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I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Natural forests promote phosphorus retention in soil

    2022. Zhen Yu (et al.). Global Change Biology 28 (4), 1678-1689


    Soil phosphorus (P) availability often limits plant productivity. Classical theories suggest that total P content declines at the temporal scale of pedogenesis, and ecosystems develop toward the efficient use of scarce P during succession. However, the trajectory of ecosystem P within shorter time scales of succession remains unclear. We analyzed changes to P pools at the early (I), middle (II), and late (III) stages of growth of plantation forests (PFs) and the successional stages of natural forests (NFs) at 1969 sites in China. We found significantly lower P contents at later growth stages compared to earlier ones in the PF (p < .05), but higher contents at late successional stages than in earlier stages in the NF (p < .05). Our results indicate that increasing P demand of natural vegetation during succession, may raise, retain, and accumulate P from deeper soil layers. In contrast, ecosystem P in PF was depleted by the more rapidly increasing demand outpacing the development of a P-efficient system. We advocate for more studies to illuminate the mechanisms for determining the divergent changes, which would improve forest management and avoid the vast degradation of PF ecosystems suffering from the ongoing depletion of P.

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  • Energetic scaling in microbial growth

    2021. Salvatore Calabrese (et al.). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 118 (47)


    Microbial growth is a clear example of organization and structure arising in nonequilibrium conditions. Due to the complexity of the microbial metabolic network, elucidating the fundamental principles governing microbial growth remains a challenge. Here, we present a systematic analysis of microbial growth thermodynamics, leveraging an extensive dataset on energy-limited monoculture growth. A consistent thermodynamic framework based on reaction stoichiometry allows us to quantify how much of the available energy microbes can efficiently convert into new biomass while dissipating the remaining energy into the environment and producing entropy. We show that dissipation mechanisms can be linked to the electron donor uptake rate, a fact leading to the central result that the thermodynamic efficiency is related to the electron donor uptake rate by the scaling law eta proportional to M-1/2 ED and to the growth yield by eta proportional to Y4/5. These findings allow us to rederive the Pirt equation from a thermodynamic perspective, providing a means to compute its coefficients, as well as a deeper understanding of the relationship between growth rate and yield. Our results provide rather general insights into the relation between mass and energy conversion in microbial growth with potentially wide application, especially in ecology and biotechnology.

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  • Eco-evolutionary optimality as a means to improve vegetation and land-surface models

    2021. Sandy P. Harrison (et al.). New Phytologist 231 (6), 2125-2141


    Global vegetation and land-surface models embody interdisciplinary scientific understanding of the behaviour of plants and ecosystems, and are indispensable to project the impacts of environmental change on vegetation and the interactions between vegetation and climate. However, systematic errors and persistently large differences among carbon and water cycle projections by different models highlight the limitations of current process formulations. In this review, focusing on core plant functions in the terrestrial carbon and water cycles, we show how unifying hypotheses derived from eco-evolutionary optimality (EEO) principles can provide novel, parameter-sparse representations of plant and vegetation processes. We present case studies that demonstrate how EEO generates parsimonious representations of core, leaf-level processes that are individually testable and supported by evidence. EEO approaches to photosynthesis and primary production, dark respiration and stomatal behaviour are ripe for implementation in global models. EEO approaches to other important traits, including the leaf economics spectrum and applications of EEO at the community level are active research areas. Independently tested modules emerging from EEO studies could profitably be integrated into modelling frameworks that account for the multiple time scales on which plants and plant communities adjust to environmental change.

