SOURCE: Science Daily

DATE: August 2, 2018

SNIP: The recent heatwave and drought could be having a deeper, more negative effect on soil than we first realised say scientists.

This could have widespread implications for plants and other vegetation which, in turn, may impact on the entire ecosystem.

That’s because the organisms in soil are highly diverse and responsible not only for producing the soil we need to grow crops, but also other benefits such as cleaning water and regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The new study, led by researchers at The University of Manchester and published today (02/08/2018) in Nature Communications, provides new insight into how a drought alters soil at microbial level. It shows that expected changes in climate will affect UK soil and that soil is not as tough as previously thought.

Due to climate change, disturbances such as drought are increasing in intensity and frequency. These extreme weather conditions change vegetation composition and soil moisture, which in turn impacts the soil’s underlying organisms and microbial networks.

Professor Nick Ostle, from the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “Our hot and dry summer this year is a ‘wake up’ to prepare for future weather stresses. We have just had the hottest ten years in UK history. This work shows that continued summer droughts will change soil biology. This matters as we plan for ensuring food security that depends on healthy soil.”