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New science on climate change’s impact on Australia’s soils

 

New science on climate change’s impact on Australia’s soils


Monday 8 May 2017
 

TERN’s research infrastructure and sample collections are being used to investigate how climate change driven changes in aridity and plant communities will impact soil nutrient cycles and microorganisms. The research is set to provide vital information for improved agricultural and environmental management.
Dr Mark Farrell of CSIRO is using vegetation samples collected by the TERN AusPlots program (below) along the ATN’s Transect for Environmental Monitoring and Decision-making (above) to help investigate how changes in aridity and plant communities as a result of climate change are expected to impact on soil nutrient cycles and microorganisms

The extensive sample collections and research infrastructure provided by TERN are empowering new science across Australia. With over 580 One-hectare sites already surveyed by TERN via its AusPlots and Australian Transect Network (ATN) facilities, thousands of soil and vegetation samples are now openly available to interested researchers, who continue to take advantage of this powerful resource.

Dr Mark Farrell, a research scientist in CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food team, is another Australian scientist taking advantage of these fantastic resources.  Mark is using vegetation samples collected by the TERN AusPlots program along the ATN’s Transect for Environmental Monitoring and Decision-making (TREND) to help investigate how changes in aridity and plant communities as a result of climate change are expected to impact on soil nutrient cycles and microorganisms.

“Using an established bioclimatic transect and having access to such a rich sample and data collection provided by TERN are making my work significantly more cost and time efficient,” says Mark, a CSIRO Julius Career Award recipient.

“Easy access to an already laid out research transect combined with the availability of vegetation data from almost 50 sites were the deciding factors in basing my research along the TREND. These resources mean that I wasn’t starting from scratch and have been able to quickly progress my work.”

Mark’s research will help answer some major questions on the linkages between terrestrial nitrogen and carbon and how these will be impacted by climate change.

“Climate change affects soil function by changing biogeochemical processes and the microorganisms that control them,” says Mark. “There are also indirect impacts caused by shifts in plant species that change the chemistry of inputs and foster different microbial communities.”

Importantly, the TERN research sites Mark is using to investigate these changes are located across a broad spectrum of land uses, including grazing rangelands and conservation reserves. By generating knowledge on the fundamental processes governing soil organic matter and nutrient cycling, it is hoped that the research will ultimately be used to predict how soils in agricultural landscapes may change over time.

Mark’s research is ongoing and he expects to be publishing his results towards the end of the 2017. Keep an eye out in upcoming TERN newsletters for more news on his research and if you are interested in applying to use AusPlots and ATN samples please contact Sally O’Neill.

TERN's Australian Transect Network (ATN) comprises seven major subcontinental transects that span biomes and traverse major rainfall, temperature and land-use gradients from the coast to inland areas

 

TERN AusPlots has collected environmental data  from over 500 ecosystem surveillance plots across Australia’s rangeland and tall forest ecosystems. In addition to data, soil and vegetations samples are also openly accessible to interested researchers