Soils provide humans with a whole range of irreplaceable ecosystem services the production and maintenance of which are largely dependent on the actions of the animal communities which inhabit them. Apart from the substantial agricultural production made necessary by humanity’s demand for food, soils filter and store water, holding back erosion and flooding. They provide a large proportion of the nutrients necessary for plant growth and for maintaining biodiversity, and at the same time limit greenhouse-gas emissions by storing organic matter. They are a rich harbour of biodiversity. But their associated processes are barely understood.
Soil quality is often overlooked in farming practice. Yet it is one of the key factors for rendering ecosystem services. Soils become depleted by intensive cultivation, erosion, deforestation or pollution. Subsurface fauna communities, which play a prime role in the preservation and maintenance of this quality, are often largely eliminated by farming procedures in which they are not taken into account. Burrowing animals create soil structure which limits the impact of erosion and provides zones underground where water can accumulate. This underground activity also offers prospects for atmospheric detoxification by means of carbon sequestration, and control of methane production or of oxidising agents such as nitric oxide. Earthworms, termites and ants –known indeed as soil or ecosystem engineers- regulate the activity of smaller organisms, thereby controlling the various stages of soil biogeochemical cycles. They stimulate the auxiliary micro-organisms of plants while limiting the impact of parasites, for example extremely harmful soil nematodes. The presence and diversity of these animals is naturally an indicator of the “good health” of the land they inhabit.
Research on these aspects is vital at a time when the preoccupation of those in soil management is no longer solely straightforward agricultural production. These practitioners are concerned about farming’s negative effects on other ecosystem services this medium performs. The pieces of research presented will draw a picture of the range of influences the fauna exerts and set out for soil managers alternative methods and indices potentially useful for evaluation and adjustment of soil management practices and policies.
Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta
Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy