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.
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine
25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy