The effect of climate change on soil functionality
Climate change and global warming are having a profound effect on soil functionality. As average temperatures rise, shifts have been observed to take place within the microbe communities in soil. this project seeks to uncover the specifics of these effects by identifying the links between changes to the species-rich plant community in upland grassland and shifts in the soil’s microbial community’s composition and function. Taking place at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL), which has monitored changes in the surrounding vegetation for over 20 years, this research is expected to contribute to predictions of how climate change and global warming will affect soil functionality.
Although the vegetation at BCCIL has shown remarkable resistance to experimental climate treatments, preliminary testing has shown that the application of long term heat and drought treatments to soils and plants within plots has affected the community.
Elements being measured include soil chemistry and root decomposition, the sensitivity of soil carbon cycling during the breakdown of organic matter, as well as the sequencing of the soil community’s DNA, in order to discover how changes in temperature and the availability of water affect the functionality of soils and plants. These elements will be measured through a decomposition experiment combined with analysis of the soil properties and enzyme activities of a number of grassland species, as well as the use of next-generation sequencing to determine which microbial groups are susceptible to warming and drought treatments.
At undergraduate level, James studied an MSci in Physics at Lancaster University. Although his background is ni physics, his interests are highly varied and he has always been fascinated by environmental science, revelling in the opportunity to undertake fieldwork outdoors.