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Project area C: Interactions between microbiota and the oak leaf habitat

This project area investigates molecular-mechanistic processes in the ecology of the leaf microbiome. It studies the associations between the environment, leaf traits, microbiome, metabolome, and herbivory both in real-world and experimental settings.

Project C1: Intraspecific, intraindividual and temporal variation of leaf traits

Susanne Walden, Maaike Bader, Lars Opgenoorth

Trees modify the shape and structure of their leaves to counter site-specific environmental conditions as well as intraindividual environmental gradients of the crown. How this variability is influenced also by the leaf’s microbiome, and vice-versa, how the leave traits influence the microbiome, is not understood. We will determine to what extent structural, biochemical and physiological properties of oak leaves can be predicted by (micro-)environmental conditions. For this purpose, we will analyze the spatial and temporal organization within the leaf, within the three-dimensionality of the canopy, and between trees and how these properties change under drought and heat. We will then assess to what extent leaf traits in combination with microclimate can predict the diversity and functions of the leaf microbiome. Finally, we will investigate the reciprocal influence of the microbiome on drought- and heat-stress-related changes in oak leaves.

Project C2: Leaf characteristics, metabolome, and herbivory

Andry Rakotomalala, Tobias Müller, Nina Farwig, Stefan Pinkert

Understanding the associations of leaf traits, metabolome, and herbivory requires insights from experimental studies and approaches that allow to scale up potentially relevant mechanisms to within- and across-tree variations in the field. Therefore, we will conduct lab experiments with in-depth analyzed leaves from the field to quantify herbivory and test for effects of different metabolic and morphological as well as spectral characteristics. In addition, we will develop an automated image analysis pipeline to assess leaf traits, metabolome, and herbivory for testing experimentally supported effects in the field and monitor changes through time.

Project C3: Consequences of changes in microbiota for leaf traits, metabolome, and herbivory

Lucy Sauereßig, Hamed Azarbad, Robert Junker, Lars Opgenoorth

The leaf microbiome and leaf traits may mutually affect each other. In a series of lab experiments, we will test the effect of microbial communities and individual bacterial strains with well characterized metabolic properties (see project areas A and B) on leaf traits, tree resilience against UV stress, as well as herbivory.

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