Community ecology and ecophysiology of microbial root symbioses

Molecular Ecology of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

The importance of root-associated microbes can no longer be disregarded in plant production and pant ecology. However, little is known about their dispersal, adaptation and abilities to acclimate under shifting abiotic and biotic environmental conditions. To overcome these bottlenecks to a successful use of microbial services in a bio-based and environmentally friendly plant production, we address the following questions:
•    Can preemptive colonization of seedlings help to establish preferred symbionts in presence of a diverse natural community?
•    Can mixing of soils simultaneously raise the available mineral nutrient levels and numbers of symbionts for plants? – Namely, can competitive advantage in nutrient acquisition be shifted from saprobes in favor of plants via beneficial biotrophs?
•    Can addition of minute to moderate amounts of slow-release (organic) fertilizer foster nutritional benefits from nutrient-acquiring root symbionts?
•    Can intercropping of not mycorrhized and mycorrhized plants lead to facilitation via rhizo-mycosphere overlaps and hence synergies between nutrient mining and scavenging?

These application-oriented questions have much to do with the well-known ecological processes of:
•    Priority in arrival
•    Dispersal and propagule pressure
•    Home field advantages, i.e. functional adaptation to resources and other abiotic and biotic habitat conditions
•    Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning which happen at different scales in soils than those relevant to plants and areal and aquatic organisms and which are not captured by bulk soil and bulk microbial analyses.

We hence make use of recent improvements to sample throughput, resolution and sensitivity in DNA- and isotope-based abundance measurements to trace and determine population sizes of members of microbial communities and to trace and quantify C, N, P and Zn translocation, respectively. To identify the mechanisms at the whole plant and microbial community level, we manipulate our plant-microbe-soil study systems systematically in a cross-factorial manner. We achieve field relevance and verify universality of our findings with replication at the ecosystem and farm level.

Recent Publications

  • Pseudomonas protegens CHA0 does not increase phosphorus uptake from P-33 labeled synthetic hydroxyapatite by wheat grown on calcareous soil
    Meyer G; Maurhofer M; Frossard E; Gamper HA; Mader P; Meszaros E; Schonholzer-Mauclaire L; Symanczik S; Oberson A
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 131 217-228; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2019.01.015 APR 2019
  • Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp) hosts several widespread bradyrhizobial root nodule symbionts across contrasting agro-ecological production areas in Kenya
    Ndungu SM, Messmer MM, Ziegler D, Gamper HA, Mészáros É, Thuita M, Vanlauwe B, Frossard E, Thonar C.
    Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, FEB 2018
  • A Comprehensive, Automatically Updated Fungal ITS Sequence Dataset for Reference-Based Chimera Control in Environmental Sequencing Efforts 
    Nilsson, R. Henrik; Tedersoo, Leho; Ryberg, Martin; et al. 
    MICROBES AND ENVIRONMENTS, 30 (2): 145-150 10.1264/jsme2.ME14121  JUN 19 2015
  • Wheat plants invest more in mycorrhizae and receive more benefits from them under adverse than favorable soil conditions 
    Author(s): Aghili, Forough; Jansa, Jan; Khoshgoftarmanesh, Amir H.; et al. 
    APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY, 84: 93-111 10.1016/j.apsoil.2014.06.013 DEC 2014
  • Green Manure Addition to Soil Increases Grain Zinc Concentration in Bread Wheat 
    Aghili, F; Gamper, HA; Eikenberg, J; et al. 
    PLOS ONE, 9 (7)  10.1371/journal.pone.0101487 JUL 7 2014
  • The cellulose synthase 3 (CesA3) gene of oomycetes: structure, phylogeny and influence on sensitivity to carboxylic acid amide (CAA) fungicides 
    Blum, Mathias; Gamper, Hannes A.; Waldner, Maya; et al. 
    FUNGAL BIOLOGY, 116 (4): 529-542 APR 2012 Article (Details)
  • Establishment, persistence and effectiveness of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal inoculants in the field revealed using molecular genetic tracing and measurement of yield components 
    Pellegrino, Elisa; Turrini, Alessandra; Gamper, Hannes A.; et al. 
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 194 (3): 810-822 MAY 2012 Article (Details)
Hannes A Gamper ETH Zurich

Dr. Hannes A. Gamper
ETH Zurich
Department of Environmental Systems Science
8000 Zurich

Research topics

  • Neutral versus niche-based assembly of beneficial microbial root symbionts
  • Ecological and physiological determinants of selective symbiotic association
  • Microbial symbiont-symbiont interactions (feedbacks and network structure)
  • Maintenance of abiotic and biotic soil fertility
  • Sustainable crop plant production / bio-based ecological intensification



  • Microbial community ecology and plant nutrition
  • Agricultural soil fertility management and plant and microbial invasion ecology
  • Anthropogenic environmental change and plant-microbe symbiotic functioning



  • Collaboration between universities, a governmental research station, a non-governmental organization and a farmer cooperation