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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Mycology: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Rambold

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Fields of research

1 — Mycobiome Profiling

Plant-associated fungi

Endophytic fungi are ubiquitous endosymbionts of vascular plants with a wide range of interactions that may contribute, among other things, to increased host plant resistance to biotic and abiotic factors. To make these findings useful for agriculture and forestry, it is necessary to identify those factors that determine the composition and structure of these fungal communities, i.e. mycobiomes characterised by NGS metabarcoding, in their host plant species.

Initially endophytic, phytopathogenic fungi can cause considerable economic damage through systemic infestation of economically relevant woody plants, including fruit tree species of the Rosaceae. Timely detection of infestation is therefore crucial for the success of countermeasures, which is why the development of efficient screening methods for the early detection of potential phytopathogenic fungi is the focus of research. Within the project 'German Barcode of Life II (GBOL II) - Fungi in Orchard and Forestry', pathogenic and associated species present in endophytic (and epiphytic) mycobiomes of leaves of fruit trees of the Rosaceae are identified using NGS metabarcoding. Generated libraries can be used for early diagnostics, including DNA hybridisation-based approaches.

In a project currently funded by the Humboldt Foundation, composition of endophytic mycobiomes in mistletoe species parasitic on different host tree species in primary and secondary forests of Cameroon is being investigated using NGS metabarcoding. Particular attention is paid to the factors of host plant selectivity and organ specificity.

Lichens represent a group of photobiont-associated fungi that themselves provide a habitat for accessory fungi. To assess the diversity and variability of these 'endolichenic' mycobiomes and to determine the factors controlling them, it is necessary to determine the mycobiomes of different lichen species. For this purpose, host selectivity, seasonality and annuality of endolichenic fungal communities in different rock-dwelling lichen species in the Fichtelgebirge, Upper Franconia, are investigated by NGS metabarcoding and statistically processed.

Soil-colonising fungi

Soils harbour complex and small-scale distributed microbial communities in which fungi take over, among other things, the decomposition of biomass and the supply of plant roots with nutrients. By mediating these ecosystem-relevant processes, soil fungi, especially saprotrophic and ectomycorrhizal species, balance carbon fluxes in terrestrial systems and are thus climate-relevant. The aim of a project to assess the informative value of the diversity of soil fungal communities and guilds in relation to climate-dependent variability in boreal low mountain forests is to investigate soil mycobiomes along an altitudinal gradient in the Bavarian Forest using NGS metabarcoding. For this purpose, the properties of the target microbial communities are inferred from the identified DNA marker gene sequences and contextualised using network analyses.

The structure and composition of soil fungal communities are important determinants of soil health and resilience, making these complex consortia suitable bioindicators for assessing the sustainability of land use strategies. The soil mycobiomes of differently used land in equatorial Africa are largely unknown, so there is an urgent need for biodiversity analyses in this region. Current research in the 'Integrated Climate Protection and Resource Conservation Project, Lambwe Valley, Homabay, Kenya' is focused on characterising the mycobiomes of soils with different land-use backgrounds near Ruma National Park to gain insights into the microbial/fungal diversity of these soils using NGS metabarcoding.

The Anthropocene is characterised by increasing plastic pollution of natural habitats, with soils being the largest sink of so-called microplastics. While the effects of macroplastics on microbial communities, especially in aquatic systems, have already been studied in detail, little is known about the effects of microplastics on soil-colonising microbes. In order to analyse the multi-layered effects of MP on the diversity and multifunctionality of the soil mycobiome, multifactorial incubation or exposure experiments are carried out within the SFB 1357 'Microplastics' and in collaboration with the IFMB of Leibniz Universität Hannover. Various molecular biological and microscopic techniques are used to elucidate the plastic-soil fungus interactions.

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2 — Traits of Selected Fungal Group

Lichen metabolites

Degradability of natural and artificial polymers

Halo- and metallotolerance

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4 — Biodiversity and Ecoinformatics

Work- and Dataflows

Collecting, modelling, processing, analysing, sustainably archiving and retrieving data on biodiversity is becoming an essential element at the heart of ecological research activity. The subject matter is organisms, their identity, properties (including morphological, anatomical and natural chemical characteristics, behaviour), occurrence or origin ("space-time relationshipʻ), mutual relationships and their impact on the environment. There are already a large number of information systems and internet platforms in which biodiversity data are collected and evaluated by various institutions, initiatives and research projects. Ecoinformatics is dedicated to the development of information technology concepts and information technology applications for the management and analysis of ecological data at the ecosystem level.

Within the framework of various collaborative projects, database applications as well as interfaces and tools for data analysis have been and are being designed and implemented in cooperation with the IT Centre of the SNSB (Munich) in order to process and publish research data. The working group is involved in the further development of the following applications and data portals:

MycologyNet PhycologyNet Deemy LIAS Mycophylogeny Diversity Workbench Diversity Navigator NaviKey

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6 — Nucleic acid analysis methods

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