Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Plant socialization in a new world: reconnecting with belowground and aboveground communities
Putten, Wim van der - \ 2018
It is generally assumed that the introduction of plant species in a new habitat will lead to invasion. However, only a small minority of all introduced plant species will become invasive. I will discuss how the process of ‘socialization’ might explain these patterns. In their native range, plant species interact with belowground and aboveground multi-trophic communities. The net effect of all these interactions explains plant abundance patterns. When moving to a new range, either by human help or –indirectly- by global change-induced range expansion, plants will develop interactions with the local belowground and aboveground microbes, invertebrates and vertebrates. First, generalist interactions will develop, while over time more specialized interactions will develop. Studying the temporal dynamics of these interactions in relation to plant abundance provides novel insights into the process of ‘socialization’, and I will propose that this knowledge may be used to re-define what should be considered naturalization from an aboveground-belowground perspective. This knowledge may also be used to provide multi-dimensionality to nature restoration and conservation, such as is aimed at by the intended "Deltaplan for Biodiversity Restoration".
Data from: Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships in a long-term non-weeded field experiment
Veen, Ciska G.F. ; Putten, W.H. van der; Bezemer, T.M. - \ 2018
biodiversity-ecosystem functioning
Many grassland biodiversity experiments show a positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, however, in most these experiments plant communities are established by sowing and natural colonization is prevented by selective weeding of non-sown species. During ecosystem restoration, for example on abandoned fields, plant communities start on bare soil, and diversity is often manipulated in a single sowing event. How such initial plant diversity manipulations influence plant biodiversity development and ecosystem functioning is not well understood. We examined how relationships between taxonomic and functional diversity, biomass production and stability develop over 16 years in non-weeded plots sown with 15 species, 4 species, or that were not sown. We found that sown plant communities become functionally similar to unsown, naturally colonized plant communities. However, initial sowing treatments had long-lasting effects on species composition and taxonomic diversity. We found only few relationships between biomass production, or stability in biomass production, and functional or taxonomic diversity, and the ones we observed were negative. In addition, the cover of dominant plant species was positively related to biomass production and stability. We conclude that effects of introducing plant species at the start of secondary succession can persist for a long time, and that in secondary succession communities with natural plant species dynamics diversity-functioning relationships can be weak or negative. Moreover, our findings indicate that in systems where natural colonization of species is allowed effects of plant dominance may underlie diversity-functioning relationships.
Diversity relations of plants and soil microbes
Dassen, Sigrid - \ 2018
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Gerlinde de Deyn; Wim van der Putten, co-promotor(en): G.A. Kowalchuk. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789463433419 - 166
Nematode community responses to range-expanding and native plant communities in original and new range soils
Wilschut, Rutger A. ; Kostenko, Olga ; Koorem, Kadri ; Putten, Wim H. van der - \ 2018
Ecology and Evolution 8 (2018)20. - ISSN 2045-7758 - p. 10288 - 10297.
novel interactions - plant–nematode interactions - plant–parasitic nematodes - range-expanding plant species - root-feeding nematodes

Many plant species expand their range to higher latitudes in response to climate change. However, it is poorly understood how biotic interactions in the new range differ from interactions in the original range. Here, in a mesocosm experiment, we analyze nematode community responses in original and new range soils to plant communities with either (a) species native in both the original and new range, (b) range-expanding species related to these natives (related range expanders), or (c) range expanders without native congeneric species in the new range (unrelated range expanders). We hypothesized that nematode community shifts between ranges are strongest for unrelated range expanders and minimal for plant species that are native in both ranges. As a part of these community shifts, we hypothesized that range expanders, but not natives, would accumulate fewer root-feeding nematodes in their new range compared to their original range. Analyses of responses of nematodes from both original and new ranges and comparison between range expanders with and without close relatives have not been made before. Our study reveals that none of the plant communities experienced evident nematode community shifts between the original and new range. However, in soils from the new range, root-feeding nematode communities of natives and related range expanders were more similar than in soils from the original range, whereas the nematode community of unrelated range expanders was distinct from the communities of natives and related range expanders in soils from both ranges. The abundances of root-feeding nematodes were comparable between the original and new range for all plant communities. Unexpectedly, unrelated range expanders overall accumulated most root-feeding nematodes, whereas related range expanders accumulated fewest. We conclude that nematode communities associated with native and range-expanding plant species differ between the original and the new range, but that range-expanding plant species do not accumulate fewer root-feeding nematodes in their new than in their original range.

Data from: Increased transgenerational epigenetic variation, but not predictable epigenetic variants, after environmental exposure in two apomictic dandelion lineages
Preite, Veronica ; Oplaat, Carla ; Biere, Arjen ; Kirschner, Jan ; Putten, W.H. van der; Verhoeven, Koen J.F. - \ 2018
DNA methylation - stress memory - drought - salicylic acid
DNA methylation is one of the mechanisms underlying epigenetic modifications. DNA methylations can be environmentally induced and such induced modifications can at times be transmitted to successive generations. However, it remains speculative how common such environmentally induced transgenerational DNA methylation changes are and if they persist for more than one offspring generation. We exposed multiple accessions of two different apomictic dandelion lineages of the Taraxacum officinale group (Taraxacum alatum and T. hemicyclum) to drought and salicylic acid (SA) treatment. Using methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphism markers (MS-AFLPs) we screened anonymous methylation changes at CCGG restriction sites throughout the genome after stress treatments and assessed the heritability of induced changes for two subsequent unexposed offspring generations. Irrespective of the initial stress treatment, a clear buildup of heritable DNA methylation variation was observed across three generations, indicating a considerable background rate of heritable epimutations. Less evidence was detected for environmental effects. Drought stress showed some evidence for accession-specific methylation changes, but only in the exposed generation and not in their offspring. By contrast, SA treatment caused an increased rate of methylation change in offspring of treated plants. These changes were seemingly undirected resulting in increased transgenerational epigenetic variation between offspring individuals, but not in predictable epigenetic variants. While the functional consequences of these MS-AFLP-detected DNA methylation changes remain to be demonstrated, our study shows that (1) stress-induced transgenerational DNA methylation modification in dandelions is genotype and context-specific; and (2) inherited environmental DNA methylation effects are mostly undirected and not targeted to specific loci.
Size-dependent loss of aboveground animals differentially affects grassland ecosystem coupling and functions
Risch, A.C. ; Ochoa-Hueso, R. ; Putten, W.H. van der; Bump, J.K. ; Busse, M.D. ; Frey, B. ; Gwiazdowicz, D.J. ; Page-Dumroese, D.S. ; Vandegehuchte, M.L. ; Zimmermann, S. ; Schütz, M. - \ 2018
Nature Communications 9 (2018)1. - ISSN 2041-1723

Increasing evidence suggests that community-level responses to human-induced biodiversity loss start with a decrease of interactions among communities and between them and their abiotic environment. The structural and functional consequences of such interaction losses are poorly understood and have rarely been tested in real-world systems. Here, we analysed how 5 years of progressive, size-selective exclusion of large, medium, and small vertebrates and invertebrates—a realistic scenario of human-induced defaunation—impacts the strength of relationships between above- and belowground communities and their abiotic environment (hereafter ecosystem coupling) and how this relates to ecosystem functionality in grasslands. Exclusion of all vertebrates results in the greatest level of ecosystem coupling, while the additional loss of invertebrates leads to poorly coupled ecosystems. Consumer-driven changes in ecosystem functionality are positively related to changes in ecosystem coupling. Our results highlight the importance of invertebrate communities for maintaining ecological coupling and functioning in an increasingly defaunated world.

Data from: Increased transgenerational epigenetic variation, but not predictable epigenetic variants, after environmental exposure in two apomictic dandelion lineages
Preite, Veronica ; Oplaat, Carla ; Biere, Arjen ; Kirschner, Jan ; Putten, W.H. van der; Verhoeven, Koen J.F. - \ 2018
DNA methylation - stress memory - drought - salicylic acid - Taraxacum officinale
DNA methylation is one of the mechanisms underlying epigenetic modifications. DNA methylations can be environmentally induced and such induced modifications can at times be transmitted to successive generations. However, it remains speculative how common such environmentally induced transgenerational DNA methylation changes are and if they persist for more than one offspring generation. We exposed multiple accessions of two different apomictic dandelion lineages of the Taraxacum officinale group (Taraxacum alatum and T. hemicyclum) to drought and salicylic acid (SA) treatment. Using methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphism markers (MS-AFLPs) we screened anonymous methylation changes at CCGG restriction sites throughout the genome after stress treatments and assessed the heritability of induced changes for two subsequent unexposed offspring generations. Irrespective of the initial stress treatment, a clear buildup of heritable DNA methylation variation was observed across three generations, indicating a considerable background rate of heritable epimutations. Less evidence was detected for environmental effects. Drought stress showed some evidence for accession-specific methylation changes, but only in the exposed generation and not in their offspring. By contrast, SA treatment caused an increased rate of methylation change in offspring of treated plants. These changes were seemingly undirected resulting in increased transgenerational epigenetic variation between offspring individuals, but not in predictable epigenetic variants. While the functional consequences of these MS-AFLP-detected DNA methylation changes remain to be demonstrated, our study shows that (1) stress-induced transgenerational DNA methylation modification in dandelions is genotype and context-specific; and (2) inherited environmental DNA methylation effects are mostly undirected and not targeted to specific loci.
Data from: Variation in home-field advantage and ability in leaf litter decomposition across successional gradients
Veen, Ciska G.F. ; Keiser, Ashley D. ; Putten, W.H. van der; Wardle, David A. - \ 2018
decomposition - functional breadth - succession - soil - plant-litter feedback
1. It is increasingly recognized that interactions between plants and soil (a)biotic conditions can influence local decomposition processes. For example, decomposer communities may become specialized in breaking down litter of plant species that they are associated with, resulting in accelerated decomposition, known as ‘home-field advantage’ (HFA). Also, soils can vary inherently in their capacity to degrade organic compounds, known as ‘ability’. However, we have a poor understanding how environmental conditions drive the occurrence of HFA and ability. 2. Here, we studied how HFA and ability change across three types of successional gradients: coastal sand dunes (primary succession), inland drift sands (primary succession), and ex-arable fields (secondary succession). Across these gradients, litter quality (i.e., nutrient, carbon and lignin contents) increases with successional time for coastal dunes and decreases for the other two gradients. 3. We performed a 12-month reciprocal litter transplant experiment under greenhouse conditions using soils and litters collected from early-, mid-, and late-successional stages of each gradient. 4. We found that HFA and ability did not consistently shift with successional stage for all gradients, but were instead specific for each type of successional gradient. In coastal dunes HFA was positive for early-successional litter, in drift sands it was negative for mid-successional litter, and for ex-arable fields, HFA increased with successional time. Ability of decomposer communities was highest in mid-successional stages for coastal dunes and drift sands, but for ex-arable fields ability decreased throughout with successional time. High HFA was related to high litter C content and soil and organic matter content in soils and to low litter and soil nutrient concentrations. Ability did not consistently occur in successional stages with high or low litter quality. 5. Synthesis: Our findings show that specific environmental conditions, such as changes in litter or soil quality, along environmental gradients can shape the influence of HFA and ability on decomposition. In sites with strong HFA or ability, interactions between plants, litter and decomposer communities will be important drivers of nutrient cycling and hence have the potential to feedback to plant growth.
Reply to comment by Van de Ven et al. on our paper “Crop yield gap and stability in conventional and organic systems”
Schrama, M. ; Haan, J.J. de; Kroonen, M. ; Verstegen, H. ; Putten, W.H. van der - \ 2018
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 267 (2018). - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 83 - 86.
Network Analyses Can Advance Above-Belowground Ecology
Ramirez, Kelly S. ; Geisen, Stefan ; Morriën, Elly ; Snoek, Basten L. ; Putten, Wim H. van der - \ 2018
Trends in Plant Science 23 (2018)9. - ISSN 1360-1385 - p. 759 - 768.
community ecology - global change - species interactions - terrestrial ecology

An understanding of above-belowground (AG-BG) ecology is important for evaluating how plant interactions with enemies, symbionts, and decomposers affect species diversity and will respond to global changes. However, research questions and experiments often focus on only a limited number of interactions, creating an incomplete picture of how entire communities may be involved in AG-BG community ecology. Therefore, a pressing challenge is to formulate hypotheses of AG-BG interactions when considering communities in their full complexity. Here we discuss how network analyses can be a powerful tool to progress AG-BG research, link across scales from individual to community and ecosystem, visualize community interactions between the two (AG and BG) subsystems, and develop testable hypotheses.

Data from: Soil microbial species loss affects plant biomass and survival of an introduced bacterial strain, but not inducible plant defences
Kurm, V. ; Putten, W.H. van der; Pineda, Ana ; Hol, G.W.H. - \ 2018
induced systemic resistence - low abundant soil microbes - PGPR - Arabidopsis thaliana - Myzus persicae - Pseudomonas fluorescens
Background and Aims: Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) strains can influence plant-insect interactions. However, little is known about the effect of changes in the soil bacterial community in general and especially the loss of rare soil microbes on these interactions. Here, the influence of rare soil microbe-reduction on induced systemic resistance (ISR) in a wild ecotype of Arabidopsis thaliana against the aphid Myzus persicae was investigated. - Methods: To create a gradient of microbial abundances, soil was inoculated with a serial dilution of a microbial community and responses of Arabidopsis plants that originated from the same site as the soil microbes were tested. Plant biomass, transcription of genes involved in plant defences, and insect performance were measured. In addition, the effects of the PGPR strain Pseudomonas fluorescens SS101 on plant and insect performance were tested under influence of the various soil dilution treatments. - Key Results: Plant biomass showed a hump-shaped relationship with soil microbial community dilution, independent of aphid or Pseudomonas treatments. Both aphid infestation and inoculation with Pseudomonas reduced plant biomass, and led to downregulation of PR1 (salicylic acid-responsive gene) and CYP79B3 (involved in synthesis of glucosinolates). Aphid performance and gene transcription were unaffected by soil dilution. - Conclusions: Neither the loss of rare microbial species, as caused by soil dilution, nor Pseudomonas, affect the resistance of A. thaliana against M. persicae. However, both Pseudomonas survival and plant biomass respond to rare species loss. Thus, loss of rare soil microbial species can have a significant impact on both above- and belowground organisms.
Range-expanding plant species and their belowground neighbours : digging into novel interactions
Wilschut, Rutger Arie - \ 2018
University. Promotor(en): Wim van der Putten. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789463433075 - 174
Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships in a long-term non-weeded field experiment
Veen, G.F. ; Putten, Wim H. van der; Bezemer, T.M. - \ 2018
Ecology 99 (2018)8. - ISSN 0012-9658 - p. 1836 - 1846.
diversity–productivity - diversity–stability - ecosystem functioning - functional divergence - functional richness - grassland - long-term - species diversity

