Vegetation structure determines the spatial variability of soil biodiversity across biomes.
ABSTRACT: The factors controlling the spatial variability of soil biodiversity remain largely undetermined. We conducted a global field survey to evaluate how and why the within-site spatial variability of soil biodiversity (i.e. richness and community composition) changes across global biomes with contrasting soil ages, climates and vegetation types. We found that the spatial variability of bacteria, fungi, protists, and invertebrates is positively correlated across ecosystems. We also show that the spatial variability of soil biodiversity is mainly controlled by changes in vegetation structure driven by soil age and aridity. Areas with high plant cover, but low spatial heterogeneity, were associated with low levels of spatial variability in soil biodiversity. Further, our work advances the existence of significant, undescribed links between the spatial variability of soil biodiversity and key ecosystem functions. Taken together, our findings indicate that reductions in plant cover (e.g., via desertification, increases in aridity, or deforestation), are likely to increase the spatial variability of multiple soil organisms and that such changes are likely to negatively impact ecosystem functioning across global biomes.
Project description:AIM:The global spread of woody plants into grasslands is predicted to increase over the coming century. While there is general agreement regarding the anthropogenic causes of this phenomenon, its ecological consequences are less certain. We analyzed how woody vegetation of differing cover affects plant diversity (richness and evenness) and multiple ecosystem functions (multifunctionality) in global drylands, and how this changes with aridity. LOCATION:224 dryland sites from all continents except Antarctica widely differing in their environmental conditions (from arid to dry-subhumid sites) and woody covers (from 0 to 100%). METHODS:Using a standardized field survey, we measured the cover, richness and evenness of perennial vegetation. At each site, we measured 14 ecosystem functions related to soil fertility and the build-up of nutrient pools. These functions are critical for maintaining ecosystem function in drylands. RESULTS:Species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality were strongly influenced by woody vegetation, with both variables peaking at relative woody covers (RWC) of 41-60%. This relationship shifted with aridity. We observed linear positive effects of RWC in dry-subhumid sites. These positive trends shifted to hump-shaped RWC-diversity and multifunctionality relationships under semiarid environments. Finally, hump-shaped (richness, evenness) or linear negative (multifunctionality) effects of RWC were found under the most arid conditions. MAIN CONCLUSIONS:Plant diversity and multifunctionality peaked at intermediate levels of woody cover, although this relationship became increasingly positive under wetter environments. This comprehensive study accounts for multiple ecosystem attributes across a range of woody covers and environmental conditions. Our results help us to reconcile contrasting views of woody encroachment found in current literature and can be used to improve predictions of the likely effects of encroachment on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Project description:The relationship between the spatial variability of soil multifunctionality (i.e., the capacity of soils to conduct multiple functions; SVM) and major climatic drivers, such as temperature and aridity, has never been assessed globally in terrestrial ecosystems. We surveyed 236 dryland ecosystems from six continents to evaluate the relative importance of aridity and mean annual temperature, and of other abiotic (e.g., texture) and biotic (e.g., plant cover) variables as drivers of SVM, calculated as the averaged coefficient of variation for multiple soil variables linked to nutrient stocks and cycling. We found that increases in temperature and aridity were globally correlated to increases in SVM. Some of these climatic effects on SVM were direct, but others were indirectly driven through reductions in the number of vegetation patches and increases in soil sand content. The predictive capacity of our structural equation modelling was clearly higher for the spatial variability of N- than for C- and P-related soil variables. In the case of N cycling, the effects of temperature and aridity were both direct and indirect via changes in soil properties. For C and P, the effect of climate was mainly indirect via changes in plant attributes. These results suggest that future changes in climate may decouple the spatial availability of these elements for plants and microbes in dryland soils. Our findings significantly advance our understanding of the patterns and mechanisms driving SVM in drylands across the globe, which is critical for predicting changes in ecosystem functioning in response to climate change.
Project description:The relationship between biodiversity and biomass has been a long standing debate in ecology. Soil biodiversity and biomass are essential drivers of ecosystem functions. However, unlike plant communities, little is known about how the diversity and biomass of soil microbial communities are interlinked across globally distributed biomes, and how variations in this relationship influence ecosystem function. To fill this knowledge gap, we conducted a field survey across global biomes, with contrasting vegetation and climate types. We show that soil carbon (C) content is associated to the microbial diversity-biomass relationship and ratio in soils across global biomes. This ratio provides an integrative index to identify those locations on Earth wherein diversity is much higher compared with biomass and vice versa. The soil microbial diversity-to-biomass ratio peaks in arid environments with low C content, and is very low in C-rich cold environments. Our study further advances that the reductions in soil C content associated with land use intensification and climate change could cause dramatic shifts in the microbial diversity-biomass ratio, with potential consequences for broad soil processes.
