I did my Ph.D. in a tree Biodiversity Ecosystem Functioning experiment (BEF China), where I was focusing on tree-tree interaction effects on carbon cycling from forest productivity to soil carbon storage through its effects on microbial community and litter decomposition. I was doing this work as part of the TreeDì doctoral school which is aiming to understand tree – tree interactions in Chinese subtropical forest within the BEF China platform. I am now focussing on the biodiversity-microclimate-functioning nexus. In my current project SoilDivTemp, I am aiming to understand how vegetation diversity is modulating temperature and the consequences for soil functions at global scale.
Climate change is one of the most pressing threats to humanity, inducing a global increase in temperatures and more frequent extreme climatic events. Considering this, global reforestation initiatives are proposed to capture carbon and mitigate climate change. Global restoration and reforestation programs and their targets have inspired both unparalleled enthusiasm worldwide and intense scientific criticism and debate regarding their feasibility and implementation. We agree that global reforestation forecasting and efforts require a nuanced discussion and approach. In that vein, we would like to emphasize the potential of increasing existing forest diversity to enhance climate change mitigation by increasing aboveground and belowground carbon storage. Moreover, we argue that focusing on planting diverse forests in reforestation efforts can help to reduce climate change effects on ecosystems: first, by increasing resistance and resilience to extreme climatic events, and second, by buffering microclimatic conditions in natural and urban areas. Diversifying forests plantations and reforestation projects may not always be feasible and cannot solve the climate crisis by itself. However, we highlight that a focus on diverse forests could maximize the benefits of reforestation programs by promoting sustainable land management.
Abstract The loss of biodiversity is affecting all ecosystems on Earth, one of the greatest threats to biodiversity being climate change. Forests have been highlighted for the potential to mitigate climate change by storing carbon above- and belowground in soils.
Microbial respiration is critical for soil carbon balance and ecosystem functioning. Previous studies suggest that plant diversity influences soil microbial communities and their respiration. Yet, the linkages between tree diversity, microbial biomass, microbial diversity, and microbial functioning have rarely been explored. In this study, we measured two microbial functions (microbial physiological potential, and microbial respiration), together with microbial biomass, microbial taxonomic and functional profiles, and soil chemical properties in a tree diversity experiment in South China, to disentangle how tree diversity affects microbial respiration through the modifications of the microbial community. Our analyses show a significant positive effect of tree diversity on microbial biomass (+25% from monocultures to 24-species plots), bacterial diversity (+12%), and physiological potential (+12%). In addition, microbial biomass and physiological potential, but not microbial diversity, were identified as the key drivers of microbial respiration. Although soil chemical properties strongly modulated soil microbial community, tree diversity increased soil microbial respiration by increasing microbial biomass rather than changing microbial taxonomic or functional diversity. Overall, our findings suggest a prevalence of microbial biomass over diversity in controlling soil carbon dynamics.
Understanding aboveground-belowground linkages and their consequences for ecosystem functioning is a major challenge in soil ecology. It is already well established that soil communities drive essential ecosystem processes, such as nutrient cycling, decomposition, or carbon storage. However, knowledge of how plant diversity affects belowground community structure is limited. Such knowledge can be gained from studying the main plant functional traits that modulate plant community effects on soil fauna. Here, we used a grassland experiment manipulating plant species richness and plant functional diversity to explore the effects of community-level plant traits on soil meso- and macrofauna and the trophic structure of soil fauna by differentiating predators and prey. The functional composition of plant communities was described by six plant traits related to spatial and temporal resource use: plant height, leaf area, rooting depth, root length density, growth start, and flowering start. Community-Weighted Means (CWMs), Functional Dissimilarity (FDis), and Functional Richness (FRic) were calculated for each trait. Community-level plant traits better explained variability in soil fauna than did plant species richness. Notably, each soil fauna group was affected by a unique set of plant traits. Moreover, the identity of plant traits (CWM) explained more variance of soil fauna groups than trait diversity. The abundances of soil fauna at the lower trophic levels were better explained by community-level plant traits than higher trophic levels soil fauna groups. Taken together, our results highlight the importance of the identity of different plant functional traits in driving the diversity and trophic structure of soil food communities.