Publications by authors named "Simon R Mortimer"

8 Publications

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Single introductions of soil biota and plants generate long-term legacies in soil and plant community assembly.

Ecol Lett 2019 Jul 24;22(7):1145-1151. Epub 2019 Apr 24.

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Department of Terrestrial Ecology, P.O. Box 50, 6700 AB, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Recent demonstrations of the role of plant-soil biota interactions have challenged the conventional view that vegetation changes are mainly driven by changing abiotic conditions. However, while this concept has been validated under natural conditions, our understanding of the long-term consequences of plant-soil interactions for above-belowground community assembly is restricted to mathematical and conceptual model projections. Here, we demonstrate experimentally that one-time additions of soil biota and plant seeds alter soil-borne nematode and plant community composition in semi-natural grassland for 20 years. Over time, aboveground and belowground community composition became increasingly correlated, suggesting an increasing connectedness of soil biota and plants. We conclude that the initial composition of not only plant communities, but also soil communities has a long-lasting impact on the trajectory of community assembly.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.13271DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6850328PMC
July 2019

Legacy effects of grassland management on soil carbon to depth.

Glob Chang Biol 2016 08 9;22(8):2929-38. Epub 2016 May 9.

Faculty of Life Sciences, Michael Smith Building, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK.

The importance of managing land to optimize carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation is widely recognized, with grasslands being identified as having the potential to sequester additional carbon. However, most soil carbon inventories only consider surface soils, and most large-scale surveys group ecosystems into broad habitats without considering management intensity. Consequently, little is known about the quantity of deep soil carbon and its sensitivity to management. From a nationwide survey of grassland soils to 1 m depth, we show that carbon in grassland soils is vulnerable to management and that these management effects can be detected to considerable depth down the soil profile, albeit at decreasing significance with depth. Carbon concentrations in soil decreased as management intensity increased, but greatest soil carbon stocks (accounting for bulk density differences), were at intermediate levels of management. Our study also highlights the considerable amounts of carbon in subsurface soil below 30 cm, which is missed by standard carbon inventories. We estimate grassland soil carbon in Great Britain to be 2097 Tg C to a depth of 1 m, with ~60% of this carbon being below 30 cm. Total stocks of soil carbon (t ha(-1) ) to 1 m depth were 10.7% greater at intermediate relative to intensive management, which equates to 10.1 t ha(-1) in surface soils (0-30 cm), and 13.7 t ha(-1) in soils from 30 to 100 cm depth. Our findings highlight the existence of substantial carbon stocks at depth in grassland soils that are sensitive to management. This is of high relevance globally, given the extent of land cover and large stocks of carbon held in temperate managed grasslands. Our findings have implications for the future management of grasslands for carbon storage and climate mitigation, and for global carbon models which do not currently account for changes in soil carbon to depth with management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13246DOI Listing
August 2016

Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity across Europe.

Glob Chang Biol 2015 Feb 17;21(2):973-85. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Department of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, 54124, Greece.

Soil biodiversity plays a key role in regulating the processes that underpin the delivery of ecosystem goods and services in terrestrial ecosystems. Agricultural intensification is known to change the diversity of individual groups of soil biota, but less is known about how intensification affects biodiversity of the soil food web as a whole, and whether or not these effects may be generalized across regions. We examined biodiversity in soil food webs from grasslands, extensive, and intensive rotations in four agricultural regions across Europe: in Sweden, the UK, the Czech Republic and Greece. Effects of land-use intensity were quantified based on structure and diversity among functional groups in the soil food web, as well as on community-weighted mean body mass of soil fauna. We also elucidate land-use intensity effects on diversity of taxonomic units within taxonomic groups of soil fauna. We found that between regions soil food web diversity measures were variable, but that increasing land-use intensity caused highly consistent responses. In particular, land-use intensification reduced the complexity in the soil food webs, as well as the community-weighted mean body mass of soil fauna. In all regions across Europe, species richness of earthworms, Collembolans, and oribatid mites was negatively affected by increased land-use intensity. The taxonomic distinctness, which is a measure of taxonomic relatedness of species in a community that is independent of species richness, was also reduced by land-use intensification. We conclude that intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity, making soil food webs less diverse and composed of smaller bodied organisms. Land-use intensification results in fewer functional groups of soil biota with fewer and taxonomically more closely related species. We discuss how these changes in soil biodiversity due to land-use intensification may threaten the functioning of soil in agricultural production systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12752DOI Listing
February 2015

Soil food web properties explain ecosystem services across European land use systems.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Aug 12;110(35):14296-301. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Soil and Ecosystem Ecology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, United Kingdom.

Intensive land use reduces the diversity and abundance of many soil biota, with consequences for the processes that they govern and the ecosystem services that these processes underpin. Relationships between soil biota and ecosystem processes have mostly been found in laboratory experiments and rarely are found in the field. Here, we quantified, across four countries of contrasting climatic and soil conditions in Europe, how differences in soil food web composition resulting from land use systems (intensive wheat rotation, extensive rotation, and permanent grassland) influence the functioning of soils and the ecosystem services that they deliver. Intensive wheat rotation consistently reduced the biomass of all components of the soil food web across all countries. Soil food web properties strongly and consistently predicted processes of C and N cycling across land use systems and geographic locations, and they were a better predictor of these processes than land use. Processes of carbon loss increased with soil food web properties that correlated with soil C content, such as earthworm biomass and fungal/bacterial energy channel ratio, and were greatest in permanent grassland. In contrast, processes of N cycling were explained by soil food web properties independent of land use, such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and bacterial channel biomass. Our quantification of the contribution of soil organisms to processes of C and N cycling across land use systems and geographic locations shows that soil biota need to be included in C and N cycling models and highlights the need to map and conserve soil biodiversity across the world.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1305198110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761618PMC
August 2013

Abiotic drivers and plant traits explain landscape-scale patterns in soil microbial communities.