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  • Modeling Microbial Adaptations to Nutrient Limitation During Litter Decomposition

    2021. Stefano Manzoni (et al.). Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 4


    Microbial decomposers face large stoichiometric imbalances when feeding on nutrient-poor plant residues. To meet the challenges of nutrient limitation, microorganisms might: (i) allocate less carbon (C) to growth vs. respiration or excretion (i.e., flexible C-use efficiency, CUE), (ii) produce extracellular enzymes to target compounds that supply the most limiting element, (iii) modify their cellular composition according to the external nutrient availability, and (iv) preferentially retain nutrients at senescence. These four resource use modes can have different consequences on the litter C and nitrogen (N) dynamics-modes that selectively remove C from the system can reduce C storage in soil, whereas modes that delay C mineralization and increase internal N recycling could promote storage of C and N. Since we do not know which modes are dominant in litter decomposers, we cannot predict the fate of C and N released from plant residues, in particular under conditions of microbial nutrient limitation. To address this question, we developed a process-based model of litter decomposition in which these four resource use modes were implemented. We then parameterized the model using similar to 80 litter decomposition datasets spanning a broad range of litter qualities. The calibrated model variants were able to capture most of the variability in litter C, N, and lignin fractions during decomposition regardless of which modes were included. This suggests that different modes can lead to similar litter decomposition trajectories (thanks to the multiple alternative resource acquisition pathways), and that identification of dominant modes is not possible using standard litter decomposition data (an equifinality problem). Our results thus point to the need of exploring microbial adaptations to nutrient limitation with empirical estimates of microbial traits and to develop models flexible enough to consider a range of hypothesized microbial responses.

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  • Intracellular Storage Reduces Stoichiometric Imbalances in Soil Microbial Biomass - A Theoretical Exploration

    2021. Stefano Manzoni (et al.). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9


    Microbial intracellular storage is key to defining microbial resource use strategies and could contribute to carbon (C) and nutrient cycling. However, little attention has been devoted to the role of intracellular storage in soil processes, in particular from a theoretical perspective. Here we fill this gap by integrating intracellular storage dynamics into a microbially explicit soil C and nutrient cycling model. Two ecologically relevant modes of storage are considered: reserve storage, in which elements are routed to a storage compartment in proportion to their uptake rate, and surplus storage, in which elements in excess of microbial stoichiometric requirements are stored and limiting elements are remobilized from storage to fuel growth and microbial maintenance. Our aim is to explore with this model how these different storage modes affect the retention of C and nutrients in active microbial biomass under idealized conditions mimicking a substrate pulse experiment. As a case study, we describe C and phosphorus (P) dynamics using literature data to estimate model parameters. Both storage modes enhance the retention of elements in microbial biomass, but the surplus storage mode is more effective to selectively store or remobilize C and nutrients according to microbial needs. Enhancement of microbial growth by both storage modes is largest when the substrate C:nutrient ratio is high (causing nutrient limitation after substrate addition) and the amount of added substrate is large. Moreover, storage increases biomass nutrient retention and growth more effectively when resources are supplied in a few large pulses compared to several smaller pulses (mimicking a nearly constant supply), which suggests storage to be particularly relevant in highly dynamic soil microhabitats. Overall, our results indicate that storage dynamics are most important under conditions of strong stoichiometric imbalance and may be of high ecological relevance in soil environments experiencing large variations in C and nutrient supply.

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  • Microbial storage and its implications for soil ecology

    2021. Kyle Mason-Jones (et al.). The ISME Journal


    Organisms throughout the tree of life accumulate chemical resources, in particular forms or compartments, to secure their availability for future use. Here we review microbial storage and its ecological significance by assembling several rich but disconnected lines of research in microbiology, biogeochemistry, and the ecology of macroscopic organisms. Evidence is drawn from various systems, but we pay particular attention to soils, where microorganisms play crucial roles in global element cycles. An assembly of genus-level data demonstrates the likely prevalence of storage traits in soil. We provide a theoretical basis for microbial storage ecology by distinguishing a spectrum of storage strategies ranging from surplus storage (storage of abundant resources that are not immediately required) to reserve storage (storage of limited resources at the cost of other metabolic functions). This distinction highlights that microorganisms can invest in storage at times of surplus and under conditions of scarcity. We then align storage with trait-based microbial life-history strategies, leading to the hypothesis that ruderal species, which are adapted to disturbance, rely less on storage than microorganisms adapted to stress or high competition. We explore the implications of storage for soil biogeochemistry, microbial biomass, and element transformations and present a process-based model of intracellular carbon storage. Our model indicates that storage can mitigate against stoichiometric imbalances, thereby enhancing biomass growth and resource-use efficiency in the face of unbalanced resources. Given the central roles of microbes in biogeochemical cycles, we propose that microbial storage may be influential on macroscopic scales, from carbon cycling to ecosystem stability.

