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National Research Council

Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems

The CNR-IRET of Florence carries out basic and applied research on the structure and functioning of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with a special focus on the effects of global changes and impacts induced by anthropic pressures. The activities aim at expanding and disseminating scientific knowledge about terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and providing support to the authorities in charge for their protection and recovery.

The CNR-IRET of Florence is included in the scientific research area of the CNR (23,000 m2), located in the university center in Sesto Fiorentino (FI). The area has conference and meeting rooms equipped with audio/video devices, a canteen, a bar, and other facilities which make it suitable to host international scientific events.
The CNR-IRET of Florence has the following laboratories:



Laboratory of ecophysiology
The research activities carried out in the Lab are aimed at studying:

  • biological meaning and mechanisms of plant responses to stressors;
  • plant responses to stress interactions (drought, nitrogen deposition, imbalance in phosphorus nutrition, air humidity, etc.);
  • validation of visible foliar ozone injuries and parametrization of stomatal ozone flux models;
  • estimate of the potential ozone formation (volatile organic compounds emission) and ozone uptake by the most important ornamental species in the cities;
  • role of ozone stress in carbon sequestration and allocation;
  • ozone effects on stomata functioning, and particularly on water control, and effects on water budget at regional and global scale;
  • ozone effects on crop yield and food nutraceutical quality;
  • assessment of ozone risk to forest and crop species;
  • knowledge transfer to decision making for protecting terrestrial ecosystems against ozone.

The Lab has the following instruments for measuring:

  • gas exchange: CIRAS-2 (PP-system, UK), LiCor 6800 (LiCor);
  • chlorophyll fluiorescence: Handy PEA (Hanstech, UK), MultiPhase FashTM 6800-01F (LiCor);
  • plant water potential: SKPM 1400 (Skye, UK);
  • soil water content: ECH2O EC-5 (Meter Environ., USA);
  • soil respiration: SRC-1 (PP-system, UK);
  • xylem sapflow: Sapflow (Dynamax, USA);
  • VOC sampler: VSS-1 (AP Buck, USA).

The Lab has the following infrastructures:

  • permanent experimental facility for exposing plants to ambient and enriched ozone: FO3X (Ozone FACE – free air controlled exposure) including ozone monitors (2B Techn. USA), ozone generators (Ozonia, UK) and meteo station (Watchdog 2000, Spectrum Technology, Inc., USA);
  • a network of 10 integrated stations for estimating the stomatal ozone flux of forests (including meteo, ozone, soil moisture and radial growth sensors).

The Laboratory of groundwater ecology
The research activities carried out in the Lab are aimed at studying biodiversity, ecotoxicological and physiological studies on groundwater invertebrate species, in relation to the main anthropogenic impacts and climate change. It is equipped with the following instrumentation:

  • Leica M80 stereomicroscops;
  • Leits Laborluk optical microscope;
  • POL-EKO thermostatic chamber;
  • 24 microcells respirator (80-μL) (Loligo Systems, Viborg, Denmark) + SDR dish reader (PreSens Precision Sensing GmbH, Regensburg, Germany);
  • YSI 650 MDS multi-parameter probe.

The Laboratory of photobiology
The Lab carries out the cultivation of photosynthetic microorganisms (microalgae, cyanobacteria and red bacteria) in open and closed cropping systems for the production of algal and/or microbial biomass, biofuels (hydrogen and biodiesel) and bioplastics.

The Lab has the following instrumentation for the growth and study of the physiology of photosynthetic microorganisms:

  • culture rooms with heat-illuminated incubators;
  • HPLC (ThermoFinnigan-Spectra System 6000 LP);
  • photobioreactors (various sizes);
  • LI-COR reader, LI-250A;
  • Ossigrafo (YSI 5300A-2, YSI 5215);
  • external structures: fully controlled tubular photobioreactor (volume 70 liters), for the massive cultivation of outdoor photosynthetic microorganisms, with appropriate software and controllers for the measurement and control of culture parameters.

Laboratory of soil dynamics and interactions with organisms and atmosphere
The Laboratory is equipped to perform a large number of analytical determinations on various matrices to study the chemical, biochemical, molecular, biotechnological, mineralogical and pedological aspects of the soil-organisms-atmosphere system both in natural and anthropized environments with particular attention to the interactions that develop among them. In particular, the laboratory instrumentation consists of:

  • Atomic absorption spectrometer 1100 B and AS 800 with graphite oven (Perkin Elmer, UK);
  • NA 1500 Series 2 CHNS analyzer (Carlo Erba, Italy);
  • Elemental analyzer CHNS/O (Thermoquest, Italy);
  • FTIR Spectrum GX spectrometer (Perkin Elmer, UK) with photoacoustic detector;
  • Varian UV-Visible Cary 50 Scan Spectrophotometer/Fluorimeter (Agilent Technologies, USA);
  • Pascal 140 porosimeter;
  • Carlo Erba Control 2000 ws porosimeter;
  • Milestone mls 1200 microwave mineralizer;
  • Orion Sa 720 pHmeter;
  • GLP 32 conductivity meter (Crison, Spain);
  • INVITROGEN Qubit® Fluorimeter;
  • Biometra TGGE Maxi System;
  • Thermalcyclers for 96 tubes of 0.2 ml;
  • Nikon and Officine Galileo optical microscopes;
  • Nikon coolpix 4500 digital camera;
  • Darkroom with TF20M UV rays transilluminator.

Moreover, there are also other tools to support analysis and preparation of samples such as four analytical balances with various rates and divisions, two ventilated ovens, one muffle furnace, three centrifuges (two of which have thermostats), two freeze dryers, vertical and horizontal laminar flow hoods, autoclaves, thermostatic baths, heating plates, dry heaters, ice crushers, vacuum pumps.

The Laboratory of xylogenesis and dendrobiology
The Lab is compost of three sections: 1) auxometry, focused on the development of predictive models of forest growth under changing environment (water deficit and warming) in the short and medium term; 2) biochemistry, focused on the determination of non-structural carbohydrates, cell wall components, and water relations during wood formation; 3) anatomy, focused on the study of cell differentiation, cambium acitivty and xylem traits.

The Lab is equipped with the following instrumentation:

  • auxometry: point dendrometers equipped with remote data acquisition system;
  • biochemistry: HPLC Flexar for the determination of soluble sugars in plant tissues, Ultra Centrifugal mill ZM 200 (Retsch, Haan, Germany) equipped with a 12-tooth rotor and ring sieves with 0.75 and 0.25mm trapezoid holes, Gonotec Osmometer 030;
  • anatomy: Nikon Eclipse 90i optical microscope equipped with DIC and image acquisition and processing software, sledge microtome (American Optical).

Laboratory of animal diversity
This lab focus on biodiversirty of invertebrates (mostly insects and, among those, aquatic hemipterans) and vertebrates (mostly mammals and, among those, rodents and shrews). The following instruments are present:

  • Stereomicroscope Leica M80;
  • Optical microscope Leitz Laborlux;
  • Camera-traps (© Multipir 12; © Ltl Acorn) to be used on the field.