystems of the geological carbon capture storage (CCS), as a mitigation technique for climate change, both within EU and internationally. Our data will be of use to researchers and policy makers assessing the value of this technology, and will inform the design of future experiments and models. Indeed, a patent application of a CO2 fumigation system has been submitted as a result of this project. Intensive collaboration with international research groups has been established during this project, with the University of Essex, UK, and the Swiss Institute Agroscope. The collaboration is supported with independent grants, SCOPES, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Most important scientific results Annual report 2013, 2014, 2015, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2013, 2014, 2015, final report
Views history