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Research in the Geomorphology and Soil Science group

Ecuador (RESPECT)
Tabebuia chrysantha. Picture: A. Velescu
Nutrient supply as driver of biomass production and associated ecosystem water fluxes along a land-use and climate gradient (DFG, WI 1601/26-1). The project is part of the DFG Research Unit 2730 - Environmental changes in biodiversity hotspot ecosystems of South Ecuador: response and feedback effects (RESPECT). Our overall objective is to determine the impact of climate and land-use change in the Andes of Ecuador on key nutrient supplying processes (mineralization of organic matter and weathering of rock and soil) with the help of environmental gradients (from ca. 1000 to 3000 m a.s.l.) as surrogate for climate change and the effects of land-use change (from native forest to pasture and pine afforestation) by space-for-time substitution. Furthermore, we aim to test a method to estimate N mineralization rates with short-term incubations and a novel method to estimate nutrient supply by weathering, both based on the vertical distribution of stable isotope ratios of C and Ca in soils. – Since 2018.

Gongga, China
Hailuoguo Gletscher
Retreat area of the Hailuoguo glacier, Sichuan, China. Picture: A. Mestrot

The development of element cycles after glacier retreat in the subtropical Gongga Mountains, Sichuan, China. Cooperation with Prof. Dr. Yanhong Wu, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Science, China. - Since 2012.

Critical nitrogen concentrations
Anemone sylvestris (Großes Windröschen) im Kraichgau und N-intolerant (Stickstoffzahl 3). Foto: Sebastian Schmidtlein

Scientific basis to determine the critical nitrogen concentrations in the soil solution ("critical limit", Ncrit) for the indicator plants of protected biomes. Subproject 2 of Lot 3 of the public announcement “Analysis and Evaluation of the Nitrogen Budget of Baden-Württemberg”. This project is jointly conducted with Prof. Dr. Sebastian Schmidtlein. We are cooperating with Dr. Markus Bernhardt (Friedrich Schiller University Jena) and Dr. Heike Puhlmann (Forest Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg). – Since 2017.

Stable hydrogen isotopes
Installation for the steam equilibration of the exchangeable δ²H fraction. Picture: M. Ruppenthal

Stable hydrogen isotopes in soil constituents: New insights into the formation processes of organic matter and clay minerals (DFG, Wi1601/22-1). This project is a cooperation with Prof. Dr. Yvonne Oelmann (Eberhard Karls University Tübingen). – Since 2017. 

9-Fluorenon, ein häufiges OPAK.

Compound-specific stable isotope ratios (δ13C, δ2H) of oxygen-containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ​(OPAHs) as tracers of their formation in the environment: Method validation and case studies (DAAD P.R.I.M.E.). Cooperation with Dr. Ian Bull (School of Chemistry University of Bristol, UK). – Since 2016.

Xi'an, China
City center of Xi’an. Picture: W. Wilcke

Transformations of polycycles and oxy-polycycles between the emission source and terrestrial sinks. Cooperation with Prof. Dr. Yongming Han, State Key Laboratory of Loess & Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi’an – since 2011. 

Biodiversity Exploratories
Lysimeters. Picture: M. Schwarz
Element cycles in forests and grasslands of the biodiversity exploratories (BECycles): Response to management intensity and associated biodiversity (DFG, Wi1601/12-1) in the framework of the “Exploratories for functional biodiversity research“ (DFG, Special Program SPP 1374). Principal investigators Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wilcke, Prof. Dr. Beate Michalzik, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Prof. Dr. Martin Kaupenjohann, Berlin University of Technology, and Dr. Jan Siemens, Rheinische Wilhelms University Bonn. Interdisciplinary cooperation with many other subprojects of the Special Program SPP 1374. - Since 2009.

Jena Experiment
Jena Experiment
Jena-Experiment. Picture: A. Weigelt

Effects of plant diversity on the soil nutrient cycle (SNF 200021E_131195/1) in the framework of the research unit “Exploring mechanisms underlying the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning“ together with Prof. Dr. Yvonne Oelmann, University of Tübingen, Germany (FOR1451). – The project started in 2002. 


Publicly available project data can be accessed via the data system Pangaea (keyword: Jena Experiment).

Ecuador Tal
Valley of the Rio San Francisco. Picture: S. Leimer

Response of element cycles in a tropical mountain rain forest to environmental and land-use change. Associated project of the Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Monitoring and Research. – Since 1998.

Completed projects

The stable isotope lab of the Geographic Institute, University of Bern. Picture: W. Wilcke

Investigating arsenic transformations in soils using isotopically labeled (13C and 2H) organo-arsenic compounds. Marie Curie IEF Fellowship BIOMETA (FP7-PEOPLE-2012-326736). – 2013-2015. The project was realized at the University of Bern, Switzerland and headed by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wilcke (IfGG-KIT).

Installation of suction cups for measuring metal concentrations and stable isotope ratios in soil solution. Picture: M. Imseng

Stable metal isotopes as tools to assess enrichment and sources of trace metals in soils and crops to improve sustainability of agricultural systems (MISOTRAG, SNF 406940_145195/1). Use of stable Cd, Cu and Zn isotope ratios to determine the sources of the accumulation and transformation of these metals in agricultural production systems and their uptake into crops. Project in the frame of the Swiss National Research Program NRP 69 (“Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production”) together with Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Frossard (ETHZ) and Dr. Armin Keller (Agroscope Reckenholz-Tännikon). In cooperation with Dr. Andreas Gubler (Agroscope Reckenholz-Tännikon) and Prof. Dr. Mark Rehkamper (Imperial College London). - 2013-2018. The project was realized at the University of Bern, Switzerland and headed by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wilcke (IfGG-KIT).