Digging into Sediments and Microbes for Nature conservation

Identifying the drivers of ecosystem processes for spatial conservation planning


The establishment of protected areas to preserve ecosystems services, while allowing for sustainable use by local communities, requires a sound knowledge of abiotic and biotic drivers of spatial species assemblages and how these translate into ecosystem processes that underlie services. Numerous ecosystem services of tropical mangrove forests, both for local communities and globally, depend on sediment processes that are mainly driven by the sediment microbiota. DiSeMiNation aims at unravelling how the floral and faunal communities, environmental conditions and human resource-use govern service-relevant microbial processes in mangrove ecosystems, and how related services spatially contribute to the benefit of users. The innovative combination of cutting-edge technologies and methods in biology, chemistry and social-ecological sciences into a "conservation-omics" framework, will provide a sound basis for knowledge-driven spatial conservation for mangroves, but also for other coastal ecosystems.


From 2017 to 2021, DiSeMiNation takes a cross-systems, cross-continental approach (Fig. 1) to identify the biotic and abiotic drivers of sediment processes of organic matter turnover as well as carbon (C) (Fig. 2) and nitrogen (N) sequestration, with a focus on microbial communities. The project enables a spatially explicit analysis of the interrelation between flora and fauna, microbial community composition and activity, and service-relevant sediment processes.

We analyze, through a high resolution meta-omics approach, the community composition and activity of the sediment microbiota (bacteria, archaea, fungi), the flora and the fauna in different types of mangrove systems (diversity, local use) by employing metagenomics and metabarcoding of microbial and environmental DNA and by concurrent analysis of microbial transcriptomes and the outcome of their metabolic activity in terms of sediment chemistry.

This comparative approach determines how mangroves are affected by local human use and what the effects are on the flora and fauna. Combined with valuation and mapping of ecosystem services’ provision, demand, and flow, these results serve as the basis for spatial planning of networks of protected areas according to ecosystem-functioning, service-provisioning, and C-/N-sequestration.

The project addresses spatially explicitly

  • the influence of floral and faunal mangrove community composition and abiotic environmental conditions on the sediment microbiota;
  • how the composition of the sediment microbiotatranslates into service-relevant sediment processes and services and their use by local human communities;
  • management options for resource-exploitation to ensure maintenance of microbe-driven ecosystem processes relevant for service-provisioning and C-/N-sequestration;
  • possibilities for the implementation and management of protected areas to warrant service-provisioning to local human communities and mankind worldwide.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.