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 Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg

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: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>