Major Research Interests

Molecular Ecophysiology of Stress Adaptation and Seasonality in Trees

We investigate molecular and physiological responses of trees to stress and to globally changing environmental conditions. The major model is Populus. Molecular and physiological networks involved in defence responses (salt, heavy metals) and nutrition (nitrogen, carbon, and other nutritional elements) are studied by expressional profiling and functional characterization. To improve wood properties, we employ tree biotechnology. Furthermore, our studies include molecular and genomic studies of important forest tree species such as European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Biotic Interactions and Diversity

Temperate forest tree species generally form symbiotic associations with ectomycorrhizal fungi, which provide water and nutrients to the trees in exchange for carbohydrates. Fungal diversity is investigated at the molecular level and linked with tree diversity. Stable isotope labeling, physiological studies in axenic fungus-plant systems and molecular physiology are employed to unravel functional biodiversity.

Whole Tree Architecture and Tree Morphological Adaptation to Environmental Influences

We are interested in the morphological features and development of trees during ontogenesis of root systems, stem growth (cambial activity) and crown structure (branching systems). A focus is to understand and the reaction capacity of these tree elements for assessing tree vitality and adaptation strategies, which are important for forest management and tree care. The main investigated tree species are Picea abies and Fagus sylvatica but also Abies alba, Pseudotsuga menziesii, and Larix decidua.