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Soil fauna diversity increases CO2 but suppresses N2O emissions from soil

Lubbers, Ingrid M., Berg, Matty P., De Deyn, Gerlinde B., van der Putten, Wim H., van Groenigen, Jan Willem
Global change biology 2020 v.26 no.3 pp. 1886-1898
Collembola, carbon dioxide, denitrification, detritivores, earthworms, ecosystem engineers, functional diversity, fungivores, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, intermediate product, mites, nitrous oxide, organic matter, soil, soil ecosystems, species richness
Soil faunal activity can be a major control of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from soil. Effects of single faunal species, genera or families have been investigated, but it is unknown how soil fauna diversity may influence emissions of both carbon dioxide (CO₂, end product of decomposition of organic matter) and nitrous oxide (N₂O, an intermediate product of N transformation processes, in particular denitrification). Here, we studied how CO₂ and N₂O emissions are affected by species and species mixtures of up to eight species of detritivorous/fungivorous soil fauna from four different taxonomic groups (earthworms, potworms, mites, springtails) using a microcosm set‐up. We found that higher species richness and increased functional dissimilarity of species mixtures led to increased faunal‐induced CO₂ emission (up to 10%), but decreased N₂O emission (up to 62%). Large ecosystem engineers such as earthworms were key drivers of both CO₂ and N₂O emissions. Interestingly, increased biodiversity of other soil fauna in the presence of earthworms decreased faunal‐induced N₂O emission despite enhanced C cycling. We conclude that higher soil fauna functional diversity enhanced the intensity of belowground processes, leading to more complete litter decomposition and increased CO₂ emission, but concurrently also resulting in more complete denitrification and reduced N₂O emission. Our results suggest that increased soil fauna species diversity has the potential to mitigate emissions of N₂O from soil ecosystems. Given the loss of soil biodiversity in managed soils, our findings call for adoption of management practices that enhance soil biodiversity and stimulate a functionally diverse faunal community to reduce N₂O emissions from managed soils.