SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Soil

261

Most cropland in the United States is characterized by large monocultures, whose productivity is maintained through a strong reliance on costly tillage, external fertilizers, and pesticides (Schipanski et al., 2016). Despite this, farmers have developed a regenerative model of farm production that promotes soil health and biodiversity, while producing nutrient-dense farm products profitably. Little work has focused on the relative costs and benefits of novel regenerative farming operations, which necessitates studyingin situ, farmer-defined best management practices. Here, we evaluate the relative effects of regenerative and conventional corn production systems on pest management services, soil conservation, and farmer profitability and productivity throughout the Northern Plains of the United States. Regenerative farming systems provided greater ecosystem services and profitability for farmers than an input-intensive model of corn production. Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms, indicating that farmers who proactively design pest-resilient food systems outperform farmers that react to pests chemically. Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production but 78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems. Profit was positively correlated with the particulate organic matter of the soil, not yield. These results provide the basis for dialogue on ecologically based farming systems that could be used to simultaneously produce food while conserving our natural resource base: two factors that are pitted against one another in simplified food production systems. To attain this requires a systems-level shift on the farm; simply applying individual regenerative practices within the current production model will not likely produce the documented results.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Agriculture, Ecology, Soil, Maize, Farm, Profit

209

It has been suggested that conversion to organic farming contributes to soil carbon sequestration, but until now a comprehensive quantitative assessment has been lacking. Therefore, datasets from 74 studies from pairwise comparisons of organic vs. nonorganic farming systems were subjected to metaanalysis to identify differences in soil organic carbon (SOC). We found significant differences and higher values for organically farmed soils of 0.18 ± 0.06% points (mean ± 95% confidence interval) for SOC concentrations, 3.50 ± 1.08 Mg C ha(-1) for stocks, and 0.45 ± 0.21 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1) for sequestration rates compared with nonorganic management. Metaregression did not deliver clear results on drivers, but differences in external C inputs and crop rotations seemed important. Restricting the analysis to zero net input organic systems and retaining only the datasets with highest data quality (measured soil bulk densities and external C and N inputs), the mean difference in SOC stocks between the farming systems was still significant (1.98 ± 1.50 Mg C ha(-1)), whereas the difference in sequestration rates became insignificant (0.07 ± 0.08 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1)). Analyzing zero net input systems for all data without this quality requirement revealed significant, positive differences in SOC concentrations and stocks (0.13 ± 0.09% points and 2.16 ± 1.65 Mg C ha(-1), respectively) and insignificant differences for sequestration rates (0.27 ± 0.37 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1)). The data mainly cover top soil and temperate zones, whereas only few data from tropical regions and subsoil horizons exist. Summarizing, this study shows that organic farming has the potential to accumulate soil carbon.

Concepts: Agriculture, Soil, Charcoal, Organic farming, Humus, Input, Crop rotation, Subsoil

192

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing, exposing large carbon and nitrogen stocks for decomposition. Gaseous carbon release from Arctic soils due to permafrost thawing is known to be substantial, but growing evidence suggests that Arctic soils may also be relevant sources of nitrous oxide (N2O). Here we show that N2O emissions from subarctic peatlands increase as the permafrost thaws. In our study, the highest postthaw emissions occurred from bare peat surfaces, a typical landform in permafrost peatlands, where permafrost thaw caused a fivefold increase in emissions (0.56 ± 0.11 vs. 2.81 ± 0.6 mg N2O m(-2) d(-1)). These emission rates match those from tropical forest soils, the world’s largest natural terrestrial N2O source. The presence of vegetation, known to limit N2O emissions in tundra, did decrease (by ∼90%) but did not prevent thaw-induced N2O release, whereas waterlogged conditions suppressed the emissions. We show that regions with high probability for N2O emissions cover one-fourth of the Arctic. Our results imply that the Arctic N2O budget will depend strongly on moisture changes, and that a gradual deepening of the active layer will create a strong noncarbon climate change feedback.