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  • Leveraging energy flows to quantify microbial traits in soils

    2021. Arjun Chakrawal, Anke M. Herrmann, Stefano Manzoni. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 155


    Heat dissipation from organic matter decomposition is a well-recognized proxy for microbial activity in soils, but only a few modeling studies have used heat signals to quantify microbial traits such as maximum substrate uptake rate, specific growth rate, mortality rate, and growth efficiency. In this contribution, a hierarchy of coupled mass-energy balance models is proposed to estimate microbial traits encoded in model parameters using heat dissipation and respiration data from glucose induced microbial activity. Moreover, the models are used to explain the observed variability in calorespirometric ratios (CR)-the ratio of heat dissipation to respiration rate. We parametrized four model variants using heat dissipation and respiration rates measured in an isothermal calorimeter during the lag-phase only or during the whole growth-phase. The four variants are referred to as: (i) complex physiological model, (ii) simplified physiological model, (iii) lag-phase model, and (iv) growth-phase model. Model parameters were determined using three combinations of data: A) only the heat dissipation rate, B) only the respiration rate, and C) both heat dissipation and respiration rates. We assumed that the 'best' parameter estimates were those obtained when using all the data (i.e., option C). All model variants were able to fit the observed heat dissipation and respiration rates. The parameters estimated using only heat dissipation data were similar to the 'best' estimates compared to using only respiration rate data, suggesting that the observed heat dissipation rate can be used to constrain microbial models and estimate microbial traits. However, the observed variability in CR was not well captured by some model variants such as the simplified physiological model, in contrast to the lag- and growth-phase model that predicted CR well. This suggests that CR can be used to scrutinize how well metabolic processes are represented in decomposition models.

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  • Plant evolution along the 'fast-slow' growth economics spectrum under altered precipitation regimes

    2021. Magnus Lindh, Stefano Manzoni. Ecological Modelling 448


    Plants have evolved different strategies to withstand drought. In general, these strategies can be defined along a plant economics spectrum, which classifies plants depending on whether their growth rate is fast or slow, where fast growth is associated with high mortality, high water use, and high sensitivity to drought. Which strategy along this economy spectrum will be selected under different precipitation regimes is an open question. We address this question with a minimal soil-plant model in which a single plant economy trait related to growth rate characterizes the plant strategy. This generic and dimensionless trait influences both recruitment and mortality, but not background mortality. We explore the evolution of this trait by quantifying its effects on birth, mortality, and transpiration rates. Furthermore, we explore the influence of direct plant density dependence acting on recruitment and mortality, in addition to the indirect density dependence caused by plant feedback on soil water content. We show that: (1) Increasingly fast-growing plants always evolve under increasing background mortality. (2) When soil water only depends on plant density and is independent of precipitation and abiotic water losses, the strategy minimizing soil water content is an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS); i.e., the evolutionary outcome is a tragedy of the commons (Hardin, 1968). (3) When precipitation, abiotic water losses and trait dependent transpiration determine soil water content, the ESS lies between the strategy maximizing plant density and that minimizing soil water content; i.e., no tragedy of the commons occurs. (4) With a deterministic precipitation model and density dependence acting directly only on recruitment, higher precipitation promotes the evolution of faster plants. The opposite result is found when density dependence is acting directly only on mortality. (5) Similar trends in the economy trait are observed when forcing the model with stochastic precipitation events.

