Forstbotanik und Baumphysiologie

Research Interests

My research deals with mutualistic associations between fungi and plant roots, the so called mycorrhizal symbiosis. I am keen to understand the causes and the effects of mycorrhizal diversity in natural ecosystems. So far, I explored the significance of ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity in nitrogen cycling, in relation to different environmental factors. Fungal taxon-specific nitrogen uptake was assessed using 15N isotope enrichment approaches, and thus the benefits of individual mycorrhizal assemblages for plant nitrogen nutrition were estimated. Currently, I enjoy looking in the 'underground black box' from the perspective of the consequences of anthropogenic intervention on mycorrhizal diversity questioning the link between land use, mycorrhizal diversity, and ecosystem processes. I'm particularly interested in how the enormous external mycorrhizal mycelia are distributed in the soil and how the fungi interact with each other to share the available space and resources?
My research interest also covers the relationships between polyploidy in plants and their association with mycorrhizal fungi.
The main techniques that I employ for the identification of fungi and various functional studies are PCR-based, microscopy, infrared spectroscopy, and stable isotope assays.


I am involved in the following projects:


Biodiversity Exploratories


Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning across marine and terrestrial ecosystems (BEFmate)




Short CV

  • 2000 Master in Biology, University of Bucharest

  • 2006-2011 PhD thesis; Department of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Georg-August Universität Göttingen

  • 2011-2014 Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Georg-August Universität Göttingen. Biodiversity Exploratories project (DFG Priority Programme 1374)

  • Since 2014 Principal investigator, DFG founded Project 'Mycorrhizal mycelia production in relation to forest management intensity and ecosystem functions' within Biodiversity Exploratories project (DFG Priority Programme 1374)



  • Publications




    Köhler J, Yang N, Pena R, Raghavan V, Polle A, Meier IC (2018) Ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity increases P uptake efficiency of European beech. New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.15208 (in press).

    Rana R, Herz K, Bruelheide H, Dietze S, Haider S, Jandt U, Pena R (2018). Leaf Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR-FTIR) biochemical profile of grassland plant species related to land-use intensity. Ecological Indicators 84: 803-810

    Lang F, Krüger J, Amelung W, Willbold S, Frossard E, Bünemann E, Bauhus J, Nitschke R, Kandeler E, Marhan S, Schulz S, Bergkemper F, Schloter M, Luster J, Guggisberg F, Kaiser K, Mikutta R, Guggenberger G, Polle A, Pena R, Prietzel J, Rodionov A, Talkner U, Meesenburg H, von Wilpert K, Hölscher A, Dietrich HP, Chmara I (2017) Soil phosphorus supply controls P nutrition strategies of beech forest ecosystems in Central Europe. Biogeochemistry 136: 5-29.

    Nguyen QD, Pena R, Polle A (2017). Impact of ectomycorrhizal community composition and soil treatment on inorganic nitrogen nutrition and performance of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) provenances. Trees 31: 1891-1904.

    Simon J, Dannenmann M, Pena R, Gessler A, Rennenberg H (2017). Nitrogen nutrition of beech forests in a changing climate: Importance of plant-soil-microbe water, carbon, and nitrogen interactions. Marschner Review. Plant and Soil 418:89-114.

    Nguyen QN, Polle A, Pena R (2017). Intraspecific variations in drought response and fitness traits of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) seedlings from three provenances differing in annual precipitation. Trees 3: 1215-1225.

    Pena R, Lang C, Lohaus G, Boch S, Schall P, Ammer C, Fischer M, Polle A (2017). Phylogenetic and functional traits of ectomycorrhizal assemblages in top soil from different biogeographic regions and forest types. Mycorrhiza 27: 233.

    Verbruggen E, Pena R, Fernandez C.W, Soong JL (2016). Mycorrhizal interactions with saprotrophs and impact on soil carbon storage, in N.C Johnson, C. Gehring and J. Jansa (Ed.) Mycorrhizal Mediation of Soil. Elsevier.

    Goldmann K, Schröter K, Pena R, Schöning I, Schrumpf M, Buscot F, Polle A, Wubet T (2016). Divergent habitat filtering of root and soil fungal communities in temperate beech forests. Scientific Reports 6: 31439.

    Pena R (2016). Nitrogen acquisition in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis, in F. Martin (Ed.) Molecular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis. John Wiley & Sons.

    Zavišić A, Nassal P, Yang N, Heuck C, Spohn M, Marhan S, Pena R, Kandeler E, Polle A (2016). Phosphorus availabilities in beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forests impose habitat filtering on ectomycorrhizal communities and impact tree nutrition. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 98: 127-137.

    Nan Y, Zavišić A, Pena R, Polle A (2016). Phenology, photosynthesis, and phosphorus in European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in two forest soils with contrasting P contents. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 179: 151-158.

    Nan YSchützenmeister K, Grubert D, Jungkunst F, Gansert D, Scheu S, Polle A, Pena R (2015). Impacts of earthworms on nitrogen acquisition from leaf litter by arbuscular mycorrhizal ash and ectomycorrhizal beech trees. Environmental and Experimental Botany 120: 1-7.

    Pena R, Lang C, Naumann A, Polle A. (2014). Ectomycorrhizal fungal identification in environmental samples of tree roots by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Frontiers in Plant Science 5: 229.

    Pena R, Polle A (2014). Attributing functions to ectomycorrhizal fungal identities in assemblages for nitrogen acquisition under stress. The ISME Journal 8: 321-330.

    Pena R, Tejedor J, Zeller B, Dannenman M, Polle A (2013). Interspecific temporal and spatial differences in the acquisition of litter-derived nitrogen by ectomycorrhizal fungal assemblages. New Phytologist: 199: 520–528.

    Pena R, Simon J, Rennenberg H, Polle A (2013). Ectomycorrhiza affect architecture and nitrogen partitioning of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) seedlings under shade and drought. Environmental and Experimental Botany 87: 207-217.

    Guo C, Simon J, Gasche R, Naumann PS, Bimüller C, Pena R, Polle A, Kögel-Knabner I, Zeller B, Rennenberg H, Dannenmann M (2013). Minor contribution of leaf litter to N nutrition of beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings in a mountainous beech forest of Southern Germany. Plant and Soil 369: 657-668.

    Pena R, Offermann C, Simon J, Naumann P S, Geßler A, Holst J, Dannenmann M, Mayer H, Kögel-Knabner I, Rennenberg H, and Polle A (2010). Girdling affects ectomycorrhizal fungal (EMF) diversity and reveals functional differences in EMF community composition in a beech forest. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 76: 1831-1841.

    Dannenmann M, Simon J, Gasche R, Holst J, Naumann P S, Kögel-Knabner I, Knicker H, Mayer H, Schloter M, Pena R, Polle A, Rennenberg H, and Papen H (2009). Tree girdling provides insight in the role of labile carbon in the competitive balance of N partitioning between soil microorganisms and adult European beech. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41:1622–1631.

    Winkler J B, Dannenmann M, Simon J, Pena R, Offermann C, Sternad W, Clemenz C, Naumann P S, Gasche R, Kögel-Knabner I, Gessler A, Rennenberg H and Polle A (2010). Carbon and nitrogen balance in beech roots under competitive pressure of soil-borne microorganisms induced by girdling, drought and glucose application. Functional Plant Biology 37: 879-889.