Research interests

My main interest is the trophic ecology of forest soil animals. I aim at uncovering nutrient and energy fluxes in forest soil animal food webs, thereby separating basal resources and determining trophic positions.

Food webs in soil differ fundamentally from those aboveground. They are not only based on living plants, but additionally rely on inputs from detritus, which is a complex mixture of fungi, bacteria and dead plant remains. Since soil animal food webs are hidden from direct observation and the separation of basal resources is notoriously difficult, one has to rely on indirect methods to gain insights into their structure and functioning.

My recent work focuses on compound-specific isotope analyses (CSIA) of amino acids which are increasingly used to explore complex food webs. I combine the analyses of both δ13C and δ15N signatures in amino acids to disentangle relative contributions of basal resources, such as bacteria, fungi and plants, to animal nutrition and to estimate trophic positions within food webs. To adapt the method for soil animal food webs, I conducted feeding trials by constructing trophic chains including bacteria, plants and fungi as basal resources, springtails and oribatid mites as primary consumers, and spiders and gamasid mites as predators (Pollierer et al. 2019).

In addition, I utilize fatty acid analyses of phospholipids (PLFAs) to characterize microbial communities in litter and soil, and of neutral lipids (NLFAs) in animals to infer basal resources using biomarker fatty acids.

I have also been using bulk stable isotope analyses (C and N) to investigate trophic structures of food webs.

Currently, I am financed by the DFG within the project “Biodiversity Exploratories”.

Former research

In the framework of the Biodiversity Exploratories ( I investigated changes in structure and trophic ecology of forest soil animal food webs along a land use-gradient across different regions in Germany.

In the Swiss Canopy Crane Project ( I used compound-specific 13C stable isotope analysis of fatty acids and bulk isotopic analyses of soil animals to separate differently labelled basal resources such as leaf litter and roots and to clarify relative fluxes of carbon to the soil animal food web.

Academic positions







Principal Investigator

Biodiversity Exploratories GAU

DFG (Modul: Eigene Stelle), University of Göttingen (GAU)



Biodiversity Exploratories, GAU


PhD position

Biodiversity Exploratories, GAU


Research & teaching assistant

Animal Ecology, Darmstadt University of Technology


Student research assistant

Vegetation Ecology, Darmstadt University of Technology

Studies and scientific degrees

2012 Ph.D. in Biological Diversity and Ecology, J.F. Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, Georg August University Göttingen, Germany
2006 MSc. (Diplom), major subject ecology, minor subjects zoology and plant physiology, Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany

(Please note that for publications I continue to use my maiden name Pollierer)

Pollierer, M.M., Klarner, B., Ott, D., Digel, C., Ehnes, R.B., Eitzinger, B., Erdmann, G., Brose, U., Maraun, M., Scheu, S., 2021. Diversity and functional structure of soil animal communities suggest soil animal food webs to be buffered against changes in forest land use. Oecologia. doi:10.1007/s00442-021-04910-1

Pollierer, M.M., Scheu, S., 2021. Stable isotopes of amino acids indicate that soil decomposer microarthropods predominantly feed on saprotrophic fungi. Ecosphere 12, 1–2. doi:10.1002/ecs2.3425

Pollierer, M.M., Scheu, S., Tiunov, A. V., 2020. Isotope analyses of amino acids in fungi and fungal feeding Diptera larvae allow differentiating ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungi‐based food chains. Functional Ecology 34, 2375–2388. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.13654

Ding, S., Lange, M., Lipp, J., Schwab, F., Chowdhury, S., Pollierer, M.M., Krause, K., Li, D., Kothe, E., Scheu, S., Welti, R., Hinrichs, K., Gleixner, G., 2020. Characteristics and origin of intact polar lipids in soil organic matter 151. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.108045

Erktan, A., Pollierer, M.M., Scheu, S., 2020. Soil ecologists as detectives discovering who eats whom or what in the soil. Frontiers for Young Minds 8, 1–8.

