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Ecological controls of soil trace gas dynamics

English title Ecological controls of soil trace gas dynamics
Applicant Niklaus Pascal A.
Number 112681
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Umweltsystemwissenschaften ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.05.2006 - 30.06.2010
Approved amount 367'875.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Agricultural and Forestry Sciences

Keywords (6)

agriculture; climate change; drought; emission factors; gas exchange; grasslands

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Atmospheric methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) account for ca. 25% of current anthropogenic radiative forcing, and originate to a large part from agriculture. Microbial processes in soils are both sources and sinks of these trace gases, and their dynamics is regulated at a number of hierarchical levels. While considerable knowledge about individual processes at the biochemical and organismic level has been gained during the last decades, the ultimate ecological controls of these processes in whole ecosystems and the underlying mechanisms are not well understood to date. To address these mechanisms, a research framework effectively linking the activity and structure of soil microbial communities to the activity and structure of the whole ecosystem is needed. In the present project, the interactions of climate, plant and soil microbes involved in soil trace gas dynamics are investigated at a spatial scales ranging micrometers to meters. The project capitalises on a number of experiments with long-term nature, namely (1) the Rothamsted classical experiments Broadbalk and Park Grass (fertiliser studies with winter wheat and grassland; >150 years of treatment); (2) Two ETH-owned research farms representing a gradient in altitude and intensity of livestock grazing typical for the Swiss montane to subalpine areas. Manipulative experiments addressing effects of livestock and drought are set up at these sites. The long-term nature of these studies is an important feature because soil processes take a long time to adjust to management, especially if soil structural responses and oligotrophic organisms are involved. As a result of this project, an improved understanding of interactions between soil processes and functional groups of soil organisms is expected. Not much is known about the mechanisms of these interaction, and the proposed project will contribute to rectifying this paucity of data. Mechanisms of these soil-borne interactions are not only relevant from a basic ecology-perspective but also for interactions at larger scales, e.g. soil-atmosphere interactions at the regional or even global scale. The data collected will help to better estimate greenhouse gas budgets of agroecosystems, which is required by the Kyoto protocol. The mechanisms studied also have potential for the development of agricultural trace gas mitigation strategies.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
144065 The stability of soil microbial functions under disturbance: A study of mechanisms linked to trace gas fluxes 01.02.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)