Study reveals intensive grassland management hampers recovery of soil food webs from drought

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Picture of an intensively managed grassland from M. Chomel. Credit: University of Manchester

New research led by a team of scientists from The University of Manchester has shown that intensive grassland management impairs the capacity of soils to buffer extreme droughts, which are becoming more frequent and intense.

The study investigated how of grasslands across northern England modifies the transfer of recently photosynthesised carbon by plants to roots and soil organisms and the transfer of soil nitrogen to plant and soil organisms following a severe drought.

The team found that intensive management reduced the below-ground transfer of carbon photosynthesised by plants to roots and soil biota after drought. This impairs the capacity of carbon transfer belowground to recover whereas under extensive, more traditional management, this below-ground transfer of plant carbon to soil biota was less disrupted and hence more able to buffer the effects of extreme drought.

Dr. Chomel, the lead author of the paper, said: “Soils contain a vast diversity of organisms crucial to key soil processes like carbon and nitrogen cycling. Our study shows that interactions between plants and soil organisms are vital for helping soil to resist to climate extremes, such as drought, which are already more common.”

“It is remarkable how intensive management reduces the transfer of carbon to beneficial root-associated fungi compared to more traditional grassland management consistently across the three sites. This result shows that intensive management disrupts plant-fungal pathways of resource transfer impacting key soil fauna like detritivorous mites.”

“Grasslands are under multiple threats including intensive management practices and climate change, including extreme climatic events. A major challenge is to understand how these drivers interact to help inform sustainability policy aimed at protecting the multiple that grasslands provide and enhance their resilience to future .”

Prof Johnson, who was part of the research team at Manchester, said: “This research highlights how extensive management tightens the linkage between plant and soil communities, which makes these systems better able to resist climate extremes like drought.”

Prof Bardgett, who was also part of the Manchester team who coordinated the project, said: “We hope that this research will help us to advise farmers and landowners to optimise the way they manage land to benefit from the living soil and improve how grasslands resist and recover from perturbations.”

The study was done by simulating a event in three paired extensively and intensively managed mesotrophic grasslands in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This study was part of a large project working on 15 paired grasslands sites in the UK representing a range of soil types and in Aberdeenshire, North Yorkshire and Devon.

By using non-radioactive stable isotope tracers (13C and 15N), the researchers were able to accurately trace the transfer of carbon recently photosynthesised from plant shoots to roots and soil organisms, as well as the transfer of soil nitrogen into plants and organisms. These detailed measurements allowed them to disentangle the interaction between , and carbon and nitrogen cycles.

The study was led by Dr. Mathilde Chomel, a former postdoctoral research associate at The University of Manchester, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who is now working at The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL France). The project was coordinated by The University of Manchester Professors David Johnson and Richard Bardgett—both based in the University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences—and involved an international team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Dublin, University of Colorado, University of Amsterdam and Queen’s University of Belfast.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications in a paper entitled “Intensive grassland management disrupts below-ground multi-trophic resource transfer in response to .”

More information:
Mathilde Chomel et al, Intensive grassland management disrupts below-ground multi-trophic resource transfer in response to drought, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34449-5

Citation:
Study reveals intensive grassland management hampers recovery of soil food webs from drought (2022, November 24)
retrieved 24 November 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-reveals-intensive-grassland-hampers-recovery.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove S. Africa to ban breeding lions in captivity for hunting thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove S. Africa to ban breeding lions in captivity for hunting

Hexbyte Glen Cove

The practice of hunting lions raised in captivity has long been controversial in South Africa

South Africa on Sunday revealed plans to ban the breeding of lions in captivity for trophy hunting or for tourists to pet, advocating a more “authentic” experience for visitors.

The decision was in response to recommendations contained in a into the controversial practice.

The panel studied the rules governing the , trade and keeping in captivity of lions, elephants, rhino and leopards.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy told a news conference that the study recommended a halt to the “domestication of lions through captive breeding and keeping.”

“We don’t want , captive hunting, captive (cubs) petting, captive use of lions,” the minister said.

The decision, which is yet to be formulated into policy, is likely to set the government on a collision course with the powerful multi-million-dollar industry of captive lion breeding.

The minister said the recommendations were not aimed at stifling the hunting industry.

“Legal regulated hunting of the iconic species under the regulatory environment will continue to be permitted,” she said.

But the report urged a stop to “tourists’ interaction with captive lions, including cub petting”, Creecy noted.

The practice of hunting lions raised in captivity has long been controversial in South Africa, where a large number of animals are confined to pens ringed with electric fences.

Campaigns to ban the importation of captive-bred trophies have in recent years gathered steam in the United States, Australia and several European countries.

The minister said the was susceptible to negative perceptions.

‘Authentic’ hunting

“The intention here is to ensure that those who are interested in… authentic wildlife hunting” will have such an experience and “will not be hunting animals that have been taken out of the cage,” she said.

South Africa counts between 8,000 and 12,000 lions at some 350 farms, where they are raised for hunting, tourism and academic research, according to estimates by wildlife groups.

They are also raised for their bones, used in medicine and jewellery in Southeast Asia, according to wildlife charities.

By contrast around 3,500 lions live in the wild in the country, according to the South African-based Endangered Wildlife Trust.

The global animal charity World Animal Protection hailed the government’s decision as “courageous”.

“Thousands of farmed lions are born into a life of misery in South Africa every year in cruel commercial breeding facilities,” said Edith Kabesiime, World Animal Protection’s campaign manager for Africa.

“This is a win for wildlife” and will ensure that “lions remain where they belong—in the wild,” she said.

Louise de Waal, director of the award-winning documentary feature film “Blood Lions” exposing the trade, said she was “extremely happy” at the government’s decision.

The panel also recommended the phasing out of captive rhino breeding and an examination of the future use of rhino horn stockpiles.

Home to about 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, South Africa has long attracted poachers, but it also counts more than 300 private rhino breeders.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
S. Africa to ban breeding lions in captivity for hunting (2021, May 2)
retrieved 3 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-africa-lions-captivity.html

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