Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists find grass yield, carbon storage not affected by creepy-crawlies in the soil


New results from experiments at a unique ecology facility show that plant communities are dramatically altered by changes to the type of animal species living among their roots, but that key ecosystem measurements such as overall agricultural yield or the amount of soil carbon stored are unaffected.

According to the results of a three year study into the processes of experimental grassland ecosystems published in the journal Science today, changes to the makeup of soil communities from small to large animal body sizes -ranging from bacteria and fungi to worms and beetles - have no significant effect on the overall yield of the plant life above, nor on the overall amount of carbon stored away in the soil.

The researchers from England, Wales, Scotland, Germany and Finland say that the results of their experiment send an important message about the ability of natural ecosystems to cope with human impacts, such as changes to the composition of soil communities, but caution that further long-term work is needed to confirm their findings.

“The study suggests that if you mess about with soil communities, say from the impacts of global change, you may alter the way the systems work but this has no major consequence in terms of the system’s outputs, for example the amount of grass produced,” says Dr Mark Bradford, lead author of the study based at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London.

“However, further studies may reveal that these changes have an impact over a longer time scale and our current investigations suggest that this could well be the case,” he adds.

The findings are based on work into the effects of global change on soil biodiversity done at the UK’s unique Ecotron research facility at the NERC Centre for Population Biology. The Ecotron consists of 16 sealed walk-in chambers with computer-controlled climatic conditions.

Each chamber housed a mini grassland ecosystem one metre square taken from Sourhope, a grazed upland grassland habitat in Scotland.

Over seven months researchers removed soil animals and then artificially reconstructed the grasslands with animals that differed in their body sizes - treatments contained small, medium or large soil fauna.

The experiment ran for nine months, during which seasonal conditions were set to mimic June/July temperatures in Scotland – akin to a continuous growing season.

The researchers had their expectations, based on previous, simpler experiments, turned on their heads when they came to examine the results.

They had predicted that the larger fauna communities would lead to changes in the composition of the plant community and a rise in the yield, or Net Primary Productivity, because of the previously reported positive effects of these fauna on soil fertility and plant growth. They also expected to see an increase in the amount of carbon stored in the system, or Net Ecosystem Productivity.

In fact they found neither; the different animal soil communities did not change overall vital ecosystems services such as the amount of carbon stored in the soil or the overall yield.

To explain their results, they suggest that both positive and negative effects of the fauna in the soil act to cancel each other out, causing no net ecosystem effects.

The Natural Environment Research Council provides core funding to the Centre for Population Biology as well as funding for this research under its Soil Biodiversity Programme.

Tom Miller | alfa

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>