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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-01-01 - 2019-12-31

Plant leaves are key components to the global carbon and water cycle, as virtually all terrestrial carbon going from the atmosphere to terrestrial ecosystems and ~70% of all terrestrial transpired water passes through them. Research on carbon and water fluxes at the leaf has primarily focused on how the pores on the surface of the leaf (stomata) and the cells where photosynthesis occurs (mesophyll cells) respond to changes in their environmental conditions. However, there is a space within the leaf that has often been overlooked or ignored when studying photosynthesis as this air-filled cavity barely limits the movement of CO2 in crop plants, which have most often been studied. However, this airspace was shown to limit the movement of CO2 for certain leaf types found over a wide range of environments around the globe. Further, leaves of the flowering plants (angiosperms), the most diversified and recent plant group in terms of evolution, have improved stomatal control and water transport properties compared to their ancestors like ferns and gymnosperms such as conifers. Little is known on the diversity of the leaf airspace properties and whether or not the angiosperms have evolved improved traits similar to those related to water transport. The proposed project “Functional characterisation of plant leaf airspaces in 3D” will try to answer that question. The research, building from state-of-the-art three-dimensional leaf imaging through high resolution X-ray computed tomography, will allow to present the leaf airspace properties in their true volumetric nature. In combination with an in-depth analysis of photosynthesis and transpiration, the 3D representation of the leaf will make it possible to accurately describe the importance of the air space in carbon and water transport processes within the leaf, as well as the coordination of airspace properties with other related leaf traits. For this functional characterization, modelling at a small scale will be done using finite element analysis, a tool mostly used in engineering, that will accurately represent the physical processes within the diverse 3D leaf anatomies acquired. This modelling will be then used to build a leaf model that treats a canopy as a single big leaf in order to quantify the role of the leaf airspace in the plant carbon and water relations. This new knowledge is key to fully understand how leaves evolved, adapted, and optimized carbon acquisition and water loss in response to a changing environment, providing important information to reconstruct fossil leaf properties as well as to improve the prediction of plants responses to future climate.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-10-01 - 2020-09-30

Plant leaves are intricate organs that show a wide range of variation in form and structure. It has long been recognized that their anatomy is tightly linked to biological function. The most characteristic functions of plant leaves are related to the capture of light and carbon dioxide (CO2) for use in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the basis of the world's food web, and understanding how this process responds to changes in the environment, in particular to a limited water availability, is of great social and economic interest. Much of the recent research has focused on how leaf photosynthesis in response to the environment is determined by biochemical processes. The role of anatomy has proven difficult to describe quantitatively and has often been ignored. Interestingly, recent developments suggest that the leaf anatomy cannot be assumed to be static, but changes rapidly and reversibly in response to a water deficit. Fortunately, this dynamic nature of anatomy provides an unique opportunity to examine the effect of the leaf internal structure on photosynthesis. To this end, leaves of drought-tolerant and sensitive poplar cultivars will be exposed to a water deficit and changes in anatomy, leaf water status and photosynthesis will be closely monitored. In contrast to most earlier work, advanced new microscopy techniques will be employed to analyze the anatomy in three dimensions down to the subcellular level. This will allow for characterization of the leaf anatomy to an unprecedented level of detail. In addition, the resulting three-dimensional representation of the leaf structure makes it possible to describe photosynthesis and the diffusion of CO2 through the leaf using a mechanistic model of the biophysical processes involved. The proposed experiments will clarify what kind of short-term changes in anatomy are induced by changes in the leaf water status and how such changes correlate with differences in photosynthesis. In combination with a mechanistic model of the photosynthetic process, this will allow for the identification and quantification of key anatomical traits that limit photosynthesis under a water deficit. Such traits may find use in future breeding programs for drought-tolerant plants.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-01-01 - 2019-12-31

The pollen of ragweed are known to be particularly aggressive allergens and cause a tremendous economic loss each year. Whereas Hungary has already been affected for a long time and thereby successfully established control measures both in organizational and legal terms, the plant has in Austria increasingly spread only in the last years. Since the spread takes place via Eastern neighboring countries, the province of Burgenland is particularly strongly affected. However, on the Austrian side exists at the moment neither a regulated procedure for detection and control of ragweed, nor any collaboration with Hungarian authorities. This imbalance of capacity for action of administrative systems constitutes a major challenge for the border region. As ragweed does not stop at the border, this problem can only be combated by acting together. The project has set the objective of establishing a sustainable institutional cooperation on the issue of ragweed control between the Austrian and Hungarian administrative systems and research institutions. This enables a know-how transfer that benefits both sides and improves the quality of public service and thereby also life quality of the population. In the framework of the survey and research, fundamental data will be collected (main output 1: cross-border cooperation of universities in the frame of the research activities) on the basis of which coordinated recommendations can be made in order to control and to prevent the spread. A cross-border data exchange is first made possible by establishing a common ragweed reporting system. The establishment of a bilateral ragweed task force with experts of both countries lays the foundations for a long-lasting institutional cooperation (main output 2: sustainable cross-border cooperation of administrative bodies).

Supervised Theses and Dissertations