The Action has succeeded in creating a platform for effective and efficient exchange of ideas. All meeting features sessions specifically designed for this activity, whether in the plenary or WG sessions. All MC members were instructed to encourage ECI attendance and participation, resulting in nearly 50% of Action participants belonging to the ECI category. Each WG has at least 1 synthesis publication in draft or submitted to a journal, it is expected that these will be published under open access licence by the end of 2018.
The following are available abstracts of synthesis papers:
1. Belowground biodiversity relates positively to ecosystem services of European forests
Bakker MR12, Brunner I3, Ashwood F4, Bjarnadottir B5, Bolger, T6, Břrja I7, Carnol M8, Cudlin P9, Dalsgaard L7, Erktan A10,11, Godbold DL9,12, Kraigher H13, Meier IC11, Merino-Martín L10, Motiejūnaitė J14, Mrak T13, Oddsdóttir E15, Ostonen I16, Pennanen T17, Püttsepp Ü18, Suz, LM19 Vanguelova E4, Vesterdal L20, Soudzilovskaia NA21
1Bordeaux Sciences Agro, UMR 1391 ISPA, 33170 Gradignan, France
2INRA, UMR 1391 ISPA, 33140 Villenave d’Ornon, France
3Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
4Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, GU10 4LH, UK
5Uni Akureyri Iceland, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
6School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
7Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, P.O.Box 115, NO-1431 Ĺs, Norway
8University of Ličge, InBios, Plant and Microbial Ecology, Botany B22, Chemin de la Vallée 4, 4000 Ličge, Belgium
9Global Change Research Institute CAS, Lipova 9, 370 05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
10AMAP, INRA, Université de Montpellier, CIRAD, CNRS, IRD, France
11Plant Ecology, University of Goettingen, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
12Institute of Forest Ecology, Universität für Bodenkultur (BOKU) PeterJordanStr 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria
13Slovenian Forestry Institute, Večna pot 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
14Nature Research Centre, Žaliųjų ežerų 49, LT-08406 Vilnius, Lithuania
15Icelandic Forest Research Mogilsa, IS 162, Iceland
16Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, 51014, Tartu, Estonia
17Natural Resources Institute Finland, LUKE, Latokartanonkaari 9, 00790 Helsinki, Finland
18University of Tartu, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, 46 Vanemuise St, 51014, Estonia
19Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, TW9 3DS, Richmond Surrey, UK
20Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen Denmark, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
21 Conservation Biology Department, Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University Einsteinweg, 2, 2333CC, The Netherlands
Ecosystem services regroup the many different benefits that ecosystems provide to people and the biodiversity of ecosystems is an important driver for the supply of ecosystem services. Soils can have a larger biodiversity per unit surface area than what can be observed aboveground. Here, we present a literature-based key-word approach on the relationships between belowground biodiversity and ecosystem services in European forests. Belowground diversity of plant roots, fungi, prokaryota, soil fauna and protists was evaluated with respect to the supply of provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ecosystem services. The diversity groupings were divided in 14 separate subgroups and the ecosystem services in 37 separate services. Out of the 518 combinations of separate biotic groupings and ecosystem services, for 370 we did not find any relevant study. Of the 148 combinations where we found relationships, the large majority (87%) showed a positive relationship between biodiversity of a belowground biotic grouping and an associated ecosystem service, against 7% neutral and 5% negative relationships. Our study shows a clear lack of knowledge (no data in 370 cases) or only a low number of studies (1–3 studies; 105 combination), leaving only 43 combinations (8% of all) with relationships based on four or more studies. Consequently, there is need for more well-designed studies incorporating the belowground diversity and the functions and services associated with this diversity.
2. Towards a top-down framework to make microbial ecology predictive
Lettice C. Hicks1, Beat Frey2, Rasmus Kjřller3, Martin Lukac4, Mari Moora5, James T. Weedon6 and Johannes Rousk*,1,
1Section of Microbial Ecology, Department of Biology, Lund University, Ecology Building, 22362 Lund, Sweden; 2Forest Soils and Biogeochemistry, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland; 3Department of Biology, Terrestrial Ecology Section, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark; 4School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, RG6 6AR, UK; 5Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia; 6Systems Ecology, Department of Ecological Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
*Corresponding author: J. Rousk, Microbial Ecology, Department of Biology, Lund University, 22362 Lund, Sweden. Phone: +46 46 222 37 45, Email:
Perspectives paper for the ISME Journal
Running head: A top-down framework for microbial ecology
Keywords: Community ecology, traits, structure and function, predictive ecology, soil biology, biogeochemistry, soil carbon.
