6708 PB Wageningen
I am an ecosystem ecologist with extensive experience researching about the consequences of human impacts on biogeochemical processes, biodiversity, and the assembly of communities in terrestrial ecosystems. Currently, I am a Ramón y Cajal researcher at the University of Cádiz, Spain, where I lead the "Ecosystem Ecology Lab" (https://ecosystemsecology.com/). The laboratory seeks to answer basic questions on how ecosystems function in a context of global change and develop applied nature-based strategies to stop or even reverse impacts, particularly in the context of managed ecosystems such as grasslands and agroecosystems like vineyards.
Soil life supports the functioning and biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems. Springtails (Collembola) are among the most abundant soil arthropods regulating soil fertility and flow of energy through above- and belowground food webs. However, the global distribution of springtail diversity and density, and how these relate to energy fluxes remains unknown. Here, using a global dataset representing 2470 sites, we estimate the total soil springtail biomass at 27.5 megatons carbon, which is threefold higher than wild terrestrial vertebrates, and record peak densities up to 2 million individuals per square meter in the tundra. Despite a 20-fold biomass difference between the tundra and the tropics, springtail energy use (community metabolism) remains similar across the latitudinal gradient, owing to the changes in temperature with latitude. Neither springtail density nor community metabolism is predicted by local species richness, which is high in the tropics, but comparably high in some temperate forests and even tundra. Changes in springtail activity may emerge from latitudinal gradients in temperature, predation and resource limitation in soil communities. Contrasting relationships of biomass, diversity and activity of springtail communities with temperature suggest that climate warming will alter fundamental soil biodiversity metrics in different directions, potentially restructuring terrestrial food webs and affecting soil functioning.
Vineyards are a very important perennial woody crop globally, but they are also among the most intensively managed agroecosystems. This has resulted in biologically impoverished and highly eroded vineyards. Environmentally-friendly inter-row vegetation management, particularly the use of cover crops, could contribute to avoid erosion and regenerate soil biodiversity in vineyards. In this study, we updated a global meta-analysis on the effects of inter-row extensive vegetation cover management, particularly through the use of cover crops, on ecosystem services, including supporting, regulating and provisioning services, and biodiversity in vineyards. We also analyzed the role of environmental variables (climate, including precipitation- and temperature-related bioclimatic variables and soil properties, including pH and texture) and irrigation in modulating these effects. The presence of extensive vegetation cover consistently increased biodiversity, as well as supporting ecosystem services in irrigated vineyards and regulating services in rainfed vineyards. Provisioning services, which were evaluated as grape yield, were slightly negatively affected in rainfed vineyards, but not in irrigated ones. The effects of vegetation cover on ecosystem services varied depending on the climate and edaphic characteristics of vineyards. For example, supporting ecosystem services were favored in acidic soils and were also positively related to the precipitation of the wettest quarter, whereas regulating services were particularly enhanced in alkaline soils and in locations with lower temperatures of the wettest quarter. Biodiversity was especially favored in locations with lower precipitation seasonality. Taken together, our study indicates the importance of developing strategies for the adaptive management of extensive vegetation covers tailored to the climatic and edaphic conditions of each vineyard. This adaptive management, combined with irrigation and potentially other locally-tailored adaptive strategies, could also contribute to further mitigate potential negative effects of vegetation cover on grape production while maximizing other ecosystem services such as provisioning and supporting services and biodiversity.
The growing demand for timber and the boom in massive tree-planting programs could mean the spreading of mismanaged tree plantations worldwide. Here, we apply the concept of ecological intensification to forestry systems as a viable biodiversity-focused strategy that could be critical to develop productive, yet sustainable, tree plantations. Tree plantations can be highly productive if tree species are properly combined to complement their ecological functions. Simultaneously considering soil biodiversity and animal-mediated biocontrol will be critical to minimize the reliance on external inputs. Integrating genetic, functional, and demographic diversity across heterogeneous landscapes should improve resilience under climate change. Designing ecologically intensified plantations will mean breaking the timber productivity versus conservation dichotomy and assuring the maintenance of key ecosystem services at safe levels.
Current and continuing climate change in the Anthropocene epoch requires sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, due to changing consumer preferences, organic approaches to cultivation are gaining popularity. The global market for organic grapes, grape products, and wine is growing. Biostimulant and biocontrol products are often applied in organic vineyards and can reduce the synthetic fertilizer, pesticide, and fungicide requirements of a vineyard. Plant growth promotion following application is also observed under a variety of challenging conditions associated with global warming. This paper reviews different groups of biostimulants and their effects on viticulture, including microorganisms, protein hydrolysates, humic acids, pyrogenic materials, and seaweed extracts. Of special interest are biostimulants with utility in protecting plants against the effects of climate change, including drought and heat stress. While many beneficial effects have been reported following the application of these materials, most studies lack a mechanistic explanation, and important parameters are often undefined (e.g., soil characteristics and nutrient availability). We recommend an increased study of the underlying mechanisms of these products to enable the selection of proper biostimulants, application methods, and dosage in viticulture. A detailed understanding of processes dictating beneficial effects in vineyards following application may allow for biostimulants with increased efficacy, uptake, and sustainability.