Ecol Lett 2012 Nov 7;15(11):1230-1239. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Laboratory, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK.

The controls on aboveground community composition and diversity have been extensively studied, but our understanding of the drivers of belowground microbial communities is relatively lacking, despite their importance for ecosystem functioning. In this study, we fitted statistical models to explain landscape-scale variation in soil microbial community composition using data from 180 sites covering a broad range of grassland types, soil and climatic conditions in England. We found that variation in soil microbial communities was explained by abiotic factors like climate, pH and soil properties. Biotic factors, namely community-weighted means (CWM) of plant functional traits, also explained variation in soil microbial communities. In particular, more bacterial-dominated microbial communities were associated with exploitative plant traits versus fungal-dominated communities with resource-conservative traits, showing that plant functional traits and soil microbial communities are closely related at the landscape scale.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01844.xDOI Listing
November 2012

Influences of space, soil, nematodes and plants on microbial community composition of chalk grassland soils.

Environ Microbiol 2010 Aug 16;12(8):2096-106. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Netherlands Institute for Ecology, Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, Heteren, the Netherlands.

Microbial communities respond to a variety of environmental factors related to resources (e.g. plant and soil organic matter), habitat (e.g. soil characteristics) and predation (e.g. nematodes, protozoa and viruses). However, the relative contribution of these factors on microbial community composition is poorly understood. Here, we sampled soils from 30 chalk grassland fields located in three different chalk hill ridges of Southern England, using a spatially explicit sampling scheme. We assessed microbial communities via phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analyses and PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and measured soil characteristics, as well as nematode and plant community composition. The relative influences of space, soil, vegetation and nematodes on soil microorganisms were contrasted using variation partitioning and path analysis. Results indicate that soil characteristics and plant community composition, representing habitat and resources, shape soil microbial community composition, whereas the influence of nematodes, a potential predation factor, appears to be relatively small. Spatial variation in microbial community structure was detected at broad (between fields) and fine (within fields) scales, suggesting that microbial communities exhibit biogeographic patterns at different scales. Although our analysis included several relevant explanatory data sets, a large part of the variation in microbial communities remained unexplained (up to 92% in some analyses). However, in several analyses, significant parts of the variation in microbial community structure could be explained. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the relative importance of different environmental and spatial factors in driving the composition of soil-borne microbial communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02053.xDOI Listing
August 2010

Potential contribution of natural enemies to patterns of local adaptation in plants.

New Phytol 2008 4;180(2):524-533. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

University of Fribourg, Department of Biology, Unit of Ecology and Evolution, Chemin du musée 10, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland.

Genetic differentiation among plant populations and adaptation to local environmental conditions are well documented. However, few studies have examined the potential contribution of plant antagonists, such as insect herbivores and pathogens, to the pattern of local adaptation. Here, a reciprocal transplant experiment was set up at three sites across Europe using two common plant species, Holcus lanatus and Plantago lanceolata. The amount of damage by the main above-ground plant antagonists was measured: a rust fungus infecting Holcus and a specialist beetle feeding on Plantago, both in low-density monoculture plots and in competition with interspecific neighbours. Strong genetic differentiation among provenances in the amount of damage by antagonists in both species was found. Local provenances of Holcus had significantly higher amounts of rust infection than foreign provenances, whereas local provenances of Plantago were significantly less damaged by the specialist beetle than the foreign provenances. The presence of surrounding vegetation affected the amount of damage but had little influence on the ranking of plant provenances. The opposite pattern of population differentiation in resistance to local antagonists in the two species suggests that it will be difficult to predict the consequences of plant translocations for interactions with organisms of higher trophic levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02545.xDOI Listing
March 2009

Climate vs. soil factors in local adaptation of two common plant species.

Ecology 2007 Feb;88(2):424-33

University of Fribourg, Department of Biology, Ecology and Evolution, Chemin du musée 10, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland.

Evolutionary theory suggests that divergent natural selection in heterogeneous environments can result in locally adapted plant genotypes. To understand local adaptation it is important to study the ecological factors responsible for divergent selection. At a continental scale, variation in climate can be important while at a local scale soil properties could also play a role. We designed an experiment aimed to disentangle the role of climate and (abiotic and biotic) soil properties in local adaptation of two common plant species. A grass (Holcus lanatus) and a legume (Lotus corniculatus), as well as their local soils, were reciprocally transplanted between three sites across an Atlantic-Continental gradient in Europe and grown in common gardens in either their home soil or foreign soils. Growth and reproductive traits were measured over two growing seasons. In both species, we found significant environmental and genetic effects on most of the growth and reproductive traits and a significant interaction between the two environmental effects of soil and climate. The grass species showed significant home site advantage in most of the fitness components, which indicated adaptation to climate. We found no indication that the grass was adapted to local soil conditions. The legume showed a significant home soil advantage for number of fruits only and thus a weak indication of adaptation to soil and no adaptation to climate. Our results show that the importance of climate and soil factors as drivers of local adaptation is species-dependent. This could be related to differences in interactions between plant species and soil biota.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/0012-9658(2007)88[424:cvsfil]2.0.co;2DOI Listing
February 2007