Predicting ecosystem function from microbial composition
Understanding the role of ecological communities in maintaining multiple ecosystem processes is a central challenge in ecology. Soil microbial communities perform vital ecosystem functions, such as the decomposition of organic matter to provide plant nutrition. However, despite the functional importance of soil microorganisms, attribution of ecosystem function to particular constituents of the microbial community has been impeded by a lack of information linking microbial processes to community structure. Here, we propose a new conceptual framework to determine how microbial communities influence ecosystem processes, by applying a “top-down” traits based approach. By determining the dependence of microbial community processes on environmental factors (e.g. the intrinsic temperature dependence of bacterial growth rates) we can define the response trait distribution of the community. The whole community contribution to ecosystem function can then be predicted, by parameterising the response trait distribution with current environmental conditions. In a final step, this information on function can be synthesised with taxonomic community composition in order to identify “biomarkers” that capture microbial communities’ regulation of ecosystem processes. Ultimately, these biomarkers may be used as indicator taxa, enabling predictions of ecosystem function from community composition
3. Belowground Biotic Interactions for Healthy Tree Crops
Jesús Mercado-Blanco1, Isabel Abrantes2, Anna Barra Caracciolo3, Annamaria Bevivino4*, Aurelio Ciancio5, Paola Grenni3, Katarzyna Hrynkiewicz6, László Kredics7, Diogo N. Proença8
1Department of Crop Protection, Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Campus ‘Alameda del Obispo’, Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible (CSIC), Spain,
2Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Calçada Martim de Freitas, CFE-Centre for Functional Ecology, Portugal,
3Water Research Institute, National Research Council, (CNR-IRSA), Italy,
4Department for Sustainability of Production and Territorial Systems, National Agency For New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, Italy, 5Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, National Research Council, Italy, 6Department of Microbiology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Lwowska 1, Poland,
7Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, Hungary,
8CEMMPRE and Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal
The review discusses below-ground biotic interactions influencing the growth of tree crops. The study of tree-(micro)organism interactions taking place at the belowground level is crucial to understand how they contribute to processes like carbon sequestration, regulation of ecosystem functioning, and nutrient cycling. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between roots and their associate microbiome can also facilitate the design of novel sustainable approaches for the benefit of these relevant agro-ecosystems. This review summarizes the methodological approaches to unravel the composition and function of belowground microbiomes, the factors influencing belowground microbiomes associated with tree crops, their benefits, and harm, with a focus on representative examples of Biological Control Agents (BCA) used against relevant biotic constraints of tree crops. Finally, we add some concluding remarks and suggest future perspectives concerning the microbiome assisted management strategies to sustain tree crops.
Every Action meeting featured invited experts in areas directly relevant to building up expertise and skills base of researcher interested in biodiversity in soils under tree ecosystems. The main focus of this activity was to enhance the showcase newly established and emerging methods and experimental approaches applicable to this strand of science. The Action also run two summer schools aimed specifically at improving the capacity of ECI research community to understand and apply latest thinking on modelling forest soils and on the study of soil biota.
Summer School 1:
Summer School: using R to model soil processes
6th – 10th July 2015
Always wanted to learn how to use R to model soil processes? Look no further, Euforinno and Biolink have teamed up to offer an opportunity to achieve just that. The School will take place in the heart of beautiful Slovenian countryside, where nothing disturbs your focus on R and soil (and yes, that is the view from the hotel). We offer fully funded places to master R as a platform for running mechanical and process-based models, complemented by hands-on experience of running models with data gathered in a multitude of experiments. Of course, should you have your own dataset, do bring it along – our tutors will be happy to help you to make the most out of it. Two afternoons have been dedicated to ‘question time’ to give you the chance to talk to the experts about the data and models you do (or intend to) use.
Summer School 2:
BioLink Cost Action
CIHEAM IAMB - Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari
SOIL BIODIVERSITY IN TREE CROPS
25-29 September 2017
CIHEAM-IAMB, Bari, Italy
Introduction and aim
This training school is organized by BioLink (Linking belowground biodiversity and ecosystem function in European forests – COST FP1305), and in particular by WG3 participants ( : Belowground biodiversity in plantations and tree crops). The main aim of the school is to provide updated concepts and methodologies on soil biodiversity in tree crops with a multidisciplinary approach embracing theoretical and practical lectures.
The school will take pace at the International Center of High Agromonic Mediterranean Studies - Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari that is a centre for post-graduate training, applied scientific research and design ( , Via Ceglie, 9, 70010 Valenzano, Bari, Italy), in the context of the intended purposes of the framework agreement between CIHEAM-IAM and CNR. The course (5 days) includes a field trip to the Nature Reserve of Torre Guaceto (a protected area between the Ostuni and Brindisi coasts, in the territories of the Carovigno and Brindisi municipalities).
