Experiments with mini-ecosystems show that exotic plants accelerate carbon loss from soils


A team of researchers in New Zealand has found evidence that shows exotic plant introductions can accelerate carbon loss from soils.

The work involved building 160 mini-ecosystems on a lab farm in New Zealand—each mesocosm existed inside of a 125-liter mini-greenhouse bag. Each was carefully seeded with native plants, oomycetes and nematodes and scrutinized over a 10-month period as an invasive plant species was introduced. Their study of the mini-ecosystems included taking measurements of key abiotic as well as biological changes. The team also studied changes in the native plants and changes that occurred below the surface in the soil. They included the introduction of some invertebrate herbivores into the environment.

The researchers found that interactions between invasive plant species and those that were there originally tended to result in changes to associated bacterial and fungal species in the soil, along with changes in invertebrate herbivores. Such changes, they noted, tended to speed up the carbon cycle, resulting in faster turnover.

For further insight: https://phys.org/news/2020-05-mini-ecosystems-exotic-carbon-loss-soils.html