Louise C. Andresen in front of the The NanoSIMS facility
Photo: Aurélien Thomen

Researchers will investigate sub-Arctic soil crusts at nanoscale using nanoSIMS imaging


Changing winter conditions in the sub-Arctic can damage plants and life in the soil if hard ice and water replaces the soft protecting snow. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg will now investigate the effects on soil life and nutrients at nanoscale using nanoSIMS imaging.

Due to climate change and global warming, winter conditions in the sub-Arctic are changing rapidly and thaw days come more frequently. As a consequence, plants that depend on the snow for insulation to withstand frost, can be damaged or die. This damaging process is called browning. Browning has a devastating impact on the animals that feed on these plants, and disturbs the activity and composition of other organisms in the soil crust.

- Soil microorganisms feed on organic nitrogen sources such as dead plant material. There are many different microorganisms in the soil. We want to learn about their function and how they interact to understand the organic nitrogen cycling. We want to investigate how amino acids are used by plants, lichens, fungi and bacteria in biological soil crusts, says Louise C. Andresen, researcher at the University of Gothenburg.

New methodology to visualize and quantify organic nitrogen cycling at nanoscale

Rough measurements at the scale of a shovel are standard. Now, Louise C. Andresen wants to develop a new methodology that leads to insights in carbon and nitrogen cycling at the cellular scale of roots, microorganisms and soil particles using the NanoSIMS facility.

- NanoSIMS can image soil organisms and particles at a micrometre scale. It is the first time in Sweden that the NanoSIMS facility is used for this kind of research projects, says Aurélien Thomen, director of the NanoSIMS facility at the Chemical Imaging Infrastructure.

More information

This research is part of the project ‘Understanding Arctic browning – from macro to nano’, funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project is a collaboration between the University of Gothenburg (Louise C. Andresen, Aurora Patchett, Mats Björkman, Per-Erik Jansson, Tobias Rutting and Aurélien Thomen), Lund University (Edit Hammer) and the University of Copenhagen (Riikka Rinnan and Bo Elberling).

The research is carried out within the framework of BECC, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate. The strategic research area BECC brings together scientists from the natural and social sciences (Lund University and the University of Gothenburg) to perform research essential in understanding the combined consequences of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and land-use change for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The NanoSIMS facility at the Chemical Imaging Infrastructure is a joint infrastructure of the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology, hosted by the AstraZeneca BioventureHub and funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.