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See detailDiversity-function relationship of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in soils among functional groups of grassland species under climate warming
Malchair, Sandrine ULg; De Boeck, H. J.; Lemmens, CMHM et al

in Applied Soil Ecology (2010), 44

Although warming and plant diversity losses have important effects on aboveground ecosystem functioning, their belowground effects remain largely unknown. We studied the impact of a 3 °C warming and of ... [more ▼]

Although warming and plant diversity losses have important effects on aboveground ecosystem functioning, their belowground effects remain largely unknown. We studied the impact of a 3 °C warming and of three plant functional groups (forbs, grasses, legumes) on ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) diversity (polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, PCR-DGGE) and their function (potential nitrification) in artificial grasslands. Warming did not influence AOB diversity and function. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments retrieved from DGGE gel revealed that they were all related to Nitrosospira-like sequences. Clustering analysis of DGGE profiles resulted in two nodes, separating AOB community structure under legumes from all other samples. Decreased AOB richness (number of DGGE bands) and concurrent increased potential nitrification were also observed under legumes. We hypothesized that ammonium availability was the driving force regulating the link between aboveground and belowground communities, as well as the AOB diversity and function link. The results document that the physiology of AOB might be an important regulator of AOB community structure and function under plant functional groups. This study highlights the major role of the microbial community composition in soil process responses to changes in the functional composition of plant communities. [less ▲]

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See detailMicrobial diversity and activity in temperate forest and grassland ecosystems
Malchair, Sandrine ULg

Doctoral thesis (2009)

Ecosystems currently face widespread biodiversity losses and other environmental disturbances, such as climate warming, related to increased anthropogenic activities. Within this context, scientists ... [more ▼]

Ecosystems currently face widespread biodiversity losses and other environmental disturbances, such as climate warming, related to increased anthropogenic activities. Within this context, scientists consider the effects of such changes on the biodiversity, and hence on the activity, of soil microorganisms. Indeed, soil microorganisms mediate a wide range of soil processes. Currently, knowledge on soil microbial diversity is still limited, partially due to technical limitations. The advent of molecular-based analyses now allows studying the soil microbial diversity. These advances in the study of soil microbial communities have lead to a growing evidence of the critical role played by the microbial community in ecosystem functioning. This relationship is supposed to be relevant for narrow processes, regulated by a restricted group of microorganisms, such as the nitrification process. This PhD thesis aimed at studying ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) community structure and richness as an integrated part of soil functioning. This research aimed at investigating the effect of aboveground plant diversity on ammonia oxidizing bacteria diversity and function in forest and grassland soils with focus on the influence of (a) functional group identity of grassland plants (legumes, grasses, forbs), (b) grassland plant species richness and (c) tree species, on AOB diversity and function. Another objective of this research was to study the effect of a 3°C increase in air temperature on AOB diversity and function. The link between AOB diversity and function (potential nitrification) is also investigated. For grassland ecosystems, a microcosm experiment was realized. An experimental platform containing 288 assembled grassland communities was established in Wilrijk (Belgium). Grassland species were grown in 12 sunlit, climate controlled chambers. Each chamber contained 24 communities of variable species richness (S) (9 S=1, 9 S=3 and 6 S=9).The grassland species belonged to three functional groups: three species of each grasses (Dactylis glomerata L., Festuca arundinacea SCHREB., Lolium perenne L.), forbs (non-N-fixing dicots; Bellis perennis L., Rumex acetosa L., Plantagolanceolata L.), and legumes (N-fixing dicots; Trifolium repens L., Medicago sativa L., Lotus corniculatus L.). Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient temperature and the other half were exposed to (ambient +3°C) temperature. One ambient and one (ambient+3°C) chambers were destructively harvested 4, 16 and 28 months after the start of the experiment. The influence of plant functional group identity on the nitrification process and on AOB community structure and richness (AOB diversity) was assessed in soils collected from the first two destructive amplings (chapter 2). The effect of plant species richness on AOB diversity and function was considered for soils sampled after 16 and 28 months (chapter 3). AOB function was determined by potential nitrification. AOB community structure and richness were assessed by polymerase chain reaction followed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and sequencing of excised DGGE bands. I found that functional group identity can affect AOB community structure. In particular, the presence of legumes, both in monoculture or in mixture with forbs and grasses, lead to AOB community composition changes towards AOB clusters tolerating higher ammonium concentrations. This change in AOB community structure was only linked to increased potential nitrification under monocultures of legumes, when ammonium was supposed to be not limiting. This study revealed that physiological attributes of AOB and resource availability may be important factors in controlling the nitrification process. This research showed that the impact of plant species richness on the nitrification process could be mediated by the interactions between plants and AOB, through competition for substrate. A 3°C increase in air temperature did not affect AOB community structure, richness or function. In forest ecosystems, we studied the effect of tree species in forest sites located in Belgian and in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg covered each by several deciduous or coniferous tree species (Fagus sylvatica L., Quercus petraea (Mattuschka) Lieblein, Picea abies (L.) Karst, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco). We investigated the influence of these tree species on microbial processes (chapter 5) related to C and N cycling, particularly with emphasize on the nitrification process and on the diversity of AOB (chapter 6). The results showed that the effect of tree species on net N mineralization was likely to be mediated through their effect on soil microbial biomass, reflecting their influence on organic matter content and carbon availability. Influence of tree species on nitrification (potential and relative) might be related to the presence of ground vegetation through its influence on soil ammonium and labile C availability. AOB community structure was more site-specific than tree specific. However, within sites, AOB community structure under broadleaved trees differed from the one under coniferous trees. The effect on tree species on AOB was likely to be driven by the influence of tree species on net N mineralization, which regulates the substrate availability for AOB. The results also demonstrated that the relationship between AOB diversity and function might be related both to AOB abundance and AOB community structure and richness. This thesis showed no clear relationship between AOB community structure or richness and AOB function. However, we revealed that aboveground grassland plant richness, grassland plant functional groups and tree species influence AOB community structure and richness. [less ▲]