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  • Floods, soil and food – Interactions between water management and rice production within An Giang province, Vietnam

    2021. John Livsey (et al.). Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 320


    Rapid intensification of Vietnamese rice production has had a positive effect on the nation's food production and economy. However, the sustainability of intensive rice production is increasingly being questioned within Vietnam, particularly in major agricultural provinces such as An Giang. The construction of high dykes within this province, which allow for complete regulation of water onto rice fields, has enabled farmers to grow up to three rice crops per year. However, the profitability of producing three crops is rapidly decreasing as farmers increase their use of chemical fertilizer inputs and pesticides. Increased fertilizer inputs are partly used to replace natural flood-borne, nutrient-rich sediment inputs that have been inhibited by the dykes, but farmers believe that despite this, soil health within the dyke system is degrading. However, the effects of the dykes on soil properties have not been tested. Therefore, a sampling campaign was conducted to assess differences in soil properties caused by the construction of dykes. The results show that, under present fertilization practices, although dykes may inhibit flood-borne sediments, this does not lead to a systematic reduction in nutrients that typically limit rice growth within areas producing three crops per year. Concentrations of total nitrogen, available phosphorous, and both total and available potassium, and pH were higher in the surface layer of soils of three crop areas when compared to two crop areas. This suggests that yield declines may be caused by other factors related to the construction of dykes and the use of chemical inputs, and that care should be taken when attempting to maintain crop yields. Attempting to compensate for yield declines by increasing fertilizer inputs may ultimately have negative effects on yields.

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  • The mechanisms underpinning microbial resilience to drying and rewetting - A model analysis

    2021. Albert C. Brangari, Stefano Manzoni, Johannes Rousk. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 162


    Soil moisture is one of the most important factors controlling the activity and diversity of soil microorganisms. Soils exposed to pronounced cycles of drying and rewetting (D/RW) exhibit disconnected patterns in microbial growth and respiration at RW. These patterns differ depending on the preceding soil moisture history, leading to contrasting amounts of carbon retained in the soil as biomass versus that respired as CO2. The mechanisms underlying these microbially-induced dynamics are still unclear. In this work, we used the process-based soil microbial model EcoSMMARTS to offer candidate explanations for: i) how soil moisture can shape the structure of microbial communities, ii) how soil moisture history affects the responses during D/RW, iii) what microbial mechanisms control the shape, intensity and duration of these responses, and iv) what carbon sources sustain the increased biogeochemical rates after RW. We first evaluated the response to D/RW in bacterial communities previously exposed to two different stress histories (‘moderate’ vs ‘severe’ soil moisture regimes). We found that both the history of soil moisture and the harshness of the dry period preceding the rewetting shaped the structure and physiology of microbial communities. The characteristics of these communities determined the harshness experienced and the nature of the responses to RW obtained. Modelled communities exposed to extended severe conditions showed a resilient response to D/RW, whereas those exposed to moderate environments exhibited a more sensitive response. We then interchanged the soil moisture regimes and found that the progressive adaptation of microbial physiology and structure to new environmental conditions resulted in a switch in the response patterns. These microbial changes also determined the contribution of biomass synthesis, osmoregulation, mineralization by cell residues, and disruption of soil aggregates to CO2 emissions.

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  • Substrate spatial heterogeneity reduces soil microbial activity

    2021. Andong Shi (et al.). Soil Biology and Biochemistry 152


    Soil heterogeneity influences microbial access to substrates and creates habitats varying in substrate concentrations, thus leading to local variations in carbon (C) dynamics. Based on theoretical considerations, we expected that higher heterogeneity would decrease microbial activity. To test this hypothesis, we modified substrate spatial heterogeneity using 3D-printed cylinders with four compartments (either preventing or allowing diffusion between compartments). The same total amount of glucose (1.5 mg glucose C per cylinder) was added either to one compartment (highest local concentration, 2.0 mg glucose C g(-1) soil, and highest heterogeneity), to two (medium concentration, 1.0 mg glucose C g(-1) soil, and intermediate heterogeneity), or to four compartments (lowest local concentration, 0.5 mg glucose C g(-1) soil, and equivalent to homogeneous conditions). Thus, we experimentally created a gradient of substrate spatial heterogeneity. The 3D cylinders containing soil were transferred into standard calorimetry ampoules and were incubated in isothermal calorimeters to monitor soil heat dissipation rates as a proxy of soil microbial activity over 51 h at 18 degrees C. When diffusion among compartments was prevented, the most heterogeneous treatment showed the lowest heat dissipation rates, despite having the highest local substrate concentration. Compared to homogeneous conditions, the heat dissipation rate from the most heterogeneous treatment was 110% lower at the beginning of the experiment (12.7 mu J g(-1) soil s(-1)) and 50% lower when heat dissipation rates reached a peak (72.6 mu J g(-1) soil s(-1)). Moreover, the peak was delayed by approximately 2 h compared to the most homogeneous treatment. When diffusion among compartments was allowed, the effect of substrate spatial heterogeneity on microbial activity was strongly diminished. Our findings emphasize the influence of substrate spatial heterogeneity on soil microbial dynamics, highlighting the importance of including it in C cycling models for a better understanding of soil C dynamics.

