Biological diversity is of pivotal importance for maintaining ecosystem functioning. While most studies studies on this topic have targeted aboveground communities, a large part of biodiversity is hidden belowground. Thus, the consequences of soil biodiversity losses for ecosystem functioning are poorly understood. This is particularly true in agroecosystems, where soil biodiversity tends to decline upon land-use intensification. We have previously shown that belowground diversity is key for maintaining multiple ecosystem functions (i.e. multifunctionality) in model ecosystems, and those particular functional groups of soil biota affect ecosystem sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, immobilizing nutrients and affecting nutrient losses.
In this “Digging Deeper” project, we test whether agroecosystem diversification can promoste soil biodiversity and the delivery of beneficial ecosystem services across a North-South European gradient. The main hypothesis is that increased plant diversity will promote belowground biodiversity and related ecosystem services. For this aim, researchers from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain specializing in a range of disciplines including ecology, microbiology, ecosystem functioning, agronomy, and soil science have combined their efforts to explore this overall goal via a variety of field and greenhouse trials using the most sophisticated scientific methodologies. In addition, because the results of this study will potentially affect food production systems across Europe, we will dedicate a great deal of energy towards outreach endeavors. This will include farmer field days, advisory meetings with local policy makers, and the production and distribution of articles and leaflets summarizing our main results and recommendations.
This project is part of a larger Biodiversa project which has the overall goal of promoting European Research on biodiversity and ecosystem services. We are funded by the 2015-2016 Biodiversa Co-fund call on: “Understanding and managing biodiversity dynamics to improve ecosystem functioning and delivery of ecosystem services in a global change context: the cases of soils and sediments”. This project is running from 1.1.2017 to 31.12.2019. More information on this network can be found at http://www.biodiversa.org.