6708 PB Wageningen
Ciska Veen obtained her MSc (2005) and PhD (2011) degree at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), where she has been studying how grazing by large vertebrate herbivores affects soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in grasslands. She then obtained an Rubicon (2011; SLU, Sweden) and Veni (2014; NIOO-KNAW) grant to untangle how microbial communities drive soil carbon and nutrient cycling. In 2020, Ciska started as a tenure-track researcher (funded by an Aspasia grant) at the department of Terrestrial Ecology at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. In her current research she aims at understanding how soil biodiversity drives soil functioning and carbon storage and how we can steer soil communities for sustainable land-use and climate change mitigation. She is currently leading a research project on how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is changing when agricultural land is transformed into food forests and on the role of soils in climate-smart forest management. During her career Ciska has actively contributed to building an inclusive scientific community.
Plant productivity varies due to environmental heterogeneity, and theory suggests that plant diversity can reduce this variation. While there is strong evidence of diversity effects on temporal variability of productivity, whether this mechanism extends to variability across space remains elusive. Here we determine the relationship between plant diversity and spatial variability of productivity in 83 grasslands, and quantify the effect of experimentally increased spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions on this relationship. We found that communities with higher plant species richness (alpha and gamma diversity) have lower spatial variability of productivity as reduced abundance of some species can be compensated for by increased abundance of other species. In contrast, high species dissimilarity among local communities (beta diversity) is positively associated with spatial variability of productivity, suggesting that changes in species composition can scale up to affect productivity. Experimentally increased spatial environmental heterogeneity weakens the effect of plant alpha and gamma diversity, and reveals that beta diversity can simultaneously decrease and increase spatial variability of productivity. Our findings unveil the generality of the diversity-stability theory across space, and suggest that reduced local diversity and biotic homogenization can affect the spatial reliability of key ecosystem functions.
Soils contain biotic and abiotic legacies of previous conditions that may influence plant community biomass and associated aboveground biodiversity. However, little is known about the relative strengths and interactions of the various belowground legacies on aboveground plant–insect interactions. We used an outdoor mesocosm experiment to investigate the belowground legacy effects of range-expanding versus native plants, extreme drought and their interactions on plants, aphids and pollinators. We show that plant biomass was influenced more strongly by the previous plant community than by the previous summer drought. Plant communities consisted of four congeneric pairs of natives and range expanders, and their responses were not unanimous. Legacy effects affected the abundance of aphids more strongly than pollinators. We conclude that legacies can be contained as soil ‘memories’ that influence aboveground plant community interactions in the next growing season. These soil-borne ‘memories’ can be altered by climate warming-induced plant range shifts and extreme drought.
Global change drivers, such as anthropogenic nutrient inputs, are increasing globally. Nutrient deposition simultaneously alters plant biodiversity, species composition and ecosystem processes like aboveground biomass production. These changes are underpinned by species extinction, colonisation and shifting relative abundance. Here, we use the Price equation to quantify and link the contributions of species that are lost, gained or that persist to change in aboveground biomass in 59 experimental grassland sites. Under ambient (control) conditions, compositional and biomass turnover was high, and losses (i.e. local extinctions) were balanced by gains (i.e. colonisation). Under fertilisation, the decline in species richness resulted from increased species loss and decreases in species gained. Biomass increase under fertilisation resulted mostly from species that persist and to a lesser extent from species gained. Drivers of ecological change can interact relatively independently with diversity, composition and ecosystem processes and functions such as aboveground biomass due to the individual contributions of species lost, gained or persisting.