Haynert, K., Gluderer, F., Pollierer, M.M., Scheu, S., Wehrmann, A., 2020. Food spectrum and habitat-specific diets of benthic Foraminifera from the Wadden Sea – A fatty acid biomarker approach. Frontiers in Marine Science 7. doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.510288

Li, Z., Scheunemann, N., Potapov, A.M., Shi, L., Pausch, J., Scheu, S., Pollierer, M.M., 2020. Incorporation of root-derived carbon into soil microarthropods varies between cropping systems. Biology and Fertility of Soils 56, 839–851. doi:10.1007/s00374-020-01467-8

Maraun, M., Augustin, D., Pollierer, M.M., Scheu, S., 2020. Variation in trophic niches of oribatid mites in temperate forest ecosystems as indicated by neutral lipid fatty acid patterns. Experimental and Applied Acarology 81, 103–115. doi:10.1007/s10493-020-00494-2

Pollierer, M. M., T. Larsen, A. M. Potapov, A. Brückner, M. Heethoff, J. Dyckmans, and S. Scheu. 2019. Compound-specific isotope analysis of amino acids as a new tool to uncover trophic chains in soil food webs. Ecological Monographs 00(00):e01384. 10.1002/ecm.1384

Potapov A. M., A.V. Tiunov, S. Scheu, T. Larsen, and M. M. Pollierer. 2019. Combining bulk and amino acid stable isotope analyses to quantify trophic level and basal resources of detritivores: a case study on earthworms. Oecologia 189: 447-460.

Susanti W.I., M. M. Pollierer, R. Widyastuti, S. Scheu, and A. Potapov. 2019. Conversion of rainforest to oil palm and rubber plantations alters energy channels in soil food webs. Ecology and Evolution, ece3.5449.

Pollierer, M. M., and S. Scheu. 2017. Driving factors and temporal fluctuation of Collembola communities and reproductive mode across forest types and regions. Ecology and Evolution:1–14.

Brückner, A., R. Schuster, T. Smit, M. M. Pollierer, I. Schäffler, and M. Heethoff. 2017. Track the snack - olfactory cues shape foraging behaviour of decomposing soil mites (Oribatida). Pedobiologia 66:74-80.

Larsen, T., M. M. Pollierer, M. Holmstrup, A. D’Annibale, K. Maraldo, N. Andersen, and J. Eriksen. 2016. Substantial nutritional contribution of bacterial amino acids to earthworms and enchytraeids: A case study from organic grasslands. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 99:21–27.

Pollierer, M. M., O. Ferlian, and S. Scheu. 2015. Temporal dynamics and variation with forest type of phospholipid fatty acids in litter and soil of temperate forests across regions. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 91:248-257.

Ehnes, R. B., M. M. Pollierer, G. Erdmann, B. Klarner, B. Eitzinger, C. Digel, D. Ott, M. Maraun, S. Scheu, and U. Brose. 2014. Lack of energetic equivalence in forest soil invertebrates. Ecology 95:527-537.

Klarner, B., R. B. Ehnes, G. Erdmann, B. Eitzinger, M. M. Pollierer, M. Maraun, and S. Scheu. 2014. Trophic shift of soil animal species with forest type as indicated by stable isotope analysis. Oikos 123:1173-1181.

Ott, D., C. Digel, B. Klarner, M. Maraun, M. M. Pollierer, B. C. Rall, S. Scheu, G. Seelig, and U. Brose. 2014. Litter elemental stoichiometry and biomass densities of forest soil invertebrates. Oikos 123:1212-1223.

Pollierer, M. M., J. Dyckmans, S. Scheu, and D. Haubert. 2012. Carbon flux through fungi and bacteria into the forest soil animal food web as indicated by compound-specific 13C fatty acid analysis. Functional Ecology 26:978–990.

Ferlian, O., S. Scheu, and M. M. Pollierer.2012. Trophic interactions in centipedes (Chilopoda, Myriapoda) as indicated by fatty acid patterns: Variations with life stage, forest age and season. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 52:33-42.

Haubert, D., M. M. Pollierer, and S. Scheu. 2011. Fatty acid patterns as biomarker for trophic interactions: Changes after dietary switch and starvation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43:490–494.

Maraun, M., G. Erdmann, B. M. Fischer, M. M. Pollierer, R. A. Norton, K. Schneider, and S. Scheu. 2011. Stable isotopes revisited: Their use and limits for oribatid mite trophic ecology. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43:877-882.

Pollierer, M. M., S. Scheu, and D. Haubert. 2010. Taking it to the next level: Trophic transfer of marker fatty acids from basal resource to predators. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42:919-925.

Pollierer, M. M., R. Langel, S. Scheu, and M. Maraun. 2009. Compartmentalization of the soil animal food web as indicated by dual analysis of stable isotope ratios (15N/14N and13C/12C). Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41:1221–1226.

Pollierer, M. M., R. Langel, C. Körner, M. Maraun, and S. Scheu. 2007. The underestimated importance of belowground carbon input for forest soil animal food webs. Ecology Letters 10:729-736.