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See detailSensitivity of soil heterotrophic respiration to temperature: short-term impacts.
Buysse, Pauline ULg; Goffin, Stéphanie ULg; Carnol, Monique ULg et al

Poster (2009, September)

Soil respiration is mostly affected by temperature variations but there is still much debate regarding its temperature sensitivity. Especially the difference between short- and long-term responses driven ... [more ▼]

Soil respiration is mostly affected by temperature variations but there is still much debate regarding its temperature sensitivity. Especially the difference between short- and long-term responses driven by changes in microbial activity and population respectively is addressed here. To this end, an incubation experiment is set up with soil samples taken from the surface layer (0-25cm) of a bare area at the Carboeurope agricultural site of Lonzée in Belgium. After homogenization, they are placed into incubators at three different temperatures, namely 5, 15 and 25°C for 2 weeks. Temperature is regulated by Peltier systems that warm up or cool down a bath containing jars with soil samples. All jars are continuously aerated to prevent CO2 from accumulating inside. Moisture levels in the jars are regularly checked and adjusted to ensure that the soil moisture is optimal for soil respiration. Twice a week, short term temperature response is tested by changing incubation temperatures in the range 5 - 35°C. During these cycles, CO2 fluxes are measured at each temperature step with a closed dynamic chamber system. Microbial biomass and hot water-extractable carbon are determined two times during a temperature cycle, allowing a follow up of the evolution of these two variables through a cycle. A comparison between the respiration rates, microbial biomasses and extractable carbon will be presented and would allow a better understanding of the dynamics of the heterotrophic respiration response to temperature in agricultural soils. In the future, other experiments could be derived from this one to focus on substrate availability or soil moisture impacts on soil respiration. [less ▲]

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See detailShort-term temperature impacts on soil respiration.
Buysse, Pauline ULg; Goffin, Stéphanie ULg; Carnol, Monique ULg et al

Poster (2009, June)

Despite considerable recent work on soil heterotrophic respiration, a mechanistic understanding of this process is still missing. Temperature is one of the most important driving factors. It can influence ... [more ▼]

Despite considerable recent work on soil heterotrophic respiration, a mechanistic understanding of this process is still missing. Temperature is one of the most important driving factors. It can influence the mechanism through multiple ways, whose importance may vary with time. An incubation experiment is set up to study short-term temperature influences on soil microbial respiration and its evolution through time. Soil samples are taken in spring from the surface layer (0-25cm) of a bare agricultural loamy soil situated in Lonzée in Belgium (Hesbaye region) and are homogenized before being placed into incubators at three different temperatures, namely 5, 15 and 25°C. Temperature is regulated by Peltier systems that warm up or cool down a sand bath containing jars with soil samples. Once a week, incubation temperatures are increased and decreased by 5°C-steps, starting from each incubator temperature, to achieve a one-day temperature cycle between 5 and 35°C. CO2 flux measurements are performed at each temperature step by a closed dynamic chamber system, after the temperature has stabilized in the samples. Microbial biomass (C and N) is determined four times during the temperature cycle by the fumigation-extraction technique and soil labile carbon is measured at the beginning of each cycle by the hot-water extraction method. Moisture levels in soil samples are regularly checked and adjusted to keep optimal soil moisture content. Between CO2 flux measurements, jars are left open to ensure that anaerobic conditions do not occur. Further investigations could include an assessment of the importance of substrate availability and depletion on microbial activity, and a model development related to the results provided by this experiment. [less ▲]