Concepts: Oxygen, Climate, Soil, Nitrogen, Nitrous oxide, Arctic, Greenhouse gas, Peat

188

Martian habitats are ideally constructed using only locally available soils; extant attempts to process structural materials on Mars, however, generally require additives or calcination. In this work we demonstrate that Martian soil simulant Mars-1a can be directly compressed at ambient into a strong solid without additives, highlighting a possible aspect of complete Martian in-situ resource utilization. Flexural strength of the compact is not only determined by the compaction pressure but also significantly influenced by the lateral boundary condition of processing loading. The compression loading can be applied either quasi-statically or through impact. Nanoparticulate iron oxide (npOx), commonly detected in Martian regolith, is identified as the bonding agent. Gas permeability of compacted samples was measured to be on the order of 10(-16) m(2), close to that of solid rocks. The compaction procedure is adaptive to additive manufacturing.

Concepts: Oxygen, Soil, Mars, Geology, Compact space, Regolith, Geomorphology, In-situ resource utilization

185

The large volumes of sequencing data required to sample deeply the microbial communities of complex environments pose new challenges to sequence analysis. De novo metagenomic assembly effectively reduces the total amount of data to be analyzed but requires substantial computational resources. We combine two preassembly filtering approaches-digital normalization and partitioning-to generate previously intractable large metagenome assemblies. Using a human-gut mock community dataset, we demonstrate that these methods result in assemblies nearly identical to assemblies from unprocessed data. We then assemble two large soil metagenomes totaling 398 billion bp (equivalent to 88,000 Escherichia coli genomes) from matched Iowa corn and native prairie soils. The resulting assembled contigs could be used to identify molecular interactions and reaction networks of known metabolic pathways using the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes Orthology database. Nonetheless, more than 60% of predicted proteins in assemblies could not be annotated against known databases. Many of these unknown proteins were abundant in both corn and prairie soils, highlighting the benefits of assembly for the discovery and characterization of novelty in soil biodiversity. Moreover, 80% of the sequencing data could not be assembled because of low coverage, suggesting that considerably more sequencing data are needed to characterize the functional content of soil.

Concepts: Gene, Archaea, Bacteria, Biodiversity, Metabolism, Escherichia coli, Soil, Assembly language

176

Formicidae) is increasingly well-understood due to recent phylogenetic analyses, along with estimates of divergence times and diversification rates. Yet, leading hypotheses regarding the ancestral habitat of ants conflict with new findings that early ant lineages are cryptic and subterranean. Where the ants evolved, in respect to habitat, and how habitat shifts took place over time have not been formally tested. Here, we reconstruct the habitat transitions of crown-group ants through time, focusing on where they nest and forage (in the canopy, litter, or soil). Based on ancestral character reconstructions, we show that in contrast to the current consensus based on verbal arguments that ants evolved in tropical leaf litter, the soil is supported as the ancestral stratum of all ants. We also find subsequent movements up into the litter and, in some cases, into the canopy. Given the global importance of ants, because of their diversity, ecological influence and status as the most successful eusocial lineage on Earth, understanding the early evolution of this lineage provides insight into the factors that made this group so successful today.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Ecology, Soil, Bee, Ant, Fossil, E. O. Wilson

171

Very few principles have been unraveled that explain the relationship between soil properties and soil biota across large spatial scales and different land-use types. Here, we seek these general relationships using data from 52 differently managed grassland and forest soils in three study regions spanning a latitudinal gradient in Germany. We hypothesize that, after extraction of variation that is explained by location and land-use type, soil properties still explain significant proportions of variation in the abundance and diversity of soil biota. If the relationships between predictors and soil organisms were analyzed individually for each predictor group, soil properties explained the highest amount of variation in soil biota abundance and diversity, followed by land-use type and sampling location. After extraction of variation that originated from location or land-use, abiotic soil properties explained significant amounts of variation in fungal, meso- and macrofauna, but not in yeast or bacterial biomass or diversity. Nitrate or nitrogen concentration and fungal biomass were positively related, but nitrate concentration was negatively related to the abundances of Collembola and mites and to the myriapod species richness across a range of forest and grassland soils. The species richness of earthworms was positively correlated with clay content of soils independent of sample location and land-use type. Our study indicates that after accounting for heterogeneity resulting from large scale differences among sampling locations and land-use types, soil properties still explain significant proportions of variation in fungal and soil fauna abundance or diversity. However, soil biota was also related to processes that act at larger spatial scales and bacteria or soil yeasts only showed weak relationships to soil properties. We therefore argue that more general relationships between soil properties and soil biota can only be derived from future studies that consider larger spatial scales and different land-use types.

