Changes above the ground, such as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide and increased temperatures have major consequences for the contact zone between plant roots and the soil. This became apparent during the recently completed research programme Biodiversity in relation to Global Change (BIGC) from NWO. The UN year of biodiversity should therefore devote attention to subterranean ecosystems as well. This year NWO is launching a new research programme in the area of biodiversity and ecology.
In the contact zone between plant roots and the soil, bacteria, fungi and small invertebrates coexist with the plant roots. Some plants and fungi even help each other to survive. Researchers from the BIGC programme discovered that the composition of the subterranean community can change considerably if plants start to function differently, for example, due to a rise in temperature.
A change in the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can also effect the biodiversity beneath our feet as plant roots then release different types and quantities of substances. Plants that grow well if more carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere can, for example, suppress fungi better. This in turn has consequences for the other subterranean flora and fauna. Some soil organisms benefit from more carbon dioxide in the air, whereas others do not. The effects of climate change are not observed in soil outside of the root zone.
Consequences for living organisms and agriculture
In 2010, the United Nations is calling on the world to maintain biodiversity. Yet what are the consequences of this deterioration in biodiversity? This was investigated over the past few years under the NWO programme Biodiversity in relation to Global Change. The results from the programme clearly show that subterranean biodiversity also merits our attention. The fundamental knowledge yielded by this programme could ultimately be important for applications in agriculture.
Within the BIGC programme, seven research groups investigated nature reserves in the Netherlands and further afield. The programme focussed on the possible effects of climate change on the species diversity in the soil and water and what this could mean for the functioning of ecosystems. The research programme Biodiversity in relation to Global Change (BIGC) ran from 2001 tot 2009. Further information can be found in the overview http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOP_5WPLQL of the seven research projects, which includes e-mail addresses of the researchers.
New NWO research programme Biodiversity works
In the International Year of Biodiversity, NWO is launching a new programme in the area of biodiversity and ecology: Biodiversity works: towards a dynamic and resilient wildlife in an ever diminishing space. The programme is a joint initiative between the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and NWO. It ties in with the knowledge section of the Policy Programme Biodiversity (Biodiversity works) launched by the Dutch Cabinet in 2008.
The programme seeks to provide new knowledge for the purpose of policy issues: attention for a more dynamic wildlife, elaboration and realisation of ecosystem services and how to deal with the limited physical space in the Netherlands for wildlife. A budget of € 3,650,000 is currently available for this new programme. Efforts shall be made to increase this budget by obtaining contributions from other (governmental) financiers. The call for the submission of research proposals will be published sometime this spring and is also open for research into subterranean biodiversity.
Materials provided by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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