Current projects

Identification and source/sink properties of Diesel soot and coal in soils

Azocolourants as environmental contaminants - Detection and fate in Soils. Resulting ecotoxicity.

Characterization of manure and manure derived dissolved organic matter and its influence on the transport of antibiotics in soil

Lysimeter studies on the soil transport of pharmaceutical antibiotics with seepage water (with UFZ, Falkenberg)

Variability of the soil pH during continuous measurement. With EcoTech, Bonn.

Effects of Veterinary Medicines on the Structural Diversity of the Microbial Community in the Rhizosphere under the Impact of temporal Moisture Gradients – GradMic (DFG)

Assessing Soil Organic Matter (SOM) on a Landscape Scale by Combining Non-Invasive (Spectroscopic) and Invasive Methods – SOMScapes (DFG)

Development and validation of a Draft OECD Guideline on the fate of chemicals in manure (UBA)

Effects of Nanoparticles in Soil

Nanotechnology is playing an ever greater role in agriculture, industry and engineering due to its different applications and variety of facets. Especially silver nanoparticles (AgNP) are being produced in increasing amounts due to the antimicrobial properties of silver ions. A possible pathway of AgNP into soil may be wet or dry deposition as well as the application of pesticides or organic wastes in agriculture, such as sewage sludge. For example, the Federal Environmental Agency of Germany estimated that the use of AgNP in Germany accounts for 1100 kg yr-1 (UBA, 2008). The first published study on the effects of AgNP on soil organisms revealed, that the microbial biomass was significantly reduced. Moreover, evidence was found that the composition of the microbial community was changed due to AgNP. In a recent project we aim to investigate effects of combined application of AgNP and sewage sludge on the functional diversity of soil organisms. We also have analysed  antioxidative enzymes in coelomocytes of earthworms.

Hänsch, M., Emmerling, C. (2010): Effects of silver nanoparticles on the microbiota and enzyme activity in soil. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 173, 554-558.

Dipl. Biogeogr. Mathias Hänsch
Prof. Dr. Christoph Emmerling


Assessing Soil Organic Matter (SOM) on a Landscape Scale by Combining Non-Invasive (Spectroscopic) and Invasive Methods

The proposed project aims at exploring the potentials of VIS-NIR spectroscopy to determine SOM quan¬tity and quality at landscape level. To provide detailed information on SOM, we will combine in-field spectroscopy with higher resolved laboratory VIS-NIR, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy (FTIRS and Raman to detect fundamental molecular vibrations of SOM in the middle infrared MIR), Py-FIMS (SOM molecular constituents, thermal stability), and laboratory fractionation schemes (SOM pools of different stability and turnover rate). Based on samples taken from catenae, chemometric modelling will integrate correlation patterns between VIS-NIR and FTIR (Raman) by techniques as 2D correlation spectroscopy and multiblock PLS. From this and an outlined processing workflow (standard sample procedure, scatter corrections, spectral feature selection) stable prediction models for SOM parameters are expected, which close the gap between lab and field spectroscopy. Furthermore, SOM properties at soil sur¬faces (representati¬veness for the complete topsoil, temporal variability) will be studied to further explore the potentials of field spectroscopy. This aims towards an improved application of portable spectrometers or remote sensing instruments for SOM assessment. Mapping of SOM and SOM para¬meters will be performed based on in-situ spectral readings in a (maybe stratified) soilscape approach.
DFG TH678/12-1. Joint project with M. Vohland; Department of Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing, University of Leipzig and with Department of Environmental Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics (T. Udelhoven), University of Trier

Prof. Dr. Sören Thiele-Bruhn (thieleuni-trierde)

Prof. Dr. Michael Vohland (vohlanduni-trierde)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Emmerling (emmerlinguni-trierde)

Dipl.- Umweltwiss. Marie Ludwig (marie.ludwiguni-trierde)

GradMic - Veterinary Medicines in soils: "Basic research for risk analysis (FG566-2)"

GradMic - Veterinary Medicinal Effects on the Prokaryotic Structural Diversity in Soil Microcopartments. Subproject of the DFG Research Unit “Veterinary Medicines in soils: Basic research for risk analysis”.