A number of experts participating in the Biolink COST Action have kindly agreed to act as trainers for this school.
The Action has carried out an opinion survey amongst farmers with tree crops to gauge their attitude to soil biodiversity and its uses. The results of this survey have will be published in a peer-reviewed paper and will form the basis of an information leaflet communicating the benefits of enhances soil biodiversity. A number of Action participants established a collaboration with social scientists invited to meetings in order to explore the most effective mode of communication of soil science to farmers and foresters.
Quantifying the power of awareness of belowground biota: perceptions differ among European countries
Maria K. Sakka1, Isabel Abrantes2, Marina Katanic3, László Kredics4, Arianna Latini5,Tamás Marik4, Silvana Moscatelli6,Mauro Gamboni6, Martin Lukac7, George Vlontzos1,Christos G. Athanassiou*1
1Department of Agriculture, Crop Production and Rural Development, University of Thessaly, Greece,
2University of Coimbra, Coimbra·Department of Life Sciences/Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE),
3University of Novi Sad, Institute of lowland forestry and environment, Serbia,
4University of Szeged, Department of Microbiology, Hungary,
5ENEA CR Casaccia UTEE-EEAP (Technical Unit of Energy Efficiency in Productive Activities), Italy
6National Research Council of Italy Department of Biology, Agriculture and Food Sciences, Italy,
7School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK.
* Corresponding author (Tel.: +302421093195, Fax: +302421093178, e-mail address:email@example.com)
Belowground biodiversity in agriculture is directly affected by farmers’ practices. At the same time, it is one of the key determinants of crop productivity. We evaluated farmers’ awareness and knowledge of soil biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. To achieve this aim, we collected data using questionnaires addressed to farmers in five different countries; Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Serbia. More than 380 farmers participated to the survey. A majority of farmers indicated that they understand the meaning of the term “biodiversity”. They further confirmed that they actively apply practices beneficial to soil biodiversity, such as crop rotation, low or min tillage or integrated pest management. Moreover, they believe that soil fertility will increase the productivity of their farms and that enhancing soil biodiversity should be supported by the CAP as an environmentally sound practice. In general, the responses were similar in different countries; however we did uncover some interesting differences. Serbian farmers did showed major differences on a number of aspects of the survey, including knowledge, monitoring and enhancing belowground biodiversity, implementing practices for pest management. However, it is to consider that only few interviews have been collected for this country. Basically, it is important to record a general farmers’ awareness and the adoption of practices for belowground biodiversity in EU and non EU countries, and develop a solid strategic plan for ecologically-compatible agriculture in Europe. These preliminary results call for elaborating useful guidelines destined to farmers in order to enlarge the knowledge and encourage the use of agricultural practices towards soil biodiversity maintenance and improvement.
Establishing a network of experts studying the role and the contribution of soil biodiversity to ecosystem productivity and sustainability along a management intensity gradient has been one of the greatest successes of the Action. More than 300 participants made an active contribution to the Action, many of these made contacts and initiated collaboration with scientist they would have never encountered in their specific areas. ECI have played a prominent role here (48% of total participants), whether as contributors to discussions or as scientists initiating collaborative contacts via STSMs.
The Action, and contributors to WG4 in particular, have succeeded in creating a model of soil biota able to reflect its diversity (functional and species). This is a major step forward, most soil models to date have treated soil biodiversity as a black box and certainly not reflected its functions and contribution to soil ecosystem services. The scientific community can now explore soil biodiversity and its role ‘in silica’ in a number of soil types and under a range of ecosystems. The model can be downloaded by following this link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7s0ztfin08wrpr8/AAB5qEXp-ubu4tqN1ixYPsWja?dl=0
This deliverable has been achieved by creating an opportunity for inclusion of social science, environmental economics, human heath and climatology experts into research on soil biodiversity. Human society does not interact with soil biodiversity directly, although it is critically dependent on its function. Cross-disciplinary research will ultimately have to be developed to properly understand soil biodiversity and to shift human use of soil biota away from the current exploitative phase.
The Action made a concerted effort to engage and support a great number of ECI in all its activities. The Action has supported 44 STSMs and run two summer schools, all aimed at improving the skill set of starting researchers. All publications resulting from the Action feature a number of ECI in the list of authors and nearly 80% of Action participants indicate that the Action has enhanced career prospects of this group of researchers. The following is feedback from ECI, the Action has provided them with an opportunity to participate in:
WG3 have carried out a survey of farmer attitudes to soil biodiversity across a number of EU countries, this revealed large differences in understanding of this asset. Our findings will inform future work on communication, message targeting and effectiveness.