Project

Back to overview

Soil Biodiversity and Functioning of Agricultural Ecosystems: Developing Science for Evidence Based Policy

English title Soil Biodiversity and Functioning of Agricultural Ecosystems: Developing Science for Evidence Based Policy
Applicant van der Heijden Marcel
Number 137136
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Forschungsanstalt Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon ART
Institution of higher education Research Institutes Agroscope - AGS
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.01.2012 - 31.12.2015
Approved amount 429'342.00
Show all

All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Ecology
Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Environmental Research

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Project title: Soil Biodiversity and Functioning of Agricultural Ecosystems: Developing Science for Evidence Based Policy

Applicants: Prof. Dr. Marcel van der Heijden, Forschungsanstalt Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon ART, Zurich; Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid, University of Zurich, Zurich.

Background:

Soil microbes represent the unseen majority of life on Earth and are essential for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as they catalyse unique and indispensable transformations in the biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere. The significance of soil microbial diversity for the functioning of agricultural and natural ecosystems is still poorly understood and soil microbial communities can be considered as a black box. Unravelling what soil microbes are doing in this black box has been identified as one of the major research areas in science, comparable to the search for life on Mars. The significance of microbial diversity for the functioning of agro-ecosystems will be investigated in this project.

The central hypotheses are:

1) Soil biodiversity enhances plant productivity, nutrient acquisition, plant diversity and decomposition. 2) Resource use and uptake by plants and soil biota is more effective when soil biodiversity is high because different soil organisms complement each other via their differences in soil nutrient requirements, and ability to store nutrients and transferring them to plants. 3) Soil microbial communities from grassland and organically managed fields are more diverse and are better able to support crop production under standardized conditions relative to microbial communities from conventionally managed fields with high fertilizer and pesticide input. 4) Enhanced abundance of particular functional groups in organically managed fields increases sustainability by reducing nutrient losses and recycling nutrients more effectively.

Methods:

To test these hypotheses, experimental ecosystems will be constructed under controlled conditions and soil biodiversity will be manipulated. Moreover, the presence and composition of specific microbial groups (fungi, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi) will be manipulated and their effects upon plant productivity, plant diversity and ecosystem functioning will be investigated. The microbial groups used for these manipulative experiments will be selected based upon a large-scale field survey using state of the art sequencing techniques to explore whether soil microbial diversity and composition and the abundance of specific microbial groups differs between various agricultural practices.

Potential Results and Significance:

