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Terrestrial Model Ecosystems

Terrestrial Model Ecosystems (TMEs)

Higher Tier Test System in Risk Assessment for the Soil Community

Terrestrial model ecosystems

Terrestrial model ecosystems (TMEs) are a useful test system to investigate the effects of pesticides on complex communities. Together with the Institute for Environmental Research (RWTH Aachen University) and Bayer AG, we have developed and subsequently tested TMEs  as an outdoor test system for soil communities. Now a practicable and optimised test system is ready to use for higher-tier risk assessment under GLP.

Test system and organism groups

Our TME facility has space for 70 individual TMEs, i.e. stainless steel cylinders with soil cores of 47 cm in diameter and 40 cm in height, which are pricked in the field. These are taken at an uncontaminated, species-rich meadow site and then brought to our TME facility. There, the soil cores are exposed to natural environmental conditions and remain for up to one year.

Ongoing method optimisation

Until now, there is no standard guidance available for conducting and evaluating TME studies. We are committed to ensuring high quality data and minimising errors and associated variability by using optimised sampling and counting techniques. In order to guarantee a high significance of the study results, we continuously scrutinise and improve the methodology used in sampling, counting and evaluation.

Implementation and evaluation from a single source

The high complexity of the studies requires a well thought-out concept from the planning of the design to the sampling and counting of the organisms to the statistical evaluation. We offer all work steps together with our cooperation partner.

Our TMEs have a diameter of


and have a height of




different animal groups can be examined (Collembola, Oribatida, Nematoda, Enchytraeidae, Lumbricidae)

Dr. Andreas Toschki

Phone: +49 241 – 8027600

Dr. Monika Hammers-Wirtz

Phone: +49 241 – 8027601


Terrestrial Ecotoxicology

Taxonomic expertise

Good Laboratory Practice




Nanomobil - Synthetische Silber-Nanopartikel im System Boden-Grundwasser: Mobilität, Wirkungen auf die Lebensgemeinschaft und Wechselwirkung zwischen Hydro-, Pedo- und Biosphäre. Teilprojekt AP 2 Biosphäre | BMBF, FKZ 03X0151A
Project website
Bewertung des Risikos für Bodenorganismen unter realen Bedingungen: Erarbeitung einer nationalen Position für die Ausgestaltung untergesetzlicher Regelwerke der neuen EU-Pflanzenschutzmittelverordnung | UBA, FKZ 3710 67 410
Project report

Publications & Presentations

van Gestel, C. A. M., Mommer, L., Montanarella, L., Pieper, S., Coulson, M., Toschki, A., Rutgers, M., Focks, A., Römbke, J. (2020): Soil Biodiversity: State-of-the-art and possible implementation in chemical risk assessment. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 17 (3): 541-551. DOI: 10.1002/ieam.4371.
Toschki, A., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Hommen, U., Klein, M., Poßberg, C., Römbke, J., Roß-Nickoll, M., Schäffer, A., Scheffczyk, A., Schmidt, B., Scholz-Starke, B. (2020): Evaluation of the risk for soil organisms under real conditions: Development of a national position for amending downstream legislations of the new EU Plant Protection Products Regulation; Final Report, Project No. (FKZ) 3710 67 410, Report No. EF001129-ENG. Umweltbundesamt, TEXTE 201/2020, 302. ISSN: 1862-4804
Hammers-Wirtz, M., Strauss, T., Toschki, A. (2018): Added value of community approaches in environmental risk assessment. Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting, 13-17 May 2018, Rome, Italy.
Hammers-Wirtz, M., Oellers, J., Fürste, A., Miller, S., Peeters, S., Willius, N., Toschki, A. (2017): Investigating effects of silver nanoparticles on the soil community – An outdoor TME study. Poster presentation, 27th SETAC- Europe Annual Meeting, 07-11 May 2017, Brussels, Belgium.
Hammers-Wirtz, M., Toschki, A. (2015): Investigating effects of silver nanoparticles on the soil community – Concept of an outdoor TME study. Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 25th Annual Meeting, 03-07 May 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
Scholz-Starke, B., Nikolakis, A., Leicher, T., Lechelt-Kunze, C., Heimbach, F., Theißen, B., Toschki, A., Ratte, H. T., Schäffer, A., Roß-Nickoll, M. (2011): Outdoor Terrestrial Model Ecosystems are suitable to detect pesticide effects on soil fauna - Design and method development. Ecotoxicology 20: 1932-1948. DOI: 10.1007/s10646-011-0732-z
Toschki, A., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Hoelscher, C., Theißen, B., Roß-Nickoll, M. (2011): Requirements for Terrestrial Model Ecosystems (TME) in Environmental Risk Assessment - influence of coring sites and management on microarthropod communities. Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 21st Annual Meeting, 15-19 May 2011, Milano, Italy.
Theissen, B., Scholz-Starke, B., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Kölzer, U., Leicher, T., Schäffer, A., Roß-Nickoll, M. (2010): Does 'sequentially sampling' influence population dynamics of soil mesofauna in TME? An experiment giving answers to questions posed on the PERAS workshop. Poster SETAC Europe 20th Annual Meeting, 23-27 May 2010, Seville, Spain.
Scholz-Starke, B., Theißen, B., Toschki, A., Ratte, H. T., Schäffer, A., Heimbach, F., Nikolakis A., Roß-Nickoll, M. (2007): Basic prerequisites of a semi-field Terrestrial Model Ecosystem (TME): Ecology, variability, technical set-up & resulting test strategies. Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 17th Annual Meeting, 20-24 May 2007, Porto, Portugal.
Roß-Nickoll, M., Keppler, J., Lechelt-Kunze, C., Heimbach, F., Nikolakis, A., Ratte, H. T., Schäffer, A., Theißen, B., Toschki, A., Scholz-Starke, B. (2006): Outdoor Terrestrial Model Ecosystems: Study design & evaluation approaches. Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 16th Annual Meeting, 07-11 May 2006, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Scholz-Starke, B., Heimbach, F., Keppler, J., Lechelt-Kunze, C., Lennartz, G., Ratte, H. T., Theißen, B., Toschki, A., Schäffer, A., Roß-Nickoll, M. (2005): Terrestrial Modell Ecosystems (to assess changes of micro-arthropods community structure). Poster presentation, SETAC Europe 15th Annual Meeting, 22-26 May 2005, Lille, France.

We look forward to hearing from you!