Many grassland biodiversity experiments show a positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, however, in most of these experiments plant communities are established by sowing and natural colonization is prevented by selective weeding of non-sown species. During ecosystem restoration, for example on abandoned fields, plant communities start on bare soil, and diversity is often manipulated in a single sowing event. How such initial plant diversity manipulations influence plant biodiversity development and ecosystem functioning is not well understood. We examined how relationships between taxonomic and functional diversity, biomass production and stability develop over 16 yr in non-weeded plots sown with 15 species, four species, or that were not sown. We found that sown plant communities become functionally similar to unsown, naturally colonized plant communities. However, initial sowing treatments had long-lasting effects on species composition and taxonomic diversity. We found only few relationships between biomass production, or stability in biomass production, and functional or taxonomic diversity, and the ones we observed were negative. In addition, the cover of dominant plant species was positively related to biomass production and stability. We conclude that effects of introducing plant species at the start of secondary succession can persist for a long time, and that in secondary succession communities with natural plant species dynamics diversity–functioning relationships can be weak or negative. Moreover, our findings indicate that in systems where natural colonization of species is allowed effects of plant dominance may underlie diversity–functioning relationships.

Relative importance of competition and plant–soil feedback, their synergy, context dependency and implications for coexistence
Lekberg, Ylva ; Bever, James D. ; Bunn, Rebecca A. ; Callaway, Ragan M. ; Hart, Miranda M. ; Kivlin, Stephanie N. ; Klironomos, John ; Larkin, Beau G. ; Maron, John L. ; Reinhart, Kurt O. ; Remke, Michael ; Putten, Wim H. van der - \ 2018
Ecology Letters 21 (2018)8. - ISSN 1461-023X - p. 1268 - 1281.
Additive interaction - coexistence - competition - facilitation - meta-analysis - mutualist - pathogen - plant–soil feedback - resource gradient - soil biota

Plants interact simultaneously with each other and with soil biota, yet the relative importance of competition vs. plant–soil feedback (PSF) on plant performance is poorly understood. Using a meta-analysis of 38 published studies and 150 plant species, we show that effects of interspecific competition (either growing plants with a competitor or singly, or comparing inter- vs. intraspecific competition) and PSF (comparing home vs. away soil, live vs. sterile soil, or control vs. fungicide-treated soil) depended on treatments but were predominantly negative, broadly comparable in magnitude, and additive or synergistic. Stronger competitors experienced more negative PSF than weaker competitors when controlling for density (inter- to intraspecific competition), suggesting that PSF could prevent competitive dominance and promote coexistence. When competition was measured against plants growing singly, the strength of competition overwhelmed PSF, indicating that the relative importance of PSF may depend not only on neighbour identity but also density. We evaluate how competition and PSFs might interact across resource gradients; PSF will likely strengthen competitive interactions in high resource environments and enhance facilitative interactions in low-resource environments. Finally, we provide a framework for filling key knowledge gaps and advancing our understanding of how these biotic interactions influence community structure.

