EcolChange Conference 2022 – Is this the end ???

The Centre of Excellence EcolChange started in it’s current form in 2016, lasting until 2023.
So, NO, it’s not the end – not yet !

Over the years, under the umbrella of the Centre of Excellence EcolChange, there were dozens of doctoral students defending their research, there were hundreds of publications, several doctoral schools, conferences, seminars, expeditions, excursions – that’s high level output !

However, our EcolChange seems to be more than “just” a Centre of Excellence … But what is more ? A new, unique discipline ? A huge knowledge database ? A grown star with an extended network ? I mean, six excellent research teams with a backup of I don’t know how many people, working together, investigating, examining, discussing, exchanging, asking, demanding, for years and years and never ending … that’s exciting and fabulous ! So our EcolChange must be more !

But I’m drifting a bit off-topic. There are better moments for visions and philosophy, one coming up soon. Thus, back to topic: since 2016, every year an EcolChange conference was held, providing insights into the groups research activities, sharing the gathered knowledge, bringing people together and closer, forming new partnerships and whatsoeverelse.

And now, in October 2022, there is one more, unfortunately, the last EcolChange conference (last chance to register !)

You can also read more here:

Last but not least: see you soon at the conference. It won’t be for the last time, I promise.

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2022 – Back to a Summer of Conferences ?!

It’s not yet over. And the future will differ from the past.
BUT, after two years of pandemic related restrictions, the scientific conference community both re-establishs and enjoys on-site and hybrid conference events.

Recently, European largest conference for bio-geoscientists EGU ( ended with more than 7.300 on-site participants in Vienna/Austria and more than 7.000 virtual participants.
Needless to say, many of our EcolChange members participated.
Apparently, it was a great opportunity, to present and discuss the newest research outcomes, to catch up vis-a-vis with current and / or future colleagues and partners, to gain new insights, trends, perspectives … the list is endless.

Although the EGU is just over, the next hightlights are coming soon, taking place in Tartu !
And, of course, our EcolChange members are IN, as hosts, organisers, committee members, conveners, and presenters.

BIOGEOMON 2022 from June 26-30 !
This conference is dedicated to bring together bio-geoscientists to discuss the biogeochemistry of various ecosystems from watershed, landscape, and global scale.
Click here for more details –>

New Phytologist 2022 next generation scientists’ meeting from July 19-22
The New Phytologist next generation scientists’ meeting is designed for and by early career researchers.
Click here for more details –>

Good luck to all presenters, organisers, conveners !

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Announcement for the 14th Estonian Ecology Conference “Estonian Landscapes 100” (Eesti keel)

On April 22nd, 2022, the XIV. Estonian Ecology Conference takes place in Tartu (Tartu Ülikooli Oecologicumi õppehoones Liivi tn. 2). This traditional Estonian event will be held in Estonian language, except two English presentations. Additional poster presentations are warmly welcome, please contact the organisers below for further details.

— Eesti keel —

Käes on jälle aeg Eesti ökoloogiakonverentsi korraldamiseks. See Eesti ökolooge ja ökoloogiliste uuringute ning nende rakendusega seotud spetsialiste ühendav foorum on toimunud iga 3-5 aasta tagant juba alates 1978. aastast. Enamiku konverentside organiseerijaks on olnud Eesti Looduseuurijate Seltsi egiidi all toimiv Eesti Ökoloogiakogu, mis ühendab Eesti erinevate kõrgkoolide teadlasi.  Kõigil konverentsidel on olnud mingi kandev teema, kuid alati on ettekanded katnud peamisi ökoloogia valdkondi ja käsitlenud erinevaid ökosüsteeme nii maismaal kui ka mageveekogudes ja meres. Tänavu on kandvaks teemaks “Eesti maastikud 100”. See on ajendatud faktist, et 1922.a. aastal avaldas Eesti geograafia üks rajajatest Johannes Gabriel Granö artikli “Eesti maastikulised üksused”, mida võiks pidada teadusliku maastiku-käsitluse alguseks Eestis. Konverentsi ajaks valmib Regios selle artikli uuendatud trükk. Maastiku mõiste on sedavõrd lai, et konverentsi ettekandjate hulgas on väga erinevate ökoloogiaga tegelevate suundade esindajad.

Lisaks 12-le suulisele ettekandele on oodatud ka stendiettekannete esitamine.

Kontakt: ulo.mander(at),  reti.ranniku(at)

— English —

This forum uniting Estonian ecologists and specialists in ecological research has taken place every 3-5 years since 1978. The conferences have been organized by the Estonian Ecological Council, a sub-organisation of the Estonian Naturalists’ Society. This year the main theme of the conference is “Estonian Landscapes 100”.  This is motivated by the fact that in 1922. Johannes Gabriel Granö, professor of geography at the University of Tartu, published an article entitled “Estonian Landscape Units”, which marks the beginning of a scientific approach to the landscape in Estonia.

