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Soil C cycling and ecosystem processes: effects of plant diversity, plant community composition, N deposition and herbivory on soil C storage dynamics

Final Activity Report Summary - SOIL CARBON STORAGE (Soil C cycling and ecosystem processes: effects of plant diversity, plant community composition, N deposition and herbivory on soil C storage ...)

Our results show that both plant species diversity and plant functional composition can greatly influence the delivery of critical ecosystem services such as primary productivity and soil carbon sequestration in nitrogen-limited grasslands. In particular the simultaneous presence of different plant functional groups in mixed plant communities contributes to enhance primary productivity through different effects on seasonal soil nitrogen supply and use, seasonal soil moisture, root production and the root nitrogen pool to maximise aboveground productivity. We also show that soil carbon sequestration is strongly positively affected by species diversity and by the presence of particular plant functional groups in the plant community (i.e. C4 grasses and legumes).

These results may have important implications for the management of grasslands to maximise hay yields (i.e. bio-fuels production) and soil carbon sequestration. Results of this research study led to a United States patent entitled 'Compositions and methods for sequestering carbon'. IPC8 Class: AA01G100FI, USPC Class: 47 581R. Other work carried out at Lancaster, and based on samples taken from the Park Grass experiment at Rothamsted (the longest running grassland experiment in the world) has shown that that soil organic C sequestration increases if grassland soils are regularly limed, which although based on one site has potentially significant implications for the management of grassland for ecosystem services.