Dr. rer. nat. Patrick Jung
Cryptogams are lichens, bryophytes, cyanobacteria and eukaryotic green algae that represent a fascinating and often overlooked aspect of vegetation, especially at habitats with strong abiotic pressure such as circumpolar regions or deserts.
My PhD was part of the EarthShape Project with the overarching research question about how microorganisms, animals, and plants influence the shape and development of the Earth’s surface over time scales from the present-day to the distant geologic past.
EarthShape bridges between scientific disciplines and includes geoscientists and biologists to study this complex question from different viewpoints. Approximately 60 German and 20 Chilean researchers are involved in a diverse range of projects of this priority program.
All study sites are located in the north-to-south trending Coastal Cordillera mountains of Chile, South America. These sites span from the Atacama Desert in the north to the Araucaria forests approximately 1300 km to the south. The site selection contains a large ecological and climate gradient ranging from very dry to humid climate conditions. The sites were selected to avoid other complicating factors such as differences in rock type, and glacial, and volcanic impacts.
Besides the Atacama, I am involved in research of cryptogams from the Sahara, Arctic, Antarctica, European Alps and coasts:
-A combination of traditional culturing techniques and microscopy together with modern molecular sequencing allows the identification of indigenous communities and their single species answering questions about local and biogeographic distribution patterns.
-Organisms thriving at harsh environments such as the Atacama Desert or the Arctic show highly adapted eco-physiological traits that can be measured and interpreted by gas exchange measurements during their photosynthetic activity.
-As ecosystem engineers cryptogams can significantly influence their surroundings with e.g. their bio-weathering activity supporting the formation of soil by pH shifts or shrinking and swelling action of their cells.