Publications by authors named "Nico R Helmsing"

5 Publications

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Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses.

Nat Commun 2017 02 8;8:14349. Epub 2017 Feb 8.

NIOO-KNAW, Microbial Ecology, Droevendaalsesteeg 10, Wageningen 6708 PB, The Netherlands.

Soil organisms have an important role in aboveground community dynamics and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial ecosystems. However, most studies have considered soil biota as a black box or focussed on specific groups, whereas little is known about entire soil networks. Here we show that during the course of nature restoration on abandoned arable land a compositional shift in soil biota, preceded by tightening of the belowground networks, corresponds with enhanced efficiency of carbon uptake. In mid- and long-term abandoned field soil, carbon uptake by fungi increases without an increase in fungal biomass or shift in bacterial-to-fungal ratio. The implication of our findings is that during nature restoration the efficiency of nutrient cycling and carbon uptake can increase by a shift in fungal composition and/or fungal activity. Therefore, we propose that relationships between soil food web structure and carbon cycling in soils need to be reconsidered.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14349DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5309817PMC
February 2017

Elevated pCO2 causes a shift towards more toxic microcystin variants in nitrogen-limited Microcystis aeruginosa.

FEMS Microbiol Ecol 2016 Feb 15;92(2). Epub 2015 Dec 15.

Department of Aquatic Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Droevendaalsesteeg 10, Wageningen 6708 PB, The Netherlands.

Elevated pCO2 may promote phytoplankton growth, and potentially alleviate carbon limitation during dense blooms. Under nitrogen-limited conditions, elevated pCO2 may furthermore alter the phytoplankton carbon-nitrogen (C:N) balance and thereby the synthesis of secondary metabolites, such as cyanobacterial toxins. A common group of these toxins are the microcystins, with variants that differ not only in C:N stoichiometry, but also in toxicity. Here, we hypothesized that elevated pCO2 will increase the cellular C:N ratios of cyanobacteria, thereby promoting the more toxic microcystin variants with higher C:N ratios. To test this hypothesis, we performed chemostat experiments under nitrogen-limited conditions, exposing three Microcystis aeruginosa strains to two pCO2 treatments: 400 and 1200 μatm. Biomass, cellular C:N ratios and total microcystin contents at steady state remained largely unaltered in all three strains. Across strains and treatments, however, cellular microcystin content decreased with increasing cellular C:N ratios, suggesting a general stoichiometric regulation. Furthermore, as predicted, microcystin variants with higher C:N ratios generally increased with elevated pCO2, while the variant with a low C:N ratio decreased. Thus, elevated pCO2 under nitrogen-limited conditions may shift the cellular microcystin composition towards the more toxic variants. Such CO2-driven changes may have consequences for the toxicity of Microcystis blooms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiv159DOI Listing
February 2016

Community stoichiometry in a changing world: combined effects of warming and eutrophication on phytoplankton dynamics.

Ecology 2014 Jun;95(6):1485-95

The current changes in our climate will likely have far-reaching consequences for aquatic ecosystems. These changes in the climate, however, do not act alone, and are often accompanied by additional stressors such as eutrophication. Both global warming and eutrophication have been shown to affect the timing and magnitude of phytoplankton blooms. Little is known about the combined effects of rising temperatures and eutrophication on the stoichiometry of entire phytoplankton communities. We exposed a natural phytoplankton spring community to different warming and phosphorus-loading scenarios using a full-factorial design. Our results demonstrate that rising temperatures promote the growth rate of an entire phytoplankton community. Furthermore, both rising temperatures and phosphorus loading stimulated the maximum biomass built up by the phytoplankton community. Rising temperatures led to higher carbon: nutrient stoichiometry of the phytoplankton community under phosphorus-limited conditions. Such a shift towards higher carbon: nutrient ratios, in combination with a higher biomass buildup, suggests a temperature-driven increase in nutrient use efficiency, the phytoplankton community. Importantly, with higher carbon: nutrient stoichiometry, phytoplankton is generally of poorer nutritional value for zooplankton. Thus, although warming may result in higher phytoplankton biomass, this may be accompanied by a stoichiometric mismatch between phytoplankton and their grazers, with possible consequences for the entire aquatic food web.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/13-1251.1DOI Listing
June 2014

The good, the bad and the plenty: interactive effects of food quality and quantity on the growth of different Daphnia species.

PLoS One 2012 25;7(9):e42966. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

Department of Aquatic Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Effects of food quality and quantity on consumers are neither independent nor interchangeable. Although consumer growth and reproduction show strong variation in relation to both food quality and quantity, the effects of food quality or food quantity have usually been studied in isolation. In two experiments, we studied the growth and reproduction in three filter-feeding freshwater zooplankton species, i.e. Daphnia galeata x hyalina, D. pulicaria and D. magna, on their algal food (Scenedesmus obliquus), varying in carbon to phosphorus (C∶P) ratios and quantities (concentrations). In the first experiment, we found a strong positive effect of the phosphorus content of food on growth of Daphnia, both in their early and late juvenile development. Variation in the relationship between the P-content of animals and their growth rate reflected interspecific differences in nutrient requirements. Although growth rates typically decreased as development neared maturation, this did not affect these species-specific couplings between growth rate and Daphnia P-content. In the second experiment, we examined the effects of food quality on Daphnia growth at different levels of food quantity. With the same decrease in P-content of food, species with higher estimated P-content at zero growth showed a larger increase in threshold food concentrations (i.e. food concentration sufficient to meet metabolic requirements but not growth). These results suggest that physiological processes such as maintenance and growth may in combination explain effects of food quality and quantity on consumers. Our study shows that differences in response to variation in food quality and quantity exist between species. As a consequence, species-specific effects of food quality on consumer growth will also determine how species deal with varying food levels, which has implications for resource-consumer interactions.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0042966PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3458054PMC
April 2013

Induced defenses in herbivores and plants differentially modulate a trophic cascade.

Ecology 2007 Oct;88(10):2474-81

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNA W), Centre for Limnology, Department of Food Web Studies, Rijksstraatweg 6, 3631 AC Nieuwersluis, The Netherlands.

Inducible defenses are dynamic traits that modulate the strength of both plant-herbivore and herbivore-carnivore interactions. Surprisingly few studies have considered the relative contributions of induced plant and herbivore defenses to the overall balance of bottom-up and top-down control. Here we compare trophic cascade strengths using replicated two-level and three-level plankton communities in which we systematically varied the presence or absence of induced defenses at the plant and/or herbivore levels. Our results show that a trophic cascade, i.e., significantly higher plant biomass in three-level than in two-level food chains, occurred whenever herbivores were undefended against carnivores. Trophic cascades did not occur when herbivores exhibited an induced defense. This pattern was obtained irrespective of the presence or absence of induced defenses at the plant level. We thus found that herbivore defenses, not plant defenses, had an overriding effect on cascade strength. We discuss these results in relation to variation in cascade strengths in natural communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/07-1731.1DOI Listing
October 2007