The conference program includes 12 presentations from representatives of various branches of ecological research. In addition we also expect poster presentations.

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EcolChange Seminars on 23.03. and 24.03.2022 (in English)

For those who did not get any Email invitations, please note, there are two EcolChange affiliated seminars this week in Tartu, held in English. If you cannot join but would like to know more, feel free to contact the presenters directly.
Good luck for the EcolChange presenters and have great discussions.


23.03.2022 at 16:00 in Vanemuise 46 /virtually in MS Teams

Mohit Masta, PhD student

“Partitioning N2O fluxes with help of microbial and isotopic analysis in drained peat”

Peatlands are an important source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, which is a potent greenhouse gas and is also involved in the depletion of stratospheric ozone. Due to the large number of N2O production process it is challenging to trace N2O emissions to the individual source processes. We investigated the effect of different water regimes (dry, intermediately moist and flooded) on N2O emissions via 15N tracing in a microcosm study with well-decomposed nitrogen-rich alluvial fen peat. The isotopic composition of the peat and emitted N2O gas was analysed in combination with qPCR analysis of abundances and diversity of N-cycle functional genes. Bacterial denitrification was the predominant source of N2O emission, followed by nitrification (ammonia oxidation). This was identified by a close relationship between 15N-N2O and 15N-NO3 under flooded (anoxic) and intermediately moist (sub-oxic) treatments and concomitant increases in nirK, nirS and nosZ after the flooding.  Hence, we feel that a combined microbial and isotopic analysis approach provides a deeper insight into the N2O production and consumption mechanisms.

All welcome!

If you can’t join physically then the seminar can be joined by using the following link: Koosolekuga liitumiseks klõpsa siin


Botaanika osakonna ja tippkeskuse EcolChange seminar/ Seminar of the Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange 

24.03.2022 at 14.15 In Oecologicum, J. Liivi 2-127 (in English) 

Marina Semtšenko (University of Tartu) 

“Functional diversity and local adaptation in grassland plants: consequences for soil functioning and resilience to drought  

Summary: Plant functional traits and their diversity across plant species are known to modify ecosystem functions, such as primary production, carbon storage and nutrient cycling. Do the same principles apply within species? What is the role of evolutionary processes within species for wider ecosystem processes? I will use examples from my published work, as well as preliminary findings, to explore how functional diversity and local adaptation within plant species can impact biotic interactions in grasslands and their adaptive potential to future change.  

NB! Vastavalt praegu kehtivatele suunistele peavad kõik seminaril osalejad kandma maski. /  

NB! According to the current guidelines, everybody who will participate in the seminar must wear a mask. 

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New article: Microbes of drying peatlands warm the climate

A mutual team of researchers from the Centre of Excellence EcolChange and external partners revealed the important link between microbes, drying peatlands and climate warming, recently published in Nature Communications ( Read their press release:

guest editors: Jaan Pärn, Mikk Espenberg, Ülo Mander

Field investigation in an oil palm plantation next to the Klias Peat Swamp Field Centre, Sabah, Malaysia. Most of peatlands in Borneo are drained and rich in nitrous-oxide producing microbes.

N2O (nitrous oxide), a dangerous greenhouse gas, warms the climate and destroys the stratospheric ozone layer. Nitrous oxide is an intermediate and by-product of several processes of the nitrous cycle conducted by soil microbes. Undisturbed (wet) peatlands do not lose much N2O but drained peatlands are substantial sources of nitrous oxide. A global study of peatlands led by geographers and microbiologists of the University of Tartu, Estonia identified the microbes in relation to the nitrous oxide emissions in different peatland environments.

Genetic analysis of soil samples from all major peatland regions and types of the world revealed that high nitrous-oxide emissions are associated with several microbial groups. Among those, richness of nitrifier archaea and bacteria, denitrifiers and ammonifiers (DNRA) emerged as important. The high nitrous-oxide producing peatlands showed a high abundance of all those microbial groups. Therefore, the more nitrous-oxide producing microbial groups are present in the soil, the more nitrous oxide the peatland emits.

Nitrous oxide is a nitrogen compound and thus part of the nitrous cycle. Nitrification is a process where microbes consume ammonium (NH4) and dissolved oxygen (O2) from the soil, and produce nitrous oxide and eventually nitrate (NO3). This study distinguished between nitrifier bacteria and archaea. The latter are a more ancient group that thrives in more extreme environments. Nitrifier archaea showed the most significant correlation with nitrous oxide emissions among the microbes. The study found abundant nitrifiers both in the dry and wet peatlands. This is a sure sign of climate change that has temporarily drawn down the water table and introduced oxygen in the wet peatlands.