This research will show whether it is beneficial to have high soil biodiversity in agro-ecosystems and whether the stimulation of soil biodiversity can enhance ecosystem sustainability.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Linking temporal diversity, stability and asynchrony of soil microbial communities
Wagg C. Dudenhöffer J.H. Widmer F. & van der Heijden M.G.A. (2018), Linking temporal diversity, stability and asynchrony of soil microbial communities, in Functional Ecology, 32, 1280-1292.
Cropping practices manipulate abundance patterns of root and soil microbiome members paving the way to smart farming
Hartman K. van der Heijden M.G.A. Wittwer, R.A. Banerjee S. Walser J Schlaeppi K. (2018), Cropping practices manipulate abundance patterns of root and soil microbiome members paving the way to smart farming, in Microbiome, 6 (14), 1-14.
Deciphering composition and function of the root microbiome of a legume plant
Hartman K. van der Heijden M.G.A. Roussely-Provent V. Walser J Schlaeppi K. (2017), Deciphering composition and function of the root microbiome of a legume plant, in Microbiome, 5, 1-13.
A widespread plant-fungal-bacterial symbiosis promotes plant biodiversity, plant nutrition and seedling recruitment
van der Heijden M.G.A. de Bruin S. Luckerhoff L. van Logtestijn R.S.P. Schlaeppi K. (2016), A widespread plant-fungal-bacterial symbiosis promotes plant biodiversity, plant nutrition and seedling recruitment, in ISME Journal, 10, 389-399.
Networking in the plant microbiome
van der Heijden M.G.A. Hartman M. (2016), Networking in the plant microbiome, in PLOS Biology, 1-9.
Mycorrhizal Ecology and Evolution: The past, the present and the future.
16. van der Heijden M.G.A. Martin F. Selosse M.A. & Sanders I.R. (2015), Mycorrhizal Ecology and Evolution: The past, the present and the future., in New Phytologist, 205, 1406-1423.
Sebacinales, but not total root associated fungal communities, are affected by land-use intensity
Verbruggen Erik, Rillig Matthias C., Wehner Jeannine, Hegglin Django, Wittwer Raphael, van der Heijden Marcel G. A. (2014), Sebacinales, but not total root associated fungal communities, are affected by land-use intensity, in NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 203(4), 1036-1040.
Soil biodiversity and soil community composition determine ecosystem multifunctionality
Wagg Cameron et al. (2014), Soil biodiversity and soil community composition determine ecosystem multifunctionality, in PNAS, 111 (14), 5266-5266.
Soil communities promote species asynchrony and stability in experimental grassland communities.
Pellkofer S. van der Heijden M.G.A. Schmid B. Wagg C. (2016), Soil communities promote species asynchrony and stability in experimental grassland communities., in PLOS Obe, in press.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Netherlands Institute of Ecology Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon, Research Station ART Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Terrestrial Ecology, University of Cologne, Germany Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Seminar in Microbial Ecology Individual talk Insights in to the effects of agricultural management on root-associated bacteria communities in wheat 29.04.2015 Zurich, Switzerland Hartman Kyle;
FAST Symposium Talk given at a conference Root microbiome dynamics under different agricultural management practices. 24.02.2015 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Hartman Kyle;
Seminar in Microbial Ecology Individual talk Soil Biodiversity and the Stability of Ecosystem Functioning. 14.01.2015 Zurich, Switzerland Hartman Kyle; Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel; Schmid Bernhard;
1st Global Soil Biodiversity Conference. December 2-5 2014. Dijon, France Poster Composition of the root microbiome. 02.12.2014 Dijon, France van der Heijden Marcel; Hartman Kyle;
1st Global Soil Biodiversity Conference. 2-5 December 2014. Dijon, France. Poster Soil Biota Promotes Stability and Species Richness in an Experimental Grassland. 02.12.2014 Dijon, France Schmid Bernhard; Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel;
Plants Science Center Symposium. 7 November 2014. Poster Soil Biota Promotes Stability and Species Richness in an Experimental Grassland. 07.11.2014 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Pellkofer Sarah; Schmid Bernhard;
Annual Symposium of the PhD Program in Sustainable Agriculture. 6 November 2014. Zurich, Switzerland. Poster Species Richness in an Experimental Grassland. 06.11.2014 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Schmid Bernhard; Pellkofer Sarah;
Soil Biota and plant community stability Talk given at a conference Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting. 12 August 2014. Sacramento, California, USA. 12.08.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Pellkofer Sarah; Hartman Kyle; van der Heijden Marcel; Schmid Bernhard;
Soil biota and plant community stability Talk given at a conference Biology of Species Interactions, Ecology & Environment Meeting 31.07.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Schmid Bernhard; van der Heijden Marcel; Pellkofer Sarah; Hartman Kyle;
Seminar in Microbial Ecology Individual talk Soil biodiversity, farming practices, and the stability of multiple ecosystem functions. 25.06.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Schmid Bernhard; Hartman Kyle; Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel;
33rd New Phytologist Symposium Poster Soil Biota Promotes Stability and Species Richness in an Experimental Grassland. 14.05.2014 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Schmid Bernhard; Pellkofer Sarah;
33rd New Phytologist Symposium. May 14-16 2014. Zurich, Switzerland Poster Composition and function of the root microbiome. 14.05.2014 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Hartman Kyle;
Seminar in Microbial Ecology Talk given at a conference Function and diversity of the Trifolium root microbiome. 19.03.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Hartman Kyle; Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel;
Annual Symposium of the PhD Program in Sustainable Agriculture, Agroscope Reckenholz Poster The Effects of Agricultural Management on the Stability of Ecosystem Functioning 28.11.2013 Tanikon, Switzerland Pellkofer Sarah; Schmid Bernhard; van der Heijden Marcel;
Plants in a Changing Climate, ETH, Zurich Poster The Effects of Agricultural Management on the Stability of Ecosystem Functioning 08.11.2013 Zurich, Switzerland Schmid Bernhard; Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel;
Plant Population Biology Conference, Tartu, Estonia Poster The Effects of Agricultural Management on the Stability of Ecosystem Functioning 09.05.2013 Tartu, Estonia Pellkofer Sarah; Schmid Bernhard; van der Heijden Marcel;
Symposium of the PhD Program in Sustainable Agriculture Agroscope Reckenholz (posters by S. Pellkofer and J Dudenhöfer) Poster soil biodiversity and functioning of agricultural ecosystems 29.11.2012 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel; Schmid Bernhard; Pellkofer Sarah; Dudenhöffer Jan-Hendrik;
Sino-Swiss Workshop Basel (lecture by B. Schmid). Talk given at a conference biodiversity 20.08.2012 Basel, Switzerland Schmid Bernhard;
Plant Sciences & Policy PSC Prodoc and Mercator Fellowships Symposium (presentations by S. Pellkofer and J Dudenhöfer) Talk given at a conference soil biodiversity and functioning of agricultural ecosystems 09.05.2012 Zurich, Switzerland Pellkofer Sarah; van der Heijden Marcel; Dudenhöffer Jan-Hendrik;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Seminar in Microbial Ecology 18.11.2015 Zurich, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
2. Agroscope Nachhaltigkeitstagung. Funktionelle Biodiversität in der Landwirtschaft, Zürich (2015) Talk 29.01.2015 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel;
ART-Tagung 2013: Acker- und Futterbau: Aktuelles für den Biolandbau Talk 24.01.2013 Zurich, Switzerland van der Heijden Marcel;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions . ART Tagung 2013: Acker- und Futterbau: Aktuelles für den Biolandbau (1 Präsentation; 2 Posters). German-speaking Switzerland 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
125428 Microbial control of ecosystem functioning 01.10.2009 Project funding
127227 PSC "Plant Sciences and Policy" 01.11.2009 ProDoc
166079 Soil biota as drivers of ecosystem functioning and nutrient cycling 01.06.2016 Project funding
172462 Agro-ecosystem diversification: digging deeper 01.02.2017 BiodivERsA

