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Antarctic soil researcher awarded prestigious 2013 Tyler Environmental Prize
Date:3/16/2013

Kansas, and, most recently, New York City's Central Park.

Working with colleagues around the world, Wall plans for the first time to map the biodiversity in soils and relate it to above-ground diversity to examine what connections exist.

"We assume that if we're in the Amazon and we have great biodiversity above ground, we're going to have great biodiversity below-ground. But that isn't necessarily so," explained Wall. "This will help us to identify the hotspots of biological diversity so we can be savvy about agriculture, development and habitat restoration."

Changing Soil and Changing Climate

Wall's work has shown that slight changes to temperature or moisture of soil can have dramatic impacts on relationships between species in soil even to the point of altering which bacteria or invertebrates dominate soil ecosystems. These shifts, she explains, have far-reaching reverberations in all climates.

"The soil of the prairies of Kansas, for example, will be fundamentally altered by climate change and that will most likely mean that different types of plants will grow there," said Wall. "In turn, these new types of plants will further change life in soil. This process isn't limited to Kansas; it will happen everywhere."

Changes in the community of organisms living in soil also affect how carbon is transferred and stored in the environment. Invertebrates and bacteria are responsible for processing and collecting carbon from the environment from sources like dead leaves and plant roots and making nutrients available for plants. Soil stores more carbon than the air and trees combined, but when the balance of invertebrates and bacteria in soil is altered, the ability to store carbon is disrupted.

"Climate change drives soil change and soil change drives climate change," explained Wall. "These issues are deeply intertwined and research must look at climate and soil biodiversity together."


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Contact: Nick Seaver
nseaver@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5727
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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