Integrating quantitative morphological and qualitative molecular methods to analyse soil nematode community responses to plant range expansion
Geisen, Stefan ; Snoek, L.B. ; Hooven, Freddy C. ten; Duyts, Henk ; Kostenko, Olga ; Bloem, Janneke ; Martens, Henk ; Quist, Casper W. ; Helder, Johannes A. ; Putten, Wim H. van der - \ 2018
Methods in Ecology and Evolution 9 (2018)6. - ISSN 2041-210X - p. 1366 - 1378.
Biodiversity - High-throughput sequencing - Microscopy - Molecular approaches - Nematodes - QPCR - Soils
Below-ground nematodes are important for soil functioning, as they are ubiquitous and operate at various trophic levels in the soil food web. However, morphological nematode community analysis is time consuming and requires ample training. qPCR-based nematode identification techniques are well available, but high-throughput sequencing (HTS) might be more suitable for non-targeted nematode community analyses. We compared effectiveness of qPCR- and HTS-based approaches with morphological nematode identification while examining how climate warming-induced plant range expansion may influence below-ground nematode assemblages. We extracted nematodes from soil of Centaurea stoebe and C. jacea populations in Slovenia, where both plant species are native, and Germany, where C. stoebe is a range expander and C. jacea is native. Half of each nematode sample was identified morphologically and the other half was analysed using targeted qPCR and a novel HTS approach. HTS produced the highest taxonomic resolution of the nematode community. Nematode taxa abundances correlated between the methods. Therefore, especially relative HTS and relative morphological data revealed nearly identical ecological patterns. All methods showed lower numbers of plant-feeding nematodes in rhizosphere soils of C. stoebe compared to C. jacea. However, a profound difference was observed between absolute and relative abundance data; both sampling origin and plant species affected relative abundances of bacterivorous nematodes, whereas there was no effect on absolute abundances. Taken together, as HTS correlates with relative analyses of soil nematode communities, while providing highest taxonomic resolution and sample throughput, we propose a combination of HTS with microscopic counting to supplement important quantitative data on soil nematode communities. This provides the most cost-effective, in-depth methodology to study soil nematode community responses to changes in the environment. This methodology will also be applicable to nematode analyses in aquatic systems.
Influence of seed size on performance of non-native annual plant species in a novel community at two planting densities
Radny, Janina ; Putten, Wim H. van der; Tielbörger, Katja ; Meyer, Katrin M. - \ 2018
Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology 92 (2018). - ISSN 1146-609X - p. 131 - 137.
Biotic interactions - Competition - Exotic species - Greenhouse - Plant size - Range expansion

Climate warming enables plant species to migrate to higher latitudes and altitudes. Within Europe, the Mediterranean harbours many species that might expand their ranges towards Western Europe. Small seed size may facilitate dispersal, however, it may impair establishment of the range-expanding plant species in the novel vegetation. In a greenhouse experiment, we examined effects of average seed size of Mediterranean plant species on their establishment in a mixed community of Western European plant species. Applying two levels of densities of the natives and a herbivory treatment, we tested how seed size is linked to response in plant growth and fitness in novel vegetation. While all non-native plant species showed a negative response to increased planting density, species with small seeds showed a less negative response. This effect persisted under herbivory. Our data suggest that small-seeded non-native plant species may tolerate competitive pressure from novel plant communities better than large-seeded species, so that small seed size may confer a higher probability of establishment of non-native species in novel communities.

Drought and soil fertility modify fertilization effects on aphid performance in wheat
Tamburini, Giovanni ; Gils, Stijn van; Kos, Martine ; Putten, Wim van der; Marini, Lorenzo - \ 2018
Basic and Applied Ecology 30 (2018). - ISSN 1439-1791 - p. 23 - 31.
Agricultural intensification - Cereals - Climate change - Grain aphid - Nitrogen - Soil organic matter - Water availability

Agricultural intensification and climate change are expected to affect pest performance through excessive inputs of chemical fertilizers and increased probability of extreme drought events. Potential interactive effects of fertilization and water availability on aboveground pest performance may depend on soil fertility because of its effect on nutrient availability. In a greenhouse experiment, we examined the effects of inorganic fertilization on the performance of the grain aphid (Sitobion avenae, F.), an important pest of wheat, under different conditions of soil fertility and water availability. We found soil fertility and water availability to influence the positive effects of inorganic fertilizers on aphid growth, i.e. fertilization promoted faster aphid development time and higher fecundity and biomass under low fertility and under well-watered conditions. Moreover, although increased soil fertility favored aphid growth under well-watered conditions, it simultaneously sustained plant development. The current practices promoting soil fertility do not have direct negative consequence on crop protection under conventional cropping systems.

