As a soil ecologist and biogeochemist, I want to find out how microbes contribute to decomposition and formation of organic matter in soils.
Soil microorganisms play crucial roles in soil carbon cycling. They degrade plant material and soil organic matter which leads to the release of carbon in the form of CO2 to the atmosphere. I am interested in the controls over microbial decomposition in soil, which include temperature, microbial interactions and community composition as well as interactions of microbes, organic matter and the soil matrix. A mechanistic understanding of these controls will help to estimate how soil carbon cycling will be altered under a future climate and will improve climate change predictions.
Microorganisms in soils however also contribute to the formation of soil organic matter and act as a soil carbon pump that transports carbon from the litter layer on the soil surface into the soil. The role and importance of microorganisms in the efficient formation of stable soil organic matter, and how this role changes during a year is another main focus of my research. By finding out why and when microbes efficiently transform carbon inputs into stable soil carbon this research could be the basis to develop and adapt agricultural practices with the goal to sequester carbon in agricultural systems and counteract climate change.