Soil microorganisms are the functional backbone of terrestrial ecosystems. Empirical evidence has accumulated highlighting the role of soil biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems and the provision of vital ecosystem services. How can biodiversity in soil be maintained? Recent plant diversity experiments, intercropping approaches, and monitoring studies suggest that plant diversity is a crucial determinant of soil biodiversity, underlining the saying 'biodiversity begets biodiversity'. While local plant diversity is likely to mainly increase the spatial heterogeneity of organic inputs into the soil, a review paper in this issue utilizes a meta-analysis to investigate temporal plant diversity effects on soil microbial diversity: Venter and colleagues (2016) compared crop monocultures with crop rotations and studied microbial diversity. Across studies, they found significantly higher microbial diversity in crop rotation than in crop monocultures providing some of the first synthetic empirical evidence of the beneficial effects of temporal heterogeneity in plant inputs into the soil for soil microorganisms. Future studies should investigate how 'spatial and temporal plant diversity' effects on soil biodiversity translate into ecosystem services on which humankind relies.
Eisenhauer N. (2016), Plant diversity effects on soil microorganisms: Spatial and temporal heterogeneity of plant inputs increase soil biodiversity. Pedobiologia 59(4): 175-177, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pedobi.2016.04.004.
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