Symposium 'Meet the PhD Jury: Environmental change, ecosystem responses and plant-soil feedbacks'

For whom
Students, Employees
30-10-2019 from 14:30 to 15:30
Vergaderzaal A0.1 Azalea, Campus Coupure, gebouw38.03 - Blok A, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent
Forest & Nature Lab, Department of Environment, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
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Lectures by Dr Gerlinde De Deyn (WUR, the Netherlands) and Dr Thomas Dirnböck (Environment Agency, Austria) ahead of Haben Blondeel's PhD defense.

Plant-soil feedbacks in the field: the sky is (not) the limit

Dr. Gerlinde B. De Deyn

Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands

Plants affect soil processes and in turn respond to belowground processes which can result in plant-growth promotion or suppression.

To date it remains hard to predict the direction and magnitude of these plant-soil feedback effects, especially in real field conditions. Most plant-soil feedback studies were conducted under highly controlled conditions in greenhouse pot experiments using sterilised soil and being of short duration. As a result, it has been hard to translate the findings to the field.

Dr. De Deyn proposes that new remote sensing technology is a powerful tool to study plant-soil feedbacks in the field at realistic scales in space and time.

Such tools will greatly advance our understanding of soil multi-functionality, enabling customised advice on soil management to promote the optimisation of multiple functions on the short and longer term.

Nitrogen deposition effects on ecosystems and biodiversity under a changing climate

Dr. Thomas Dirnböck

Senior Researcher at the Environment Agency, Austria; Ecosystem Research and Environmental Information Management; Vice Chair of the Working Group of Effects within the UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Atmospheric nitrogen (N) pollution is among the main stressors in ecosystems and for biodiversity worldwide.

Ecosystem N cycle processes are highly sensitive to temperature and soil moisture variations. Thus, climate change may affect the degree to which N deposited from the atmosphere will be retained in ecosystems, thereby affecting its function and biodiversity.

The team of dr. Thomas Dirnböck provides modelling results showing that expected climate change will likely increase ecosystem N retention causing less leaching of nitrate to the groundwater, and lower greenhouse gas emissions in European temperate forests.

Through the increased immobilization of N, climate warming may also offset part of the negative biodiversity effects of N deposition.

Nevertheless, airborne N deposition is still resulting in harmful effects to biodiversity in many parts of Europe.

Two policies are of utmost importance in Europe to reduce N emissions in future: the UNECE Gothenburg Protocol and the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive.

By assessing the N emission reductions currently legislated through these policies, Dirnböck found that the expected decrease in N deposition until 2030 (and 2050) will most likely be insufficient to result in a release from eutrophication in European forests.

A wall to wall prevention of exceedances of critical N loads in Europe is unlikely in the mid-term. Yet, careful impact monitoring can help in optimizing existing policies in order to minimize negative N effects.