Abstract

Soil microbes represent the unseen majority of life on Earth and are essential for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as they catalyse unique and indispensable transformations in the biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere. The significance of soil microbial biodiversity for the functioning of agricultural and natural ecosystems is still poorly understood and communities of soil biota can be considered as a black box. Unraveling what soil organisms are doing in this black box has been identified as one of the major research areas in science. The significance of soil biodiversity for the functioning of agro-ecosystems will be investigated in this project. In particular it will be tested whether plant productivity, nutrient uptake and nutrient cycling are increased when soil biodiversity is high. The central hypotheses are: 1) Soil biodiversity enhances plant productivity, nutrient acquisition, plant diversity and decomposition.2) Resource use and uptake by plants and soil biota is more effective when soil biodiversity is high because different soil organisms complement each other via their differences in soil nutrient requirements, and ability to store nutrients and transferring them to plants.3) Soil microbial communities from grassland and organically managed fields are more diverse and are better able to support crop production under standardized conditions relative to microbial communities from conventionally managed fields with high fertilizer and pesticide input.4) Enhanced abundance of particular functional groups in organically managed fields (e.g. higher abundance of fungi; more acidobacteria) increases sustainability by reducing nutrient losses and recycling nutrients more effectively.To test these hypotheses, experimental ecosystems will be constructed under controlled conditions and soil biodiversity will be manipulated. Moreover, the presence and composition of specific microbial groups (fungi, bacteria, acidobacteria, mycorrhizal fungi) will be manipulated and their effects upon plant productivity, plant diversity and ecosystem functioning will be investigated. The microbial groups used for these manipulative experiments will be selected based upon a large- scale field survey using state of the art sequencing techniques to explore whether soil microbial diversity and composition and the abundance of specific microbial groups differs between grassland and organically and conventionally managed arable field. This research will show whether it is beneficial to have high soil biodiversity in agro-ecosystems and whether the stimulation of soil biodiversity can enhance ecosystem sustainability.
-