Belowground interactive effects of elevated CO2, plant diversity and earthworms in grassland microcosms
Milcu, A., Paul, S. and Lukac, M. (2011) Belowground interactive effects of elevated CO2, plant diversity and earthworms in grassland microcosms. Basic and Applied Ecology, 12 (7). pp. 600-608. ISSN 1439-1791
To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2011.08.004
The potential interactive effects of future atmospheric CO2 concentrations and plant diversity loss on the functioning of belowground systems are still poorly understood. Using a microcosm greenhouse approach with assembled grassland plant communities of different diversity (1, 4 and 8 species), we explored the interactive effects between plant species richness and elevated CO2 (ambient and + 200 p.p.m.v. CO2) on earthworms and microbial biomass. We hypothesised that the beneficial effect of increasing plant species richness on earthworm performance and microbial biomass will be modified by elevated CO2 through impacts on belowground organic matter inputs, soil water availability and nitrogen availability. We found higher earthworm biomass in eight species mixtures under elevated CO2, and higher microbial biomass under elevated CO2 in four and eight species mixtures if earthworms were present. The results suggest that plant driven changes in belowground organic matter inputs, soil water availability and nitrogen availability explain the interactive effects of CO2 and plant diversity on the belowground compartment. The interacting mechanisms by which elevated CO2 modified the impact of plant diversity on earthworms and microorganisms are discussed.