Climate change is causing range shifts of many species to higher latitudes and altitudes and increasing their exposure to extreme weather events. It has been shown that range-shifting plant species may perform differently in new soil than related natives; however, little is known about how extreme weather events affect range-expanding plants compared to related natives. In this study we used outdoor mesocosms to study how range-expanding plant species responded to extreme drought in live soil from a habitat in a new range with and without live soil from a habitat in the original range (Hungary). During summer drought, the shoot biomass of the range-expanding plant community declined. In spite of this, in the mixed community, range expanders produced more shoot biomass than congeneric natives. In mesocosms with a history of range expanders in the previous year, native plants produced less biomass. Plant legacy or soil origin effects did not change the response of natives or range expanders to summer drought. During rewetting, range expanders had less biomass than congeneric natives but higher drought resilience (survival) in soils from the new range where in the previous year native plant species had grown. The biomass patterns of the mixed plant communities were dominated by Centaurea spp.; however, not all plant species within the groups of natives and of range expanders showed the general pattern. Drought reduced the litter decomposition, microbial biomass, and abundances of bacterivorous, fungivorous, and carnivorous nematodes. Their abundances recovered during rewetting. There was less microbial and fungal biomass, and there were fewer fungivorous nematodes in soils from the original range where range expanders had grown in the previous year. We concluded that in mixed plant communities of range expanders and congeneric natives, range expanders performed better, under both ambient and drought conditions, than congeneric natives. However, when considering the responses of individual species, we observed variations among pairs of congenerics, so that under the present mixed-community conditions there was no uniformity in responses to drought of range expanders versus congeneric natives. Range-expanding plant species reduced soil fungal biomass and the numbers of soil fungivorous nematodes, suggesting that the effects of range-expanding plant species can trickle up in the soil food web.
Deadwood is a large global carbon store with its store size partially determined by biotic decay. Microbial wood decay rates are known to respond to changing temperature and precipitation. Termites are also important decomposers in the tropics but are less well studied. An understanding of their climate sensitivities is needed to estimate climate change effects on wood carbon pools. Using data from 133 sites spanning six continents, we found that termite wood discovery and consumption were highly sensitive to temperature (with decay increasing >6.8 times per 10°C increase in temperature)—even more so than microbes. Termite decay effects were greatest in tropical seasonal forests, tropical savannas, and subtropical deserts. With tropicalization (i.e., warming shifts to tropical climates), termite wood decay will likely increase as termites access more of Earth’s surface.
Ecological models predict that the effects of mammalian herbivore exclusion on plant diversity depend on resource availability and plant exposure to ungulate grazing over evolutionary time. Using an experiment replicated in 57 grasslands on six continents, with contrasting evolutionary history of grazing, we tested how resources (mean annual precipitation and soil nutrients) determine herbivore exclusion effects on plant diversity, richness and evenness. Here we show that at sites with a long history of ungulate grazing, herbivore exclusion reduced plant diversity by reducing both richness and evenness and the responses of richness and diversity to herbivore exclusion decreased with mean annual precipitation. At sites with a short history of grazing, the effects of herbivore exclusion were not related to precipitation but differed for native and exotic plant richness. Thus, plant species’ evolutionary history of grazing continues to shape the response of the world’s grasslands to changing mammalian herbivory.
Research in global change ecology relies heavily on global climatic grids derived from estimates of air temperature in open areas at around 2 m above the ground. These climatic grids do not reflect conditions below vegetation canopies and near the ground surface, where critical ecosystem functions occur and most terrestrial species reside. Here, we provide global maps of soil temperature and bioclimatic variables at a 1-km 2 resolution for 0-5 and 5-15 cm soil depth. These maps were created by calculating the difference (i.e. offset) between in situ soil temperature measurements, based on time series from over 1200 1-km 2 pixels (summarized from 8519 unique temperature sensors) across all the world's major terrestrial biomes, and coarse-grained air temperature estimates from ERA5-Land (an atmospheric reanalysis by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts). We show that mean annual soil temperature differs markedly from the corresponding gridded air temperature, by up to 10°C (mean = 3.0 ± 2.1°C), with substantial variation across biomes and seasons. Over the year, soils in cold and/or dry biomes are substantially warmer (+3.6 ± 2.3°C) than gridded air temperature, whereas soils in warm and humid environments are on average slightly cooler (-0.7 ± 2.3°C). The observed substantial and biome-specific offsets emphasize that the projected impacts of climate and climate change on near-surface biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are inaccurately assessed when air rather than soil temperature is used, especially in cold environments. The global soil-related bioclimatic variables provided here are an important step forward for any application in ecology and related disciplines. Nevertheless, we highlight the need to fill remaining geographic gaps by collecting more in situ measurements of microclimate conditions to further enhance the spatiotemporal resolution of global soil temperature products for ecological applications.