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  • Transcriptomic markers of fungal growth, respiration and carbon-use efficiency

    2021. Fahri A. Hasby (et al.). FEMS Microbiology Letters 368 (15)


    Fungal metabolic carbon acquisition and its subsequent partitioning between biomass production and respiration, i.e. the carbon-use efficiency (CUE), are central parameters in biogeochemical modeling. However, current available techniques for estimating these parameters are all associated with practical and theoretical shortcomings, making assessments unreliable. Gene expression analyses hold the prospect of phenotype prediction by indirect means, providing new opportunities to obtain information about metabolic priorities. We cultured four different fungal isolates (Chalara longipes, Laccaria bicolor, Serpula lacrymans and Trichoderma harzianum) in liquid media with contrasting nitrogen availability and measured growth rates and respiration to calculate CUE. By relating gene expression markers to measured carbon fluxes, we identified genes coding for 1,3-beta-glucan synthase and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase as suitable markers for growth and respiration, respectively, capturing both intraspecific variation as well as within-strain variation dependent on growth medium. A transcript index based on these markers correlated significantly with differences in CUE between the fungal isolates. Our study paves the way for the use of these markers to assess differences in growth, respiration and CUE in natural fungal communities, using metatranscriptomic or the RT-qPCR approach.

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  • Early Growing Season Anomalies in Vegetation Activity Determine the Large-Scale Climate-Vegetation Coupling in Europe

    2021. Minchao Wu (et al.). Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences 126 (5)


    The climate-vegetation coupling exerts a strong control on terrestrial carbon budgets and will affect the future evolution of global climate under continued anthropogenic forcing. Nonetheless, the effects of climatic conditions on such coupling at specific times in the growing season remain poorly understood. We quantify the climate-vegetation coupling in Europe over 1982-2014 at multiple spatial and temporal scales, by decomposing sub-seasonal anomalies of vegetation greenness using a grid-wise definition of the growing season. We base our analysis on long-term vegetation indices (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and two-band Enhanced Vegetation Index), growing conditions (including 2m temperature, downwards surface solar radiation, and root-zone soil moisture), and multiple teleconnection indices that reflect the large-scale climatic conditions over Europe. We find that the large-scale climate-vegetation coupling during the first two months of the growing season largely determines the full-year coupling. The North Atlantic Oscillation and Scandinavian Pattern phases one-to-two months before the start of the growing season are the dominant and contrasting drivers of the early growing season climate-vegetation coupling over large parts of boreal and temperate Europe. The East Atlantic Pattern several months in advance of the growing season exerts a strong control on the temperate belt and the Mediterranean region. The strong role of early growing season anomalies in vegetative activity within the growing season emphasizes the importance of a grid-wise definition of the growing season when studying the large-scale climate-vegetation coupling in Europe. Plain Language Summary Climate and terrestrial ecosystems interact and affect the global climate. Such a climate-vegetation relationship can be effectively quantified by using satellites to measure how leafy and active the vegetation is, and numerical indices reflecting large-scale climate patterns over a given region. Previous studies generally focused on changes in mean vegetation indices over the full growing season, which is usually defined by a fixed range of astronomical months for large geographical regions. This overlooks the fact that growing seasons differ in space and vegetation responds differently to the climate in different growing season periods. In this study, we explore how vegetation and climate interact within a growing season, here defined specifically for the local conditions. We find that there are strong relationships between the large-scale climate patterns and vegetation indices during the first two months of the growing season. Our findings highlight the important role of the vegetation activity during the early growing season for the year-to-year vegetation changes in Europe. Hence, for a better understanding of the climate-vegetation relationships, it is necessary to consider the spatial differences in the growing season, in particular for large geographical regions.