Concepts: Scientific method, Bacteria, Evolution, Yeast, Soil, Mycorrhiza, Humus, Soil life

170

Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal tree species in the network of Three-North Shelterbelt for windbreak and sand stabilisation in China. The functions of shelterbelts are highly correlated with the architecture and eco-physiological processes of individual tree. Thus, model-assisted analysis of canopy architecture and function dynamic in Mongolian Scots pine is of value for better understanding its role and behaviour within shelterbelt ecosystems in these arid and semiarid regions. We present here a single-tree functional and structural model, derived from the GreenLab model, which is adapted for young Mongolian Scots pines by incorporation of plant biomass production, allocation, allometric rules and soil water dynamics. The model is calibrated and validated based on experimental measurements taken on Mongolian Scots pines in 2007 and 2006 under local meteorological conditions. Measurements include plant biomass, topology and geometry, as well as soil attributes and standard meteorological data. After calibration, the model allows reconstruction of three-dimensional (3D) canopy architecture and biomass dynamics for trees from one- to six-year-old at the same site using meteorological data for the six years from 2001 to 2006. Sensitivity analysis indicates that rainfall variation has more influence on biomass increment than on architecture, and the internode and needle compartments and the aboveground biomass respond linearly to increases in precipitation. Sensitivity analysis also shows that the balance between internode and needle growth varies only slightly within the range of precipitations considered here. The model is expected to be used to investigate the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in other regions with different soils and climates.

Concepts: Precipitation, Soil, Tree, Scots Pine, Pine, Pinus classification, Biomass, Pinus

170

Edge effects represent an inevitable and important consequence of habitat loss and fragmentation. These effects include changes in microclimate, solar radiation, or temperature. Such abiotic effects can, in turn, impact biotic factors. They can have a substantial impact on species, communities, and ecosystems. Here we examine clinal variations in stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values for trees along an edge-interior gradient in the dry deciduous forest at Ankarafantsika National Park. We predicted that soil respiration and differences in solar irradiance would result in stratified δ(13)C values where leaves collected close to the forest floor would have lower δ(13)C values than those growing higher up in the canopy. We also anticipated that plants growing at the savannah-forest boundary would have higher δ(13)C and δ(15)N values than plants growing in the forest interior. As expected, we detected a small but significant canopy effect. Leaves growing below 2 m from the forest floor exhibit δ(13)C values that are, on average, 1.1‰ lower than those growing above this threshold. We did not, however, find any relationship between foliar δ(13)C and distance from the edge. Unpredictably, we detected a striking positive relationship between foliar δ(15)N values and increasing distance into the forest interior. Variability in physiology among species, anthropogenic influence, organic input, and rooting depth cannot adequately explain this trend. Instead, this unexpected relationship most likely reflects decreasing nutrient or water availability, or a shift in N-sources with increasing distance from the savannah. Unlike most forest communities, the trees at Ampijoroa are growing in nutrient-limited sands. In addition to being nutrient poor, these well-drained soils likely decrease the amount of soil water available to forest vegetation. Continued research on plant responses to edge effects will improve our understanding of the conservation biology of forest ecosystems in Madagascar.

Concepts: Plant, Ecology, Soil, Ecosystem, Biome, Oak, Deciduous, Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests

169

Autotoxicity of cucumber root exudates or decaying residues may be the cause of the soil sickness of cucumber. However, how autotoxins affect soil microbial communities is not yet fully understood.

Concepts: Soil, Fusarium oxysporum