Land Use, Microorganisms, and Soil Organic Carbon: Putting the Pieces Together

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We set out to study what biodiversity is, and how it can be influenced by human activities. To carry out this research, we looked for two, relatively closed, natural small-island systems: one little-influenced by human settlement and another equivalent (same vegetation series aligned 200 m from the first) but heavily settled. In these two environments, two transects were created in 10 subecosystems, from the sea to the mainland. We sought similar subecosystems in both places. We selected a series of eight points along the same gradient in the two environments, with two additional nonoverlapping points, specific to “natural plus” or “natural minus”. We studied soil microorganisms and arthropods to have a large number of cases (OTUs) available, and also studied the microorganisms’ phylogenetic status. We also compared biodiversity with soil organic carbon (SOC) content, using two SOC measurement systems (with and without litter), to understand biodiversity starting from its potential source of food (SOC). The results surprised us: the biodiversity indices are higher in the anthropized environment; the level of biodiversity of these microorganisms (OTUs) is linked to the quantity of organic carbon measured in the first 30 cm of soil with two different methods, Carbon Still Yeomans (650 g of soil sample) and Skalar Primacs ATC-100-IC-E (1 g of soil sample). The following forced line at the origin explains 85% of the variance: Shannon–Wiener’s H = 1.42 • ln (TOC400); where ln = natural logarithm and TOC400 = organic carbon lost from a soil sample raised to 400 °C. The concept of biodiversity merges with that of survival: the more species there are, the better they are organized among themselves in the process of food consumption (SOC utilization), and the better they will be able to transform the environment to survive and evolve with it. We wanted to identify the differences in soil biodiversity of natural and anthropogenic ecosystems, to offer evidence-providing tools to land managers to achieve more ecologically efficient managing practices.

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Funding Number

EUR 14,000

Funding Sponsor

National Natural Science Foundation of China



Link to publisher version (DOI)