Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earthworms stimulate the nitrogen cycle in arctic soils

17.04.2020

In Arctic soils, nitrogen cycling is very slow, leading to nitrogen limitation. This inhibits plant growth. An international research team from the Universities of Greifswald, Umeå, Uppsala and Oulu has now attributed the nitrogen limitation in arctic soils to the absence of larger soil animals such as earthworms. With climate change, these soil animals are increasingly able to survive in the Arctic and may thus profoundly change the tundra ecosystem. The study has been published in Nature Communications (doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15568-3).

Arctic soils are one of the largest carbon stores on earth. At the same time, climate warming is twice as fast in Arctic tundra as in the rest of the world.


Earthworms are able to penetrate the arctic soil within just a few minutes.

Photo: Gesche Blume-Werry

How will tundra ecosystems change in the coming century?

Which factors need to be considered?

An international study led by the University of Greifswald shows that larger soil animals such as earth-worms have a decisive influence on the nutrient cycle in ecosystems of the Arctic tundra.

Larger soil animals signifi-cantly increase the release of nitrogen, so that some plants doubled their shoot and root length. Earthworms thus have a stronger effect on the development of plant communities than other well studied factors such as climate change, fertilization or herbivory.

"In the study, we released earthworms in so-called mesocosms. These are containers with intact vegetation in open land. We observed nitrogen uptake and growth of the plants in these mesocosms.

To determine the root growth of the plants, we used a root camera. We led this through transparent tubes, which are installed in the soil. We took photos of the roots at regular intervals. The images showed that so far we have underestimated the importance of earthworms for the nutrient cycle in the Arctic," explains Dr. Gesche Blume-Werry from the Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology at the University of Greifswald.

Up until now, the nitrogen deficiency in the Arctic tundra has been largely attributed to the cold climate, because low temperatures inhibit the activity of decomposers in the soil. The study now identifies a previously underestimated mechanism: larger soil animals such as earthworms break down plant litter into smaller fragments and move them deeper into the soil, where they can then be decomposed more easily by smaller soil animals.

This means that earth-worms make a significant contribution to nutrient release in soils. These soil animals are predominantly absent in the Arctic and the nutrient cycle is therefore much slower, limiting plant growth.

As temperatures rise, earthworms and other larger soil animals can increasingly survive in arctic soils. Furthermore, human activities in the region are increas-ing, resulting in an increase in the introduction of larger, invasive soil animals. These factors need to be taken into account for predictions of future tundra ecosystems.

Further Information
Blume-Werry et al. (2020): Invasive earthworms unlock arctic plant nitrogen limitation, in: Nature Communications. 11, 1766. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15568-3
Earthworm Video from the experiment: https://youtu.be/XUvwKHKAwC8
To the media photo: https://www.uni-greifswald.de/universitaet/information/aktuelles/medienfotos/med...

Contact at the University of Greifswald
Dr. Gesche Blume-Werry
Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology
Experimental Plant Ecology
Soldmannstraße 15, 17489 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 420 4194
gesche.blume-werry@uni-greifswald.de
ResearchGate: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gesche_Blume-Werry
Twitter: gescheBW http://www.twitter.com/gescheBW

Jan Meßerschmidt | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Arctic Plant Ecology animals cold climate earthworms ecosystems nitrogen nitrogen cycle soils

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A new view of microscopic interactions
01.07.2020 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Microscope allows gentle, continuous imaging of light-sensitive corals
01.07.2020 | Marine Biological Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

Im Focus: A structural light switch for magnetism

A research team from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure of Dynamics (MPSD) and the University of Oxford has managed to drive a prototypical antiferromagnet into a new magnetic state using terahertz frequency light. Their groundbreaking method produced an effect orders of magnitude larger than previously achieved, and on ultrafast time scales. The team’s work has just been published in Nature Physics.

Magnetic materials have been a mainstay in computing technology due to their ability to permanently store information in their magnetic state. Current...

Im Focus: Virtually Captured

Biomechanical analyses and computer simulations reveal the Venus flytrap snapping mechanisms

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) takes only 100 milliseconds to trap its prey. Once their leaves, which have been transformed into snap traps, have...

Im Focus: NASA observes large Saharan dust plume over Atlantic ocean

NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite observed a huge Saharan dust plume streaming over the North Atlantic Ocean, beginning on June 13. Satellite data showed the dust had spread over 2,000 miles.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist, created an animation of the dust and aerosols from the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

First exposed planetary core discovered

01.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Energy-saving servers: Data storage 2.0

01.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Laser takes pictures of electrons in crystals

01.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>