Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - JEN-A-MACE (Jena Initiative of Applying Molecular Techniques for the Analysis of Variations of Ecological Processes in Space)

The objective of WP1 was to develop and apply state-of-the-art molecular techniques to investigate changes in microbial populations at various spatial scales. State-of-the-art molecular techniques, such as stable isotope probing (SIP), provide important tools for understanding the link between microbial populations, "the unseen majority", and biogeochemical processes within the environment. Of particular interest is providing a link between microbial populations and their ability to mitigate environmental radionuclide contamination. The study design allowed us to compare potential microbial activity at large and small geographic scales and under variable geochemical conditions.

The main outcome was that although some overlap was observed in the metabolically active microbial populations at the different sites subsurface microorganisms differed in their ability to mediate uranium bio-immobilisation. Thus, the mechanism of uranium bioremediation is likely to be site-specific and dependent upon geochemical conditions. The molecular tools (SIP) developed during the last years are now used also in other projects at the IoE. In addition, this project fosters our international collaborations, especially to working groups in the US.

WP2 was the adaption of PCR-based microsatellite technology to analyse the effect of spatial differentiation and turnover for population genetic structure in an invertebrate (insect) and a mammal (vole) model species. The first part was achieved by developing and applying microsatellite markers to analyse the population genetics and population turnover of the aphids. The comparative spatial data which were collected in the vicinity of Jena are unique in showing that microsatellites are capable of revealing the importance of winged migration at critical stages of the life cycle of the aphids studied.

Overall, the study provided insight in how the population dynamics of the insects is influenced by the spatial structure of the populations and how this affects genetic separation, gene flow, dispersal and kinship. The aim of the second part of WP2 was to apply state-of-the art molecular techniques to understand the population structure of a small mammal species, the bank vole, and to relate this to spatial and landscape processes. Indeed, there were differences in the spatial genetic structure linked to the size of the forest and to the level of fragmentation. The results have been presented on international conferences and were published in international journals. The tools developed and employed in the IoE laboratory for the analysis of populations are now readily available and have since been employed in subsequent studies on the population genetics of other organisms including grasshoppers.

In summary, this project has fulfilled its aims in terms of research questions, i.e., developing molecular techniques to understand genetic variation at different spatial scales, as well as establishing strong links with other research groups both in Germany and in Switzerland.

The main objective of WP3 was to develop mathematical methodology to analyse the ecological consequences of spatial heterogeneity based on data from several spatial scales. This mathematical methodology consisted mainly in simulation models where systems working at different spatial scales could be easily recreated. We also used statistical tools that allowed us to better visualize results. The studies highlighted the importance of both the habitat patch and the surrounding matrix. Since WP3 started earlier than originally planned, alternative data sources were used while data were still collected in other work packages. We could show that dispersal abilities and habitat preferences of model organisms can be used as criteria to simulate movement and survival within the landscape. Main conclusions of this study are currently under preparation with two expected publications.

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