Duration: 01.05.2008 to 01.04.2014


Medicinal antibiotics exert adverse effects on soil microbial biomass, activity, structural and functional diversity, and resistance level on a mid-term of weeks to months. By FOR566 (2nd phase) this was confirmed for the field scale and at field conditions. However, environmental variables, especially soil moisture, alter the antibiotic effect to a yet unknown extent, hampering data interpretation. In the rhizosphere, representing a hot-spot of microbial abundance and activity, effects on structural diversity were determined when targeting specific microbial groups. Furthermore it was found that the specific investigation of root sections is required to unravel effects of antibiotics in this heterogeneous microhabitat. Hence, it is proposed to investigate effects of sulfadiazine (SDZ) on the soil microbial community structure with special regard to (A) the impact of temporal moisture gradients and re-wetting on the susceptibility of the microbial community and (B) effects of SDZ in rhizosphere soil and at the rhizoplane of apical vs. mature root sections. This will be done in a threefold approach by: (i) characterization of the temporal dynamics of antibiotic effects modulated by moisture gradients by intensive time resolved sampling, (ii) obtaining qualitative insights into effects on community structure through increased analysis on a group-specific level, and (iii) quantitative investigation of effects on community structure using real-time PCR.
DFG TH678/13-1, FOR566 lead by W. Amelung, INRES-Soil Science, RFW University Bonn

Dipl. Biogeogr. Rüdiger Reichel (reicheluni-trierde)
Prof. Dr. Sören Thiele-Bruhn (thieleuni-trierde)

Future Cultivation of Energy Crops – Feedback on Land-use, Soils and Biodiversity

Fossil energy is replaced increasingly by renewable resources, e.g. through the cultivation of energy crops. In particular energy crops such as winter rape (Brassica napus) and maize (Zea mays) have been increasingly cultivated in the European agriculture, because of their high biomass yield and their potential for renewable energy production. By this, the proportion of perennial crops, e.g. grasses, intended for solid fuels is increasing yearly. Additionally, various crops are increasingly cultivated as mono-cultured crops, such as maize for biogas production. Perennial crops like the C4-grasses of the genus Miscanthus received considerable attention in the past decade. Their hybrid Miscanthus x giganteus Greef & Deuter ex Hodkinson and Renvoize is particularly used as a solid fuel for combustion. Due to low requirements on fertilization and weed control, long cultivation periods up to 25 years, no-till cultivation, and high yield potential, Miscanthus can be regarded as a low-input crop, characterized by a high energy output:input ratio and a high potential of C-sequestration. Besides the study of Felten and Emmerling (2011) reports of general effects of perennial Miscanthus on earthworm populations have yet not been described.

Felten, D.; Emmerling, C. (2011): Effects of bioenergy crop cultivation on earthworm communities - A comparative study of perennial (Miscanthus) and annual crops with consideration of graded land-use intensity. Applied Soil Ecology, 49, 167-177.

Dipl. Biogeogr. Daniel Felten (daniel.feltenuni-trierde);

Prof. Dr. Christoph Emmerling (emmerlinguni-trierde)

Land-use induced changes in population structure of the earthworm Aporrectodea longa (Ude) revealed from polymorphic microsatellite markers

Land-use changes, such as the current increase of permanent or mono-cultivation of energy crops, will probably affect the population connectivity of several biota, including earthworms. The aim of the present study of the Research Initiative Rhineland-Palatinate was to get a deeper insight in the question if and probably to what extend mono-cultivation induces changes in earthworm population structure. In order to examine the effects of habitat fragmentation on genetic differentiation, diversity and gene flow among earthworm populations, the use of molecular markers is promising. We aimed to investigate possible effects of Miscanthus mono-cultivation of different duration on the structure of Aporrectodea longa populations, a wide-spread earthworm species of arable soils in W-Germany and the abundant species in our study area. For this purpose, eleven new polymorphic microsatellite markers have been developed and characterized in a preliminary study (Strunk et al., 2012).

Strunk, H., Hochkirch, A., Veith, M., Hankeln, T., Emmerling, C. (2012): Isolation and characterization of eleven polymorphic microsatellite markers for the earthworm Aporrectodea longa (Ude). European Journal of Soil Biology, 48, 55-58.

 Heiko Strunk;
Prof. Dr. Christoph Emmerling E-Mail