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

18.10.2002


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 Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>