Causes and consequences of soil bacterial rarity
Kurm, Viola - \ 2018
University. Promotor(en): Wim van der Putten. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789463432498 - 206
Variation in home-field advantage and ability in leaf litter decomposition across successional gradients
Veen, G.F.C. ; Keiser, Ashley D. ; Putten, Wim H. van der; Wardle, David A. - \ 2018
Functional Ecology 32 (2018)6. - ISSN 0269-8463 - p. 1563 - 1574.
Decomposition - Functional breadth - Plant litter feedback - Plant-soil feedback - Soil - Succession

It is increasingly recognized that interactions between plants and soil (a)biotic conditions can influence local decomposition processes. For example, decomposer communities may become specialized in breaking down litter of plant species that they are associated with, resulting in accelerated decomposition, known as "home-field advantage" (HFA). Also, soils can vary inherently in their capacity to degrade organic compounds, known as "ability." However, we have a poor understanding how environmental conditions drive the occurrence of HFA and ability. Here, we studied how HFA and ability change across three types of successional gradients: coastal sand dunes (primary succession), inland drift sands (primary succession) and ex-arable fields (secondary succession). Across these gradients, litter quality (i.e. nutrient, carbon and lignin contents) increases with successional time for coastal dunes and decreases for the other two gradients. We performed a 12-months reciprocal litter transplant experiment under greenhouse conditions using soils and litters collected from early-, mid- and late-successional stages of each gradient. We found that HFA and ability did not consistently shift with successional stage for all gradients, but were instead specific for each type of successional gradient. In coastal dunes, HFA was positive for early-successional litter, in drift, sands it was negative for mid-successional litter, and for ex-arable fields, HFA increased with successional time. Ability of decomposer communities was highest in mid-successional stages for coastal dunes and drift sands, but for ex-arable fields, ability decreased throughout with successional time. High HFA was related to high litter C content and soil and organic matter content in soils and to low litter and soil nutrient concentrations. Ability did not consistently occur in successional stages with high or low litter quality. Synthesis. Our findings show that specific environmental conditions, such as changes in litter or soil quality, along environmental gradients can shape the influence of HFA and ability on decomposition. In sites with strong HFA or ability, interactions between plants, litter and decomposer communities will be important drivers of nutrient cycling and hence have the potential to feedback to plant growth. A plain language summary is available for this article.

Crop yield gap and stability in organic and conventional farming systems
Schrama, M. ; Haan, J.J. de; Kroonen, M. ; Verstegen, H. ; Putten, W.H. Van der - \ 2018
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 256 (2018). - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 123 - 130.
Ecological intensification - Nutrient leaching - Soil communities - Spatial stability - Sustainable intensification - Variability
A key challenge for sustainable intensification of agriculture is to produce increasing amounts of food and feed with minimal biodiversity loss, nutrient leaching, and greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farming is considered more sustainable, however, less productive than conventional farming. We analysed results from an experiment started under identical soil conditions comparing one organic and two conventional farming systems. Initially, yields in the organic farming system were lower, but approached those of both conventional systems after 10–13 years, while requiring lower nitrogen inputs. Unexpectedly, organic farming resulted in lower coefficient of variation, indicating enhanced spatial stability, of pH, nutrient mineralization, nutrient availability, and abundance of soil biota. Organic farming also resulted in improved soil structure with higher organic matter concentrations and higher soil aggregation, a profound reduction in groundwater nitrate concentrations, and fewer plant-parasitic nematodes. Temporal stability between the three farming systems was similar, but when excluding years of Phytophthora outbreaks in potato, temporal stability was higher in the organic farming system. There are two non-mutually exclusive mechanistic explanations for these results. First, the enhanced spatial stability in the organic farming system could result from changes in resource-based (i.e. bottom-up) processes, which coincides with the observed higher nutrient provisioning throughout the season in soils with more organic matter. Second, enhanced resource inputs may also affect stability via increased predator-based (i.e. top-down) control. According to this explanation, predators stabilize population dynamics of soil organisms, which is supported by the observed higher soil food web biomass in the organic farming system.We conclude that closure of the yield gap between organic and conventional farming can be a matter of time and that organic farming may result in greater spatial stability of soil biotic and abiotic properties and soil processes. This is likely due to the time required to fundamentally alter soil properties.
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