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See detailMicrobial biomass and C and N transformations in forest floors under European beech, sessile oak, Norway spruce and Douglas-fir at four temperate forest sites
Malchair, Sandrine ULg; Carnol, Monique ULg

in Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2009), 41

The purpose of this research was to compare soil chemistry, microbially mediated carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) transformations and microbial biomass in forest floors under European beech (Fagus sylvatica L ... [more ▼]

The purpose of this research was to compare soil chemistry, microbially mediated carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) transformations and microbial biomass in forest floors under European beech (Fagus sylvatica L), sessile oak (Quercus petraea (Mattuschka) Lieblein), Norway spruce (Picea abies (L) Karst) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco) at four study sites. We measured soil chemical characteristics, net N mineralization, potential and relative nitrification, basal respiration, microbial and metabolic quotient and microbial biomass C and N under monoculture stands at all sites (one mixed stand). Tree species affected soil chemistry, microbial activities and biomass. but these effects 'varied between sites. Our results indicated that the effect of tree species on net N mineralization was likely to be mediated through their effect on soil microbial biomass, reflecting their influence on organic matter content and carbon availability. Differences in potential nitrification and relative nitrification might be related to the presence of ground vegetation through its influence on soil NH4 and labile C availability. Our findings highlight the need to study the effects of tree species on microbial activities at several sites to elucidate complex N cycle interactions between tree species, ground vegetation, soil characteristics and microbial processes. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. [less ▲]

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See detailBiomass production in experimental grasslands of different species richness during three years of climate warming
De Boeck, H. J.; Lemmens, CMHM; Zavalloni, C. et al

in Biogeosciences (2008), 5

Here we report on the single and combined impacts of climate warming and species richness on the biomass production in experimental grassland communities. Projections of a future warmer climate have ... [more ▼]

Here we report on the single and combined impacts of climate warming and species richness on the biomass production in experimental grassland communities. Projections of a future warmer climate have stimulated studies on the response of terrestrial ecosystems to this global change. Experiments have likewise addressed the importance of species numbers for ecosystem functioning. There is, however, little knowledge on the interplay between warming and species richness. During three years, we grew experimental plant communities containing one, three or nine grassland species in 12 sunlit, climate-controlled chambers in Wilrijk, Belgium. Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient air temperatures (unheated), while the other half were warmed by 3 degrees C (heated). Equal amounts of water were added to heated and unheated communities, so that warming would imply drier soils if evapotranspiration was higher. Biomass production was decreased due to warming, both aboveground (-29%) and belowground (-25%), as negative impacts of increased heat and drought stress in summer prevailed. Complementarity effects, likely mostly through both increased aboveground spatial complementarity and facilitative effects of legumes, led to higher shoot and root biomass in multi-species communities, regardless of the induced warming. Surprisingly, warming suppressed productivity the most in 9-species communities, which may be attributed to negative impacts of intense interspecific competition for resources under conditions of high abiotic stress. Our results suggest that warming and the associated soil drying could reduce primary production in many temperate grasslands, and that this will not necessarily be mitigated by efforts to maintain or increase species richness. [less ▲]

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See detailCombined effects of climate warming and plant diversity loss on above- and below-ground grassland productivity
De Boeck, H. J.; Lemmens, CMHM; Gielen, B. et al

in Environmental and Experimental Botany (2007), 60(1), 95-104

Projections of global change predict both increases of the surface temperature and decreases of biodiversity, but studies on the combined impact of both on terrestrial ecosystems are lacking. We assessed ... [more ▼]

