How do we account for soil biodiversity and change to assess soil condition for the delivery of ecosystem services?

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Environment and Natural Resources

Abstract

Soils provide important functions for life, producing food, filtering water, recycling waste and regulating climate. Maintaining functionality requires that we understand how best to manage our environmental resources, which are used in human economic activity. Moreover, we need to understand how ecosystems provide benefits to society, e.g. through biodiversity and determine how to account for and value this in decision making. Much of our decision making is based on economic indicators, like gross domestic product (GDP) at national levels. These economic indicators are widely used to assess economic activity, but, they don't account for nature the use of nature, nor the benefits we get from natures services. GDP does not deduct the direct cost of the depletion of natural resources on national income, nor does it take into account the impact that our resource extraction has on the continued functioning of the earth system for life support. Therefore, as well as protecting nature, we need new approaches to identify benefits derived from biodiverse ecosystems as well as incorporating more of our natural resource use into policy and economic thinking.

This research project addresses the deficiency in GDP by developing new and innovative ways to assess soil and ecosystem biodiversity, and how soils change in response to management in a national agri-environment context. We will use the new United Nations GDP satellite accounting system adopted in 2013, the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA), as a guiding framework. Within this we will analyze the unique Glastir agri-environment monitoring data for soils and ecosystems to understand linkages between above and below ground soil and ecosystem condition. We will identify relationships that can be used as indicators within accounting frameworks to report on the state and change of soil ecosystems. All of this work will contribute toward a better understanding of the value of our natural assets.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/M009106/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
1659937 Studentship NE/M009106/1 30/09/2015 12/12/2019 Fiona Margaret Seaton
 
Description This award has discovered that the condition of the top layer of soil across Wales is impacted by land use and plant community, which is strongly linked to soil carbon and pH levels. It has found that the majority of soils surveyed are within nationally set pH limits for soil health and habitat support, however many mesotrophic grasslands have high phosphate levels. Soil physical properties have been found to be linked to soil microbial communities, as soil texture influences bacterial and fungal diversity and composition which in turn influences soil hydrological behaviour (surface water repellency). Across Wales plant community diversity and composition shows correlations with soil bacterial, fungal and heterotrophic protistan communities; also plant diversity is correlated with bee, butterfly and bird diversity. Examinations of the impact of climate change upon soil microbial communities in high carbon, low fertility heathland environments indicate that there could be future impacts of climate change on soil biological communities and thus soil health.
Through this award a PhD has been awarded, along with three first author papers published, and three co-author publications.
Exploitation Route The outcomes from this funding have been taken forward to inform the State of Natural Resources Report by Natural Resources Wales, will inform future national monitoring of soil quality within the ERAMMP and UKSCAPE programmes, and will also provide valuable information to those working on the long term climate change experiment Climoor in Clocaenog Forest. The data has been made available for others to work upon. The student has obtained a position at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology as a quantitative ecologist.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Title Calluna vulgaris root length and fungal colonisation data from the Climoor long-term climate change experiment in Clocaenog forest, UK (2015) 
Description This dataset contains root length, biomass and fungal colonisation data for Calluna vulgaris from control, drought and warming treated soils from the long term climate change experiment in Clocaenog forest. Soil samples were collected from the climate change experiment in Northeast Wales during April 2015. Roots were separated from the soil, their length and biomass measured and then analysed using microscopy for Ericoid mycorrhizae (ErM) and dark septate endophyte (DSE) colonisation of Calluna vulgaris. The experimental field site consists of three untreated control plots, three plots where the plant canopy air is artificially warmed during night time hours and three plots where rainfall is excluded from the plots at least during the plants growing season (March to September). The Climoor field experiment intends to answer questions regarding the effects of warming and drought on ecosystem processes and has been running since 1999. The root length and fungal colonisation data aims to understand how changes in soil hydrological and chemical properties have influenced Calluna vulgaris rooting behaviour and interactions with the soil microbiome. This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council award number NE/R016429/1 as part of the UK-SCAPE programme delivering National Capability. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset has been used to analyse fungal response to climate change within my thesis. 
URL https://doi.org/10.5285/3d468857-f5d0-4dc4-88f3-6be6df19608b
 
Title Soil 16S and ITS2 sequences from the Clocaenog climate change experiment 
Description This dataset is the DNA sequences from Illumina MiSeq sequencing of the bacterial 16S and fungal ITS2 genes in Clocaenog soils. Soil samples were collected from the climate change field site Climoor that is located in Clocaenog forest, Northeast Wales during 2003 and 2017. The experimental field site consists of three untreated control plots, three plots where the plant canopy air is artificially warmed during night time hours and three plots where rainfall is excluded from the plots at least during the plants growing season (March to September). The Climoor field experiment intends to answer questions regarding the effects of warming and drought on ecosystem processes and has been running since 1999. The microbial community data aims to understand how changes in soil hydrological and chemical properties have influenced the soil microbial composition and the implications of this for biogeochemical cycling. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset underpins the analysis within the paper "Long-Term Drought and Warming Alter Soil Bacterial and Fungal Communities in an Upland Heathland", published in 2021 in Ecosystems (doi: 10.1007/s10021-021-00715-8) 
URL https://www.ebi.ac.uk/ena/browser/view/PRJEB33721
 
Title Topsoil particle size distribution from the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, Wales 2013-2016 
Description This data set consists of Particle Size Distribution (PSD) measurements, analysed in a sub set of soil samples with a loss on ignition lower than 50%, taken from within a range of land use types across Wales, collected as part of the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (GMEP). Laser granulometry was used to measure the PSD. The monitoring programme was set up by the Welsh Government in 2013 to monitor the effects of the Glastir agri-environment scheme on the environment and ran from 2013 to 2016. The field survey element was based on a stratified random sampling design of 300 x 1km square sites across Wales, and was managed by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset was used in multiple publications, including "Soil textural heterogeneity impacts bacterial but not fungal diversity" which was published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry in 2020. 
URL https://doi.org/10.5285/d6c3cc3c-a7b7-48b2-9e61-d07454639656
 
Title Topsoil physico-chemical properties from the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, Wales 2013-2016 
Description This data set includes a range of physico-chemical properties measured from topsoil within a wide range of land use types across Wales, collected as part of the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (GMEP). The properties included are: soil organic matter (loss on ignition (LOI)), derived carbon concentration, total soil organic carbon (SOC), nitrogen, total soil phosphorous, Olsen-phosphorous (within improved land only), pH, electrical conductivity, soil bulk density of fine earth, fine earth volumetric water content when sampled and soil water repellency - water drop penetration time. The monitoring programme was set up by the Welsh Government in 2013 to monitor the effects of the Glastir agri-environment scheme on the environment and ran from 2013 to 2016. The field survey element was based on a stratified random sampling design of 300 x 1km square sites across Wales, and was managed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset underpins national capability monitoring of soil quality, being included in the project final report among other reports. 
URL https://doi.org/10.5285/0fa51dc6-1537-4ad6-9d06-e476c137ed09