Grasslands are now facing a continuously increasing supply of nitrogen (N) fertilizers, resulting in alterations in ecosystem functioning, including changes in carbon (C) and water cycling. Mowing, one of the most widely used grassland management techniques, has been shown to mitigate the negative impacts of increased N availability on species richness. However, knowledge of how N addition and mowing, alone and/or in combination, affect ecosystem-level C fluxes and water use efficiency (WN) is still limited. We experimentally manipulated N fertilization (0 and 10 g N m−2 yr−1) and mowing (once per year at the end of the growing season) following a randomized block design in a meadow steppe characterized by salinization and alkalinization in northeastern China. We found that, compared to the control plots, N addition, mowing, and their interaction increased net ecosystem CO2 exchange by 65.1%, 14.7%, and 133%, and WN by 40.7%, 18.5%, and 96.1%, respectively. Nitrogen enrichment also decreased soil pH, which resulted in greater aboveground biomass (AGB). Moreover, N addition indirectly increased AGB by inducing changes in species richness. Our results indicate that mowing enhances the positive effects of N addition on ecosystem C fluxes and WN. Therefore, appropriate grassland management practices are essential to improve ecosystem C sequestration, WN, and mitigate future species diversity declines due to ecosystem eutrophication.
Evaluation of restoration activities is indispensable to assess the extent to which targets have been reached. Usually, the main goal of ecological restoration is to restore biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, but validation is often based on a single indicator, which may or may not cope with whole-ecosystem dynamics. Network analyses are, however, powerful tools, allowing to examine both the recovery of various biotic and abiotic properties and the integrated response at community and ecosystem level. We used restoration sites where topsoil was removed from former intensively managed grassland and seeds were added. These sites were between 3 and 32 years old. We assessed how plants, soil biota, soil properties and correlation-based interactions between biotic communities and their abiotic environment developed over time and compared the results with (i) intensively managed (not restored), and (ii) well-preserved targeted semi-natural grasslands. Plant, nematode, fungal and prokaryotic diversity and community structures of the restored grasslands revealed clear successional patterns and followed similar trajectories towards targeted semi-natural grasslands. All biotic communities reached targeted diversity levels no later than 18 years post-restoration. Ecological networks of intensively managed and short-term (~4 years) restored grasslands were less tightly connected compared to those found in mid- and long-term (~18–30 years) restored and target grasslands. Restoration specifically enhanced interactions among biotic communities, but reduced interactions between biotic communities and their abiotic environment as well as interactions among abiotic properties in the short- and mid-term. Synthesis and applications: Overall, our study demonstrated that topsoil removal and seed addition were successful in restoring diverse, tightly coupled and well-connected biotic communities above- and below-ground similar to those found in the semi-natural grasslands that were restoration targets. Network analyses proved to be powerful in examining the long-term re-establishment of functionally connected biotic communities in restored ecosystems. Thus, we provide an approach to holistically assess restoration activities by notably considering the complexity of ecosystems, much in contrast to most traditional approaches.
Increased human-derived nitrogen (N) loading in terrestrial ecosystems has caused widespread ecosystem-level phosphorus (P) limitation. In response, plants and soil micro-organisms adopt a series of P-acquisition strategies to offset N loading-induced P limitation. Many of these strategies impose costs on carbon (C) allocation by plants and soil micro-organisms; however, it remains unclear how P-acquisition strategies affect soil C cycling. Herein, we review the literature on the effects of N loading on P limitation and outline a conceptual overview of how plant and microbial P-acquisition strategies may affect soil organic carbon (SOC) stabilization and decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Excessive input of N significantly enhances plant biomass production, soil acidification, and produces plant litterfall with high N/P ratios, which can aggravate ecosystem-level P limitation. Long-term N loading can cause plants and soil micro-organisms to alter their functional traits to increase P acquisition. Plants can release carboxylate exudates and phosphatases, modify root morphological traits, facilitate the formation of symbiotic associations with mycorrhizal fungi and stimulate the abundance of P-mineralizing and P-solubilizing micro-organisms. Releasing carboxylate exudates and phosphatases could accelerate SOC decomposition, whereas changing symbiotic associations and root morphological traits (e.g. an increase in fine root length) may contribute to higher SOC stabilization. Increased relative abundances of P-mineralizing and P-solubilizing bacteria can accelerate P mining and SOC decay, which may decrease microbial C use efficiency and subsequently lower SOC sequestration. The trade-offs between different plant P-acquisition strategies under N loading should be among future research priorities due to their cascading impacts on soil C storage. Quantifying ecosystem thresholds for P adaption to increased N loading is important because P-acquisition strategies are effective when N loading is below the N threshold. Moreover, understanding the response of P-acquisition strategies at different levels of native soil N availability could provide insight to divergent P-acquisition strategies across sites and ecosystems. Altogether, P-acquisition strategies should be explicitly considered in Earth System Models to generate more realistic predictions of the effects of N loading on soil C cycling. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
Global change frequently disrupts the connections among species, as well as among species and their environment, before the most obvious impacts can be detected. Therefore, we need to develop a unified conceptual framework that allows us to predict early ecological impacts under changing environments. The concept of coupling, defined as the multiple ways in which the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems are orderly connected across space and/or time, may provide such a framework. Here, we operationally define the coupling of ecosystems based on a combination of correlational matrices and a null modeling approach. Compared with null models, ecosystems can be (1) coupled; (2) decoupled; and (3) anticoupled. Given that more tightly coupled ecosystems displaying higher levels of internal order may be characterized by a more efficient capture, transfer, and storage of energy and matter (i.e., of functioning), understanding the links between coupling and functioning may help us to accelerate the transition to planetary-scale sustainability. This may be achieved by promoting self-organized order.