Project description:At the global scale, vineyards are usually managed intensively to optimize wine production without considering possible negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES) such as high soil erosion rates, degradation of soil fertility or contamination of groundwater. Winegrowers regulate competition for water and nutrients between the vines and inter-row vegetation by tilling, mulching and/or herbicide application. Strategies for more sustainable viticulture recommend maintaining vegetation cover in inter-rows, however, there is a lack of knowledge as to what extent this less intensive inter-row management affects biodiversity and associated ES.We performed a hierarchical meta-analysis to quantify the effects of extensive vineyard inter-row vegetation management in comparison to more intensive management (like soil tillage or herbicide use) on biodiversity and ES from 74 studies covering four continents and 13 wine-producing countries.Overall, extensive vegetation management increased above- and below-ground biodiversity and ecosystem service provision by 20% in comparison to intensive management. Organic management together with management without herbicides showed a stronger positive effect on ES and biodiversity provision than inter-row soil tillage.Soil loss parameters showed the largest positive response to inter-row vegetation cover. The second highest positive response was observed for biodiversity variables, followed by carbon sequestration, pest control and soil fertility. We found no trade-off between grape yield and quality vs. biodiversity or other ES. Synthesis and applications. Our meta-analysis concludes that vegetation cover in inter-rows contributes to biodiversity conservation and provides multiple ecosystem services. However, in drier climates grape yield might decrease without irrigation and careful vegetation management. Agri-environmental policies should therefore focus on granting subsidies for the establishment of locally adapted diverse vegetation cover in vineyard inter-rows. Future studies should focus on analysing the combined effects of local vineyard management and landscape composition and advance research in wine-growing regions in Asia and in the southern hemisphere.
Project description:<h4>Context</h4>Soil erosion is one of the main threats driving soil degradation across the globe with important impacts on crop yields, soil biota, biogeochemical cycles, and ultimately human nutrition.<h4>Objectives</h4>Here, using an empirical model, we present a global and temporally explicit assessment of soil erosion risk according to recent (2001-2013) dynamics of rainfall and vegetation cover change to identify vulnerable areas for soils and soil biodiversity.<h4>Methods</h4>We used an adaptation of the Universal Soil Loss Equation together with state of the art remote sensing models to create a spatially and temporally explicit global model of soil erosion and soil protection. Finally, we overlaid global maps of soil biodiversity to assess the potential vulnerability of these soil communities to soil erosion.<h4>Results</h4>We show a consistent decline in soil erosion protection over time across terrestrial biomes, which resulted in a global increase of 11.7% in soil erosion rates. Notably, soil erosion risk systematically increased between 2006 and 2013 in relation to the baseline year (2001). Although vegetation cover is central to soil protection, this increase was mostly driven by changes in rainfall erosivity. Globally, soil erosion is expected not only to have an impact on the vulnerability of soil conditions but also on soil biodiversity with 6.4% (for soil macrofauna) and 7.6% (for soil fungi) of these vulnerable areas coinciding with regions with high soil biodiversity.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our results indicate that an increasing proportion of soils are degraded globally, affecting not only livelihoods but also potentially degrading local and regional landscapes. Similarly, many degraded regions coincide with and may have impacted high levels of soil biodiversity.
Project description:Global deserts occupy one-third of the Earth's surface and contribute significantly to organic carbon storage, a process at risk in dryland ecosystems that are highly vulnerable to climate-driven ecosystem degradation. The forces controlling desert ecosystem degradation rates are poorly understood, particularly with respect to the relevance of the arid-soil microbiome. Here we document correlations between increasing aridity and soil bacterial and archaeal microbiome composition along arid to hyperarid transects traversing the Atacama Desert, Chile. A meta-analysis reveals that Atacama soil microbiomes exhibit a gradient in composition, are distinct from a broad cross-section of nondesert soils, and yet are similar to three deserts from different continents. Community richness and diversity were significantly positively correlated with soil relative humidity (SoilRH). Phylogenetic composition was strongly correlated with SoilRH, temperature, and electrical conductivity. The strongest and most significant correlations between SoilRH and phylum relative abundance were observed for Acidobacteria, Proteobacteria, Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia, and Euryarchaeota (Spearman's rank correlation [rs] = >0.81; false-discovery rate [q] = ?0.005), characterized by 10- to 300-fold decreases in the relative abundance of each taxon. In addition, network analysis revealed a deterioration in the density of significant associations between taxa along the arid to hyperarid gradient, a pattern that may compromise the resilience of hyperarid communities because they lack properties associated with communities that are more integrated. In summary, results suggest that arid-soil microbiome stability is sensitive to aridity as demonstrated by decreased community connectivity associated with the transition from the arid class to the hyperarid class and the significant correlations observed between soilRH and both diversity and the relative abundances of key microbial phyla typically dominant in global soils. IMPORTANCE We identify key environmental and geochemical factors that shape the arid soil microbiome along aridity and vegetation gradients spanning over 300 km of the Atacama Desert, Chile. Decreasing average soil relative humidity and increasing temperature explain significant reductions in the diversity and connectivity of these desert soil microbial communities and lead to significant reductions in the abundance of key taxa typically associated with fertile soils. This finding is important because it suggests that predicted climate change-driven increases in aridity may compromise the capacity of the arid-soil microbiome to sustain necessary nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration functions as well as vegetative cover in desert ecosystems, which comprise one-third of the terrestrial biomes on Earth.
