As a result of climate change, soil animals are getting smaller, numbers falling due to intensive land use

As a result of climate change, soil animals are getting smaller, numbers falling due to intensive land use

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: July 28, 2020 SNIP: Today, life in the soil must contend with several problems at once. The biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil and thus maintain its fertility is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. To their surprise, however, scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig have discovered that this effect occurs in two different ways: while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. Even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all negative consequences of climate change, the researchers warn in the trade journal eLife. Largely unnoticed and in secret, an army of tiny service providers works below our feet. Countless small insects, arachnids and other soil dwellers are indefatigably busy decomposing dead plants and other organic material, and recycling the nutrients they contain. However, experts have long feared that these organisms, which are so important for soil fertility and the functioning of ecosystems, are increasingly coming under stress. On the one hand, they are confronted with the consequences of climate change, which challenges them with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. On the other hand, they also suffer from over-intensive land use. If, for example, a meadow is turned into a field, soil animals find fewer niches and food sources there. Intensive plowing, mowing or grazing, as well as the use of pesticides and large amounts of fertilizer also have a negative effect. But what happens when soil life is...
Climate-induced soil changes may cause more erosion and flash flooding

Climate-induced soil changes may cause more erosion and flash flooding

SOURCE: UCR News DATE: September 12, 2018 SNIP: The earth beneath our feet isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think about the impacts of climate change. However, a study by a UC Riverside-led team of researchers predicts a climate-induced reduction in large soil pores, which may intensify the water cycle and contribute to more flash flooding and soil erosion by the end of the 21st century. In a paper published Sept. 5 in Nature, the scientists studied the impact of climate change on macroporosity—the amount of large pores in the soil. Macropores, which are greater than 0.08 mm in diameter, allow water to be absorbed easily into the surrounding soil, where it can be used by plants, transport nutrients, and eventually make its way back into underground aquifers. Using a large database of soils collected over 50 years from across the continental U.S. combined with atmospheric data from a network of weather stations, the researchers examined changes in macroporosity across a rainfall, temperature, and humidity gradient. They found macropores were more likely to develop in drier climates than humid climates, and that climate-related changes in macroporosity occur over shorter timescales than previously thought. The researchers then used climate projections for the end of the 21st Century to predict that increasing humidity by 2080-2100 will reduce soil macroporosity in most regions of the U.S. The consequences could be less infiltration of water into the ground, more surface runoff and erosion, and more flash...
Heatwave and climate change having negative impact on our soil say experts

Heatwave and climate change having negative impact on our soil say experts

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...
UN official calls for land preservation to ensure sustainable development

UN official calls for land preservation to ensure sustainable development

SOURCE: XinhuaNet (Chinese Media is notoriously unreliable, so read with a grain of salt). DATE: December 5, 2017 SNIP: The ecosystem services that land provides will have to increase exponentially to sustain the planet, as agricultural production needs to increase by about 70 percent globally to feed the expected population of 9 billion in 2050. That would mean finding an estimated 6 million hectares of land for agricultural production annually and twice the amount of water by 2050. The painful fact is that soil degradation is increasing rapidly in spite of fast growing demand, with a quarter of the world’s land highly degraded…more than half of all agricultural land has already degraded. The problem could lead to the loss of two thirds of all arable land by 2025, plunging millions of farmers into poverty and igniting conflicts and migration, according to the...
Carbon emissions from warming soils could trigger disastrous feedback loop

Carbon emissions from warming soils could trigger disastrous feedback loop

SOURCE: The Guardian and Washington Post DATE: October 5, 2017 SNIP: Warming soils are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break. The increased production of carbon comes from the microbes within soils, according to a report in the peer-review journal Science, published on Friday. The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in...