Standing dead trees (snags) decompose more slowly than downed dead wood and provide critical habitat for many species. The rate at which snags fall therefore influences forest carbon dynamics and biodiversity. Fall rates correlate strongly with mean annual temperature, presumably because warmer climates facilitate faster wood decomposition and hence degradation of the structural stability of standing wood. These faster decomposition rates coincide with turnover from fungal-dominated wood decomposer communities in cooler forests to codomination by fungi and termites in warmer regions. A key question for projecting forest dynamics is therefore whether temperature effects on wood decomposition arise primarily because warmer conditions facilitate faster decomposer metabolism, or are also influenced indirectly by belowground community turnover (e.g., termites exert additional influence beyond fungal-plus-bacterial mediated decomposition). To test between these possibilities, we simulate standing dead trees with untreated wooden posts and follow them in the field across 5 yr at 12 sites, before measuring buried, soil–air interface and aerial post sections to quantify wood decomposition and organism activities. High termite activities at the warmer sites are associated with rates of postfall that are three times higher than at the cooler sites. Termites primarily consume buried wood, with decomposition rates greatest where termite activities are highest. However, where higher microbial and termite activities co-occur, they appear to compensate for one another first, and then to slow decomposition rates at their highest activities, suggestive of interference competition. If the range of microbial and termite codomination of wood decomposer communities expands under climate warming, our data suggest that expansion will accelerate snag fall with consequent effects on forest carbon cycling and biodiversity in forests previously dominated by microbial decomposers.
Plant–soil feedback (PSF) and diversity–productivity relationships are important research fields to study drivers and consequences of changes in plant biodiversity. While studies suggest that positive plant diversity–productivity relationships can be explained by variation in PSF in diverse plant communities, key questions on their temporal relationships remain. Here, we discuss three processes that change PSF over time in diverse plant communities, and their effects on temporal dynamics of diversity–productivity relationships: spatial redistribution and changes in dominance of plant species; phenotypic shifts in plant traits; and dilution of soil pathogens and increase in soil mutualists. Disentangling these processes in plant diversity experiments will yield new insights into how plant diversity–productivity relationships change over time.
Climate extremes are expected to become more commonplace and more severe, putting species and ecosystems at unprecedented risks. We recommend that rewilding programs can create conditions for ecosystems to endure and recover rapidly from climate extremes by incorporating ecosystem engineers of various body sizes and life forms.
Interactions between aboveground and belowground organisms are important drivers of plant growth and performance in natural ecosystems. Making practical use of such above-belowground biotic interactions offers important opportunities for enhancing the sustainability of agriculture, as it could favor crop growth, nutrient supply, and defense against biotic and abiotic stresses. However, the operation of above-and belowground organisms at different spatial and temporal scales provides important challenges for application in agriculture. Aboveground organisms, such as herbivores and pollinators, operate at spatial scales that exceed individual fields and are highly variable in abundance within growing seasons. In contrast, pathogenic, symbiotic, and decomposer soil biota operate at more localized spatial scales from individual plants to patches of square meters, however, they generate legacy effects on plant performance that may last from single to multiple years. The challenge is to promote pollinators and suppress pests at the landscape and field scale, while creating positive legacy effects of local plant-soil interactions for next generations of plants. Here, we explore the possibilities to improve utilization of above-belowground interactions in agro-ecosystems by considering spatio-temporal scales at which aboveground and belowground organisms operate. We identified that successful integration of above-belowground biotic interactions initially requires developing crop rotations and intercropping systems that create positive local soil legacy effects for neighboring as well subsequent crops. These configurations may then be used as building blocks to design landscapes that accommodate beneficial aboveground communities with respect to their required resources. For successful adoption of above-belowground interactions in agriculture there is a need for context-specific solutions, as well as sound socio-economic embedding.
Testing the role of specialized microbial communities in driving home-field advantage effects (i.e., accelerated litter breakdown near plants where litter originates from) for litter decomposition.
Testing home-field advantage (i.e., accelerated litter breakdown near plants where litter originates from) for litter decomposition along climate and litter quality gradients.