Plant identity control on soil food web structure and C transfers under perennial bioenergy plantations

Briones, M.J.I.; Elias, D.M.O.; Grant, H.K.; McNamara, N.P.. 2019 Plant identity control on soil food web structure and C transfers under perennial bioenergy plantations. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 138, 107603. 11, pp.

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Conversion from arable cropping systems to perennial bioenergy crops is increasing across Europe to meet market energy demands, but our understanding of how this land use change is affecting below-ground diversity and C allocation remains limited. Here, we assessed the impact of conversion from arable cropland to Miscanthus and Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow in UK bioenergy commercial plantations on earthworm community structure and abundance. At this same location we then conducted an in-situ 13CO2 pulse-chase labelling experiment in the two bioenergy plantations to trace the fate of recently photosynthetically assimilated carbon into roots, bulk soil, soil microbial (PLFA) and earthworm communities. Results showed that land conversion from annual arable crops to both Miscanthus and SRC willow perennial bioenergy crops led to severe reductions of soil earthworm abundance and biomass. SRC willow had higher microbial biomass relative to Miscanthus, whereas Miscanthus provided a better habitat for a more functionally diverse earthworm community. Transfer of labile C compounds to soil pools was faster under Miscanthus supporting activity of bacterial grazers in the soil food chain, whereas a fungal-driven detrital decomposition processes dominated under SRC willow plantations. Taken together, these findings indicate that plant identity in land conversions have a strong influence not only on the abundance and structure of soil communities but also on which basal resources (root exudates, dead organic matter or microbial derived compounds) are preferentially consumed, and ultimately on the rates of mobilisation of these different C pools.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0038-0717
Additional Keywords: Miscanthus, SRC willow, 13C pulse labelling, earthworms, bacteria, fungi, bioenergy crops
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 30 Oct 2019 14:24 +0 (UTC)

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