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  • Functional traits of individual varieties as determinants of growth and nitrogen use patterns in mixed stands of willow (Salix spp.)

    2021. Martin Weih (et al.). Forest Ecology and Management 479


    Short rotation plantations of willows (Salix spp.) have high biomass production potential in many parts of the world, and may frequently support ecosystem services related to nutrient cycling. A plantation management enhancing favorable environmental impacts that are conducive to maintaining ecosystem services is a main challenge in establishing sustainable biomass production systems. There is evidence supporting the hypothesis that biomass production and nutrient cycling can be increased by supporting ecosystem niche differentiation (complementarity) through enhancing the number of plant species or varieties grown in the stand. However, the specific trait values of the individual components (e.g., varieties) in a mixed community could also be more important than the community diversity per se. We assessed, at community level, the plant trait profiles related to growth and nitrogen (N) use for four different Salix varieties that were taxonomically distinct at species or genotype level ('Björn', 'Jorr', 'Loden', 'Tora') and field-grown in unfertilized plots of pure and mixed commu-nities during one cutting cycle in Central Sweden. The aims were to use elements of functional growth analysis for exploring the mechanistic relationships between various traits related to growth and N use at stand level in our pure and mixed willow communities; and to address two hypotheses related to (i) the effect of diversity level on above-ground traits linked to growth, N uptake efficiency, N productivity and N conservation; and (ii) the influence of individual variety identities on the growth and N use traits observed in a mixture. Diversity level had no significant effect on the traits assessed here, and we thus found no evidence in support of our hypothesis that traits linked to growth, N uptake and use are significantly affected by the diversity level per se. In most but not all cases, the admixing effects on trait values were explained by the effects of the individual variety characteristics assessed in monocultures in combination with their relative share in the respective mixtures. The absence or presence of individual varieties strongly affected community-averaged (stand level) trait values. Therefore, the design of desirable variety mixtures is suggested that combine, for example, the high nutrient conversion efficiency that certain varieties achieve in mixed stands with the specific nutrient acquisition characteristics of other varieties.

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  • Linking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to Research, Newspapers, and Governance

    2021. Anna Scaini (et al.). Frontiers in Environmental Science 9


    Are academic, newspaper and regulatory documents aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SENDAI)? To answer this question, we develop a framework to compare the most commonly occurring keywords across these document types, as well as their use of Sustainable Development Goals and SENDAI keywords. The approach is tested in a case study on the Tagliamento River in the Italian Alps to explore the degree of communication among academia, newspapers and governance. Across the analyzed documents, we found disconnection between academic sources and regulatory documents. Occurrences of SDG-related keywords are positively correlated in regulatory documents and newspapers (r = 0.6), and in academic literature and newspapers (r = 0.38), indicating some degree of agreement. However, no correlation emerges between academic and regulatory documents, indicating a critical gap for communication and understanding between academic research and governance.

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  • Drone-Based Hyperspectral and Thermal Imagery for Quantifying Upland Rice Productivity and Water Use Efficiency after Biochar Application

    2021. Hongxiao Jin (et al.). Remote Sensing 13 (10)


    Miniature hyperspectral and thermal cameras onboard lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) bring new opportunities for monitoring land surface variables at unprecedented fine spatial resolution with acceptable accuracy. This research applies hyperspectral and thermal imagery from a drone to quantify upland rice productivity and water use efficiency (WUE) after biochar application in Costa Rica. The field flights were conducted over two experimental groups with bamboo biochar (BC1) and sugarcane biochar (BC2) amendments and one control (C) group without biochar application. Rice canopy biophysical variables were estimated by inverting a canopy radiative transfer model on hyperspectral reflectance. Variations in gross primary productivity (GPP) and WUE across treatments were estimated using light-use efficiency and WUE models respectively from the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), canopy chlorophyll content (CCC), and evapotranspiration rate. We found that GPP was increased by 41.9 +/- 3.4% in BC1 and 17.5 +/- 3.4% in BC2 versus C, which may be explained by higher soil moisture after biochar application, and consequently significantly higher WUEs by 40.8 +/- 3.5% in BC1 and 13.4 +/- 3.5% in BC2 compared to C. This study demonstrated the use of hyperspectral and thermal imagery from a drone to quantify biochar effects on dry cropland by integrating ground measurements and physical models.

