Plant Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesThe research of our team focuses on the ecology and evolution of floral signals and plant-pollinator interactions. Most flowering plants depend on pollinators for sexual reproduction and pollination by animals is a main process in terrestrial ecosystems.

As many crop plants, such as apples and cherries, are among the plants pollinated by animals, biotic pollination also has an enormous economic value. Main interests are

i) the identification of floral signals used by insects to find rewarding wild and crop plants, ii) to understand mimicry systems of deceptive plants that signal a reward to the pollinators but do not provide it, and iii) to elucidate the importance of floral signals in the evolution of angiosperms.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Molecular Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesOur research is rooted within the fields of Molecular Phylogenetics & Molecular Ecology which implies addressing evolutionary and ecological questions above and below the specieslevel and at different spatial and temporal scales.                                                       

We reconstruct evolutionary relationships among plant species by generating and analysing DNA sequence data for various gene regions. These molecular phylogenies are used to testhypotheses about geographical, morpho-logical/reproductive, and ecological diversificationin the plant groups of interest. One of our current research objectives is to understand how,when, and why shifts from outcrossing to selfing occurred in tropical orchids fromMadagascar. This project also involves extensive crossing experiments in the glasshouse, Xraymicro-computed tomographic studies, and ecological niche modelling.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Molecular Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des Bildes Our research focuses on biosystematics, phylogeography and biogeography of (mainly, but not exclusively) Alpine plant groups. In contrast to biota of tropical and other ecosystems, alpine biotas are regarded as rather young as alpine ecosystems emerged not earlier than towards the end of the Tertiary or the dynamic Ice Ages. However, a large part of plant biodiversity is found in mountains today, which make the Alpines very interesting study systems. Questions addressed include the significance of refugia in plant diversification, studying polyploid and hybrid evolution in relation to habitat conditions, conservation biology and genetics of endangered plants, and DNA-Barcoding.

Functional Community Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesWe investigate the functional diversity and composition of plant, animal and bacteria communities within ecosystems and along environmental and anthropogenic gradients.We are particularly interested in how biodiversity is maintained, increases due to species interactions, or declines due to anthropogenic factors. We track the functional responses of species and whole communities to global change components such as climate warming and the spread of invasive species. Within this framework, we combine approaches from chemical ecology with those from community ecology to comprehensively evaluate the mechanisms underlying the interactions between multiple species, ecosystem processes and the vulnerability of ecosystem services.

Plant Molecular Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesOur research aims to understand the genetic, evolutionary and ecological processes driving adaptation of plants to their biotic and abiotic environment. Thereby we focus specifically on plant-pathogen coevolution, that is the evolution of the plant immune system in response to changingpathogen (viruses, bacteria, fungi) populations, and investigate the impact of various environmentalconditions (salt, drought, metalliferous soils) on these processes.

To tackle these questions, weintegrate different fields of biology and employ a diverse range of state-of- the-art experimental and bioinformatics approaches including population genetics/genomics, transcriptomics, experimentalevolution, biochemical and analytical assays and plant-microbial bioassays.

Lichenology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesOur research team focuses on the taxonomy, diversity, distribution and ecology of lichens in diverse habitats. We are interested in understanding the survival strategies, physiological mechanisms, and symbiotic specifics of these underexplored fungal-algae partnerships.                                                            

Lichens as poikilohydric and less competitive organisms are colonizing areas where the growing conditions for plants are unfavourable, like cold and hot deserts, tree barks, and bare rocks. Our research objects are leading us from Austrian Red List species and lichen communities in populated areas of Europe to untouched regions in Antarctica, South America, from the sea-level to high alpine areas.

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