Projections of global change predict both increases of the surface temperature and decreases of biodiversity, but studies on the combined impact of both on terrestrial ecosystems are lacking. We assessed the impact of these two global changes on above- and below-ground productivity of grassland communities. Experimental ecosystems containing one, three or nine grassland species were grown in 12 sunlit, climate-controlled chambers in Wilrijk, Belgium. Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient air temperatures, while the other half were warmed by 3 degrees C. Equal amounts of water were added to heated and unheated communities, so that any increases in evapotranspiration due to warmer conditions would result in a drier soil. Warming led to a decreased productivity of both above-ground plant parts (-18%) and roots (-23%), which coincided with a significantly lower soil water content. Complementarity in resource use and/or facilitation slightly enhanced above-ground productivity in multi-species communities, regardless of the induced warming. Interactive effects between temperature treatment and species richness level were found below-ground, however, where warming nullified the positive effect of richness on root productivity. Future warmer conditions could further increase losses of productivity associated with declining species numbers. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. [less ▲]

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See detailBiomass production in experimental grasslands of different species richness during three years of climate warming
de Boeck, H. J.; Lemmens, CMHM; Gielen, B. et al

in Biogeosciences Discussions (2007), 4

Here we report on the single and combined impacts of climate warming and species richness on the biomass production in experimental grassland communities. Projections of a future warmer climate have ... [more ▼]

Here we report on the single and combined impacts of climate warming and species richness on the biomass production in experimental grassland communities. Projections of a future warmer climate have stimulated studies on the response of terrestrial ecosystems to this global change. Experiments have likewise addressed the importance of species numbers for ecosystem functioning. There is, however, little knowledge on the interplay between warming and species richness. During three years, we grew experimental plant communities containing one, three or nine grassland species in 12 sunlit, climate-controlled chambers in Wilrijk, Belgium. Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient air temperatures (unheated), while the other half were warmed by 3 degrees C (heated). Equal amounts of water were added to heated and unheated communities, so that warming would imply drier soils if evapotranspiration was higher. Biomass production was decreased due to warming, both aboveground (-29%) and belowground (-25%), as negative impacts of increased heat and drought stress in summer prevailed. Complementarity effects, likely mostly through both increased aboveground spatial complementarity and facilitative effects of legumes, led to higher shoot and root biomass in multi-species communities, regardless of the induced warming. Surprisingly, warming suppressed productivity the most in 9-species communities, which may be attributed to negative impacts of intense interspecific competition for resources under conditions of high abiotic stress. Our results suggest that warming and the associated soil drying could reduce primary production in many temperate grasslands, and that this will not necessarily be mitigated by efforts to maintain or increase species richness. [less ▲]

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See detailDo plant species and climate warming influence nitrification and ammonia oxidiser community structure
Malchair, Sandrine ULg; Carnol, Monique ULg

in Belgian Biodiversity Platform, 2007 Conference: Biodiversity and Climate Change, 21-22 May 2007, Brussels (2007)

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See detailHow do climate warming and plant species richness affect water use in experimental grasslands?
De Boeck, H. J.; Lemmens, CMHM; Bossuyt, H. et al

in Plant and Soil (2006), 288

Climate warming and plant species richness loss have been the subject of numerous experiments, but studies on their combined impact are lacking. Here we studied how both warming and species richness loss ... [more ▼]

Climate warming and plant species richness loss have been the subject of numerous experiments, but studies on their combined impact are lacking. Here we studied how both warming and species richness loss affect water use in grasslands, while identifying interactions between these global changes. Experimental ecosystems containing one, three or nine grassland species from three functional groups were grown in 12 sunlit, climate-controlled chambers (2.25 m(2) ground area) in Wilrijk, Belgium. Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient air temperatures (unheated), while the other half were warmed by 3 degrees C (heated). Equal amounts of water were added to heated and unheated communities, so that warming would imply drier soils if evapotranspiration (ET) was higher. After an initial ET increase in response to warming, stomatal regulation and lower above-ground productivity resulted in ET values comparable with those recorded in the unheated communities. As a result of the decreased biomass production, water use efficiency (WUE) was reduced by warming. Higher complementarity and the improved competitive success of water-efficient species in mixtures led to an increased WUE in multi-species communities as compared to monocultures, regardless of the induced warming. However, since the WUE of individual species was affected in different ways by higher temperatures, compositional changes in mixtures seem likely under climatic change due to shifts in competitiveness. In conclusion, while increased complementarity and selection of water-efficient species ensured more efficient water use in mixtures than monocultures, global warming will likely decrease this WUE, and this may be most pronounced in species-rich communities. [less ▲]

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