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Project 1 (phase I):

Interactive plant-trait and climate effects on soil organic carbon along the Chilean coastal cordillera


Investigator Names and Contact Info:

  • Maaike Bader (Ecology, Biogeography). Faculty of Geography, University of Marburg, Germany


Chilean Collaborators Involved:

  • Alfredo Saldaña (Forest Ecology, Ecophysiology of Plants). Universidad de Concepción, Chile
  • Rodrigo Ríos (Ecology, Botany, Biostatistics). Universidad La Serena, Chile


Experimental investigation of interactive plant-trait and climate effects on soil carbon inputs (plant productivity and litter decomposition) along the Chilean coastal cordillera



Prof. Maaike Bader, co-supervisors: Dr. Alfredo Saldaña and Dr. Rodrigo Ríos



UAV-based Remote Sensing of vegetation patterns in the coastal fog zone of Pan de Azúcar National Park, Atacama Desert, Chile.



  • Luise Wraase. University of Marburg, Germany

Prof. Maaike Bader, co-supervisor: Rafaella Canessa


Temporal patterns of fog frequency and vegetation greenness in the coastal fog zone of Las Lomitas, PN Pan de Azúcar.



  • Lea Dzierzawa. University of Marburg, Germany

Prof. Maaike Bader, co-supervisor: Rafaella Canessa



Project Summary:

The input of organic carbon into the soil is one of the major drivers of weathering and erosion. This input, in turn, is primarily controlled by interactive effects of vegetation and climate. Understanding how climate and vegetation together determine soil organic carbon, as an energy source for microorganisms as weathering engines and as a stabilizing factor in erosion, is one of the major scientific goals of the EarthShape program (SPP 1803). With this project we aim to pursue this goal by studying organic carbon fluxes, from plant productivity to litter decomposition (and carbon dynamics in soils1), disentangling plant and climate effects. Based on our hypothesis that the relative importance of climate and plant traits may be scale dependent we will work at multiple spatial-climatic scales. These scales encompass three biomes along the Chilean coastal cordillera (arid, mediterranean and wet-temperate) and two contrasting study sites within each of these biomes. These two scale-levels and the comparison of soils below contrasting plant types within sites will allow us to partially decouple vegetation and climate effects. A further decoupling is achieved by translocating plant litter between the three biomes and sites in a fully-reciprocal experiment, studying decomposition of this litter over a period of two years. Vegetation is regarded from a functional point of view: carbon inputs, as determined by primary productivity and litter decomposition, will be described as functions of plant functional traits (chemical, physical and phenological) and trait diversity. The results of this project will include a statistical model predicting soil organic carbon inputs based on climate and vegetation traits, accounting for effects on plant productivity as well as litter decomposition. This improved process knowledge is important for understanding and modelling carbon cycles and geomorphology-related soil processes.