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  • Persistence of soil organic carbon caused by functional complexity

    2020. Johannes Lehmann (et al.). Nature Geoscience 13, 529-534


    Soil organic carbon management has the potential to aid climate change mitigation through drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide. To be effective, such management must account for processes influencing carbon storage and re-emission at different space and time scales. Achieving this requires a conceptual advance in our understanding to link carbon dynamics from the scales at which processes occur to the scales at which decisions are made. Here, we propose that soil carbon persistence can be understood through the lens of decomposers as a result of functional complexity derived from the interplay between spatial and temporal variation of molecular diversity and composition. For example, co-location alone can determine whether a molecule is decomposed, with rapid changes in moisture leading to transport of organic matter and constraining the fitness of the microbial community, while greater molecular diversity may increase the metabolic demand of, and thus potentially limit, decomposition. This conceptual shift accounts for emergent behaviour of the microbial community and would enable soil carbon changes to be predicted without invoking recalcitrant carbon forms that have not been observed experimentally. Functional complexity as a driver of soil carbon persistence suggests soil management should be based on constant care rather than one-time action to lock away carbon in soils. Dynamic interactions between chemical and biological controls govern the stability of soil organic carbon and drive complex, emergent patterns in soil carbon persistence.

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  • Organizing principles for vegetation dynamics

    2020. Oskar Franklin (et al.). Nature plants 6 (5), 444-453


    Plants and vegetation play a critical-but largely unpredictable-role in global environmental changes due to the multitude of contributing processes at widely different spatial and temporal scales. In this Perspective, we explore approaches to master this complexity and improve our ability to predict vegetation dynamics by explicitly taking account of principles that constrain plant and ecosystem behaviour: natural selection, self-organization and entropy maximization. These ideas are increasingly being used in vegetation models, but we argue that their full potential has yet to be realized. We demonstrate the power of natural selection-based optimality principles to predict photosynthetic and carbon allocation responses to multiple environmental drivers, as well as how individual plasticity leads to the predictable self-organization of forest canopies. We show how models of natural selection acting on a few key traits can generate realistic plant communities and how entropy maximization can identify the most probable outcomes of community dynamics in space- and time-varying environments. Finally, we present a roadmap indicating how these principles could be combined in a new generation of models with stronger theoretical foundations and an improved capacity to predict complex vegetation responses to environmental change. Integrating natural selection and other organizing principles into next-generation vegetation models could render them more theoretically sound and useful for earth system applications and modelling climate impacts.

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  • A plant-microbe interaction framework explaining nutrient effects on primary production

    2018. P. T. Capek (et al.). Nature Ecology & Evolution 2 (10), 1588-1596


    In most terrestrial ecosystems, plant growth is limited by nitrogen and phosphorus. Adding either nutrient to soil usually affects primary production, but their effects can be positive or negative. Here we provide a general stoichiometric framework for interpreting these contrasting effects. First, we identify nitrogen and phosphorus limitations on plants and soil microorganisms using their respective nitrogen to phosphorus critical ratios. Second, we use these ratios to show how soil microorganisms mediate the response of primary production to limiting and non-limiting nutrient addition along a wide gradient of soil nutrient availability. Using a meta-analysis of 51 factorial nitrogen-phosphorus fertilization experiments conducted across multiple ecosystems, we demonstrate that the response of primary production to nitrogen and phosphorus additions is accurately predicted by our stoichiometric framework. The only pattern that could not be predicted by our original framework suggests that nitrogen has not only a structural function in growing organisms, but also a key role in promoting plant and microbial nutrient acquisition. We conclude that this stoichiometric framework offers the most parsimonious way to interpret contrasting and, until now, unresolved responses of primary production to nutrient addition in terrestrial ecosystems.

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