Project description:Drylands cover 40% of the global terrestrial surface and provide important ecosystem services. While drylands as a whole are expected to increase in extent and aridity in coming decades, temperature and precipitation forecasts vary by latitude and geographic region suggesting different trajectories for tropical, subtropical, and temperate drylands. Uncertainty in the future of tropical and subtropical drylands is well constrained, whereas soil moisture and ecological droughts, which drive vegetation productivity and composition, remain poorly understood in temperate drylands. Here we show that, over the twenty first century, temperate drylands may contract by a third, primarily converting to subtropical drylands, and that deep soil layers could be increasingly dry during the growing season. These changes imply major shifts in vegetation and ecosystem service delivery. Our results illustrate the importance of appropriate drought measures and, as a global study that focuses on temperate drylands, highlight a distinct fate for these highly populated areas.
Project description:The importance of soil age as an ecosystem driver across biomes remains largely unresolved. By combining a cross-biome global field survey, including data for 32 soil, plant, and microbial properties in 16 soil chronosequences, with a global meta-analysis, we show that soil age is a significant ecosystem driver, but only accounts for a relatively small proportion of the cross-biome variation in multiple ecosystem properties. Parent material, climate, vegetation and topography predict, collectively, 24 times more variation in ecosystem properties than soil age alone. Soil age is an important local-scale ecosystem driver; however, environmental context, rather than soil age, determines the rates and trajectories of ecosystem development in structure and function across biomes. Our work provides insights into the natural history of terrestrial ecosystems. We propose that, regardless of soil age, changes in the environmental context, such as those associated with global climatic and land-use changes, will have important long-term impacts on the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems across biomes.
Project description:We present the MARAS (Environmental Monitoring of Arid and Semiarid Regions) dataset, which stores vegetation and soil data of 426 rangeland monitoring plots installed throughout Patagonia, a 624.500 km2 area of southern Argentina and Chile. Data for each monitoring plot includes basic climatic and landscape features, photographs, 500 point intercepts for vegetation cover, plant species list and biodiversity indexes, 50-m line-intercept transect for vegetation spatial pattern analysis, land function indexes drawn from 11 measures of soil surface characteristics and laboratory soil analysis (pH, conductivity, organic matter, N and texture). Monitoring plots were installed between 2007 and 2019, and are being reassessed at 5-year intervals (247 have been surveyed twice). The MARAS dataset provides a baseline from which to evaluate the impacts of climate change and changes in land use intensity in Patagonian ecosystems, which collectively constitute one of the world´s largest rangeland areas. This dataset will be of interest to scientists exploring key ecological questions such as biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships, plant-soil interactions and climatic controls on ecosystem structure and functioning.
Project description:The leaf economics spectrum<sup>1,2</sup> and the global spectrum of plant forms and functions<sup>3</sup> revealed fundamental axes of variation in plant traits, which represent different ecological strategies that are shaped by the evolutionary development of plant species<sup>2</sup>. Ecosystem functions depend on environmental conditions and the traits of species that comprise the ecological communities<sup>4</sup>. However, the axes of variation of ecosystem functions are largely unknown, which limits our understanding of how ecosystems respond as a whole to anthropogenic drivers, climate and environmental variability<sup>4,5</sup>. Here we derive a set of ecosystem functions<sup>6</sup> from a dataset of surface gas exchange measurements across major terrestrial biomes. We find that most of the variability within ecosystem functions (71.8%) is captured by three key axes. The first axis reflects maximum ecosystem productivity and is mostly explained by vegetation structure. The second axis reflects ecosystem water-use strategies and is jointly explained by variation in vegetation height and climate. The third axis, which represents ecosystem carbon-use efficiency, features a gradient related to aridity, and is explained primarily by variation in vegetation structure. We show that two state-of-the-art land surface models reproduce the first and most important axis of ecosystem functions. However, the models tend to simulate more strongly correlated functions than those observed, which limits their ability to accurately predict the full range of responses to environmental changes in carbon, water and energy cycling in terrestrial ecosystems<sup>7,8</sup>.