FUNDER Direct and indirect climate impacts on the biodiversity and Functioning of the UNDERground ecosystem

Project Description

Climate change alters plant and soil communities, as well as processes and interactions in the plant-soil food web. These changes pose threats to biodiversity and key ecosystem functions, such as productivity and carbon and nutrient cycling. To predict how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning will respond to future climatic changes, and how these changes will feed back to the climate system, profound knowledge of climate impacts on underlying ecological responses, processes, mechanisms, and interactions in the plant-soil food web is needed.

FUNDER will assess and disentangle the direct effects of climate from the indirect effects, mediated through biotic interactions, on the diversity and whole-ecosystem  functioning of the plant−soil food web. To achieve this, we use a powerful macroecological experimental approach to quantify the impacts of vegetation diversity on interactions and ecosystem functioning across factorial broad-scale temperature and precipitation gradients. This will allow us to gain a holistic understanding of ecosystem responses to climate change, including non-additive effects, context-dependencies across landscapes, compensatory effects and climate mismatches that may lead to disruption of biotic interactions.

Towards this end, FUNDER brings together an optimal team of researchers with complementary skills and expertise from five world-class research institutions in Norway and abroad to develop new approaches in global change, ecosystem, conservation ecology and earth system modelling with important applications and benefits for both basic science and applied climate change research. The research is made possible, and provides added value, through exploiting an existing Norwegian experimental infrastructure.

Our objectives are to

  1. Disentangle direct and indirect climate impacts on plants (WP2), soil nematodes and microarthropods (WP3), and soil microbes (WP4), and ecosystem (WP1-4),
  2. Understand landscape variation and whole-ecosystem consequences of indirect effects, and
  3. Understand climate feedbacks of the plant-soil food web (WP5).
Conceptual diagram of how climate influences the plant-soil food web: Direct effects (a,b) and indirect effects through biotic (c) and abiotic (d,e) effects on soil organisms via plants, and on plants via soil organisms (f). The plant-soil food web affects and is affected by ecosystem functioning (g,h), which again feeds back to the climate (i). Note that not all possible drivers, players, effects, interactions, or feedbacks are represented; the diagram is simplified to focus on effects and responses explicitly studied in FUNDER. Plant functional groups are represented by bryophytes (yellow), graminoids (green), and forbs (purple). Magnifying glasses indicate key response variables with existing data in grey (data will be supplemented, see WP descriptions below) and new data to be measured in each FUNDER WP in black.