Denitrification is a process where microbes, in the absence of dissolved oxygen, consume the oxygen from nitrate, and produce nitrous oxide and eventually inert N2 nitrogen. The study found abundant denitrifiers both in the wet and dry peatlands. This shows that even the driest of peatlands experience seasonal flood or even have permanently wet aggregates.

In conclusion, the results show complex mechanisms behind the nitrous oxide pollution. This calls for global attention. Microbes react rapidly to environmental change. It is difficult to stop them from producing nitrous oxide from highly available soil nitrogen compounds at favourable environmental conditions. Wise use of nitrogen fertilisers is one way to address the issue. It is equally important to combat climate change, especially climatic drying and manmade drainage of peatlands.

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Authentic environmental research – comprehensively explained

PhD students of the Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology and the Centre of Excellence “EcolChange” present typical ecophysiological and biogeochemical research methods and tools in short video sequences.

The authentic clips, recorded under regular working conditions, briefly describe the “how to” at fieldwork, in the laboratory, and behind the screen.

Our investigative methods cover a broad spectrum of appropriate research skills: measurements of greenhouse gases from tree stems, soils or water surfaces and water parameters are dedicated ‘outdoor’ field site activities; detailed microbial analytics and complex ‘plant stress’ experiments can be undertaken only in the laboratories; and linking radar with field observations or developing accurate Python tools for data analysis require technical-mathematical skills and passion for IT solutions behind the screen.

However, the interdisciplinarity, linking different approaches, views, and attitudes are the keys of success for excellent research and gaining new knowledge. This short insight into environmental research may also attract other PhD students, undergraduates, scientists, and the public to contact our young scientists, to ask questions, to discuss or share further ideas.

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About the EcolChange research in a popular way

A popular science view of the research done in our Center of Excellence EcolChange.

The video clip was made by the Estonian Research Agency in cooperation with our researchers to introduce Estonian science to an international audience, such as the Dubai EXPO visitors or United Nations officials.

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EcolChange seminar (16th December, Thursday): Kadri Runnel about sustaining the habitat value of protected old forest fragments

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Speaker: Dr. Kadri Runnel (Institute of Zoology, University of Tartu) 

Title of the talk: How to sustain the habitat value of protected old forest fragments?

Time: Thursday, 16 December 2021 at 14.15

Place: virtual seminar in Zoom

Summary: Old-growths are valuable biodiversity hotspots as they provide habitat for a range of species that cannot live elsewhere. However, in modern forest landscapes, old-growths often exist as small fragments vulnerable to isolation and edge effects. The question thus is how to sustain the habitat value of such fragments? In this seminar I will try to answer this based on yet unpublished data from a large biodiversity and forest structure study financed by Estonian State Forest Management Center (RMK).  

photo from here
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EcolChange seminar (2nd December, Thursday): Hannes Kollist about guard cells in action

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Speaker: Prof. Hannes Kollist (Institute of Technology, University of Tartu) 

Title of the talk: Guard cells in action

Time: Thursday, 2 December 2021 at 14.15

Place: Tartu, Lai 40-218 (mandatory for everyone to wear a mask), or virtual seminar in Zoom

Summary: What goes in and what comes out, what is bad and what is good, to open or to close; this must be judged by signaling systems in guard cells forming stomatal pores on surfaces of plant leaves. I will present our results in studying mechanisms of stomatal movements in response to changes in the environment.

photo by Lauri Kulpsoo
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EcolChange annual conference 2021

Every year the Centre of Excellence EcolChange holds a conference for all centre members. It is a great opportunity to meet and discuss current research topics. Although the conference was cancelled last year due to covid restrictions, it was back on as a hybrid meeting in 2021.

The EcolChange annual conference 2021 took place on November 26th in Tartu and was also broadcast over Zoom. This year, the conference was dedicated to research collaboration. The Centre of Excellence EcolChange is created in cooperation of two universities, Estonian University of Life Sciences (one top research team) and University of Tartu (four top research teams and an individual researcher). In addition, the teams collaborate with other researchers, citizen scientists, and policy-makers from Estonia and elsewhere. Some of these collaboration topics were introduced in the nice presentations by several EcolChange members. Altogether about 40 EcolChange members participated in the conference in person and an additional 50 people joined over Zoom!

photo by Tiia Kurvits
photo by Tiia Kurvits
photo by Tiia Kurvits
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