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The main research goal of this project is focused on trophic interactions within microbenthic communities in aquatic systems. Grazer-microalgae interactions are investigated by conducting field and laboratory experiments in order to get a closer idea of the microphytobenthos community structure itself. Especially the role of morphological and physiological adaptations of microalgae in the presence of specific meio- and macrofaunal predators are of great interest. In addition to that we have devised a new benthic sensor for the quantitative and qualitative assessment in situ of diverse populations of microphytobenthos with high spatial and temporal resolution, enabling rapid evaluation of the community structure and distribution.
The photosynthetic productivity and the factors affecting it are measured in the nival zone of the Alps. Patterns of CO2 exchange for several lichen species are determined whilst recording environmental factors such as light and temperature and lichen water content. Whilst these records will show the lichen response over the year they can most easily be interpreted when the photosynthetic ability of individual lichens is well known. To achieve this the response of each species to light intensity, temperature, thallus water content and humidity will be determined under fully controlled conditions in the laboratory. The final aim is to achieve an initial carbon balance model for the lichen species. This will be aided considerably by the deploying of a continuously recording chlorophyll fluorescence system that will provide activity data for one lichen species on a better than hourly basis throughout the year.