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New Paper: Strecker et al 2016 Functional composition of plant communities determines the spatial and temporal stability of soil microbial properties in a long-term plant diversity experiment



Abstract:

Stable provisioning of ecosystem functions and services is crucial for human well-being in a changing world. Two essential ecological components driving vital ecosystem functions in terrestrial ecosystems are plant diversity and soil microorganisms. In this study, we tracked soil microbial basal respiration and biomass over a time period of 12 years in a grassland biodiversity experiment (the Jena Experiment) and examined the role of plant diversity and plant functional group composition for the spatial and temporal stability of soil microbial properties (basal respiration and biomass) in bulk-soil. Spatial and temporal stability were calculated as the inverse coefficient of variation (CV - 1 ) of soil microbial respiration and biomass measured from soil samples taken over space and time, respectively. We found that 1) plant species richness consistently increased soil microbial properties after a time lag of four years since the establishment of the experimental plots, 2) plant species richness had minor effects on the spatial stability of soil microbial properties, whereas 3) the functional composition of plant communities significantly affected spatial stability of soil microbial properties, with legumes and tall herbs reducing both the spatial stability of microbial respiration and biomass, while grasses increased the latter, and 4) the effect of plant diversity on temporal stability of soil microbial properties turned from being negative to neutral, suggesting that the recovery of soil microbial communities from former arable land-use takes more than a decade. Our results highlight the importance of plant functional group composition for the spatial and temporal stability of soil microbial properties, and hence for microbially-driven ecosystem processes, such as decomposition and element cycling, in temperate semi-natural grassland.

Citation:

Strecker, T., Macé, G., O., Scheu, S., Eisenhauer, N. 2016. Functional composition of plant communities determines the spatial and temporal stability of soil microbial properties in a long-term plant diversity Experiment, doi: 10.1111/oik.03181

Contact:

Nico Eisenhauer ()



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