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Project A1

Priming in fungi – towards understanding priming at the level of the community

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Matthias C. Rillig & Jun. Prof. Dr. Britta Tietjen

Priming is an increasingly recognised feature in microbial ecophysiology, having been demonstrated in a number of microbial systems and in response to a range of stressors; however it has so far been exclusively examined from the perspective of an individual species or population. In reality microbes occur as part of complex assemblages, within which interactions between individuals and species will have enormous fitness consequences. These community-level interactions could therefore alter priming responses of the community, and priming could alter community dynamics. The goal of this project is therefore to examine the phenomenon of priming, in our case thermopriming, at the level of the microbial assemblage.
We will use an integrated experimental and modelling approach, combining the expertise of the two PIs, which employs two different systems: terrestrial (saprobic soil fungi) and aquatic (nectar yeasts) to achieve greater external validity. Our project moves along an axis of increasing ecological complexity, from pairwise interactions, to simple model communities (3-species) to more complex communities in natural substrate, affording the opportunity to examine consequences of thermopriming for process rates.


  • Aguilar-Trigueros, C.A., Hempel, S., Powell, J.R., Anderson, I.C., Antonovics, J., Bergmann, J., Cavagnaro, T.R., Chen, B.D., Hart, M.M., Klironomos, J.N., Petermann, J.S., Verbruggen, E., Veresoglou, S.D. and Rillig, M.C. 2015. Branching out: towards a trait-based understanding of fungal ecology. Fung. Biol. Rev. 29: 34-41.
  • Aguilar-Trigueros, C.A., Powell, J.R., Anderson, I.C., Antonovics, J. and Rillig, M.C. 2014. Ecological understanding of root-infecting fungi using trait-based approaches. Trends Plant Sci. 19: 432-438.
  • Hilker, M., Schwachtje, J., Baier, M., Balazadeh, S., Bäurle, I., Geiselhardt, S., Hincha, D.K., Kunze, R., Mueller-Roeber, B., Rillig, M.C., Rolff, J., Romeis, T., Schmülling, T., Steppuhn, A., van Dongen, J., Withcomb, S.J., Wurst, S., Zuther, E. and Kopka, J. 2015. Priming and memory of stress responses in organisms lacking a nervous system. Biol. Rev. doi: 10.1111/brv.12215.
  • Esther, A., Groeneveld, J., Enright, N.J., Miller, B.P., Lamont, B.B., Perry, G.L.W., Tietjen, B. and Jeltsch, F. 2011. Low-dimensional trade-offs fail to explain richness and structure in species-rich plant communities. Theor. Ecol. 4: 495-511.
  • Rillig, M.C., Rolff, J., Tietjen, B., Wehner, J. and Andrade-Linares, D. 2015. Community priming – effects of sequential stressors on microbial assemblages. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 91: fiv040.
  • Rillig, M.C., Kiessling, W., Borsch, T., Gessler, A., Greenwood, A.D., Hofer, H., Joshi, J., Schröder, B., Thonicke, K., Tockner, K., Weißhuhn, K. and Jeltsch, F. 2015. Biodiversity research: data without theory – theory without data. Front Ecol. Evol. 3: 20.
  • Wehner, J., Powell, J.R., Muller, L.A.H., Caruso, T., Veresoglou, S.D., Hempel, S. and Rillig, M.C. 2014. Determinants of root-associated fungal communities within Asteraceae in a semiarid grassland. J. Ecol. 102: 425-436.
  • Schiffers, K., Tielbörger, K., Tietjen, B. and Jeltsch, F. 2011. Root plasticity buffers competition among plants - theory meets experimental data. Ecology 92, 610-620.
  • Synodinos, A., Jeltsch, F. and Tietjen, B. 2015. Facilitation in arid and semi-arid savannas: a new perspective. Ecol. Model. 304: 11-21.
  • Tallis, H., Mooney, H., Andelman, S., Balvanera, P., Cramer, W., Karp, D., Polasky, S., Reyers, B., Ricketts, T., Running, S., Thonicke, K., Tietjen, B. and Walz, A. 2012. A global system for monitoring ecosystem service change. BioScience 62: 977-986.