Loss of plant diversity can have a negative impact on carbon sequestration

2023-11-20 Lüneburg. Ecologist Prof. Dr. Sylvia Haider from Leuphana University Lüneburg is co-author of an international study on the relationship between plant diversity in grasslands and carbon sequestration in soils. The results, recently published in the renowned journal Nature Communications, show that there is a link between diversity and the chemical composition of vegetation. The researchers were able to prove that plant biomass is produced in more species-rich environments, which decomposes more slowly after dying in the soil. As a result, more carbon is stored in the soil. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in dry and hot climate zones.

A third of the world's terrestrial carbon stock is stored in grassland. The new global study suggests that this stock could decrease if plant biodiversity declines. The result was not expected, as it was previously assumed that carbon storage in the soil mainly depends on the amount of plant biomass introduced into the soil. However, the new study shows that the quality of the organic matter also plays an important role, as vegetation with few species apparently decomposes more quickly in the soil.

The study is based on data from 84 grasslands on a total of six continents. Study leader Marie Spohn from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and 29 other researchers from around the world have significantly expanded our understanding of how carbon storage works in grasslands and how it is linked to biodiversity and climate. Leuphana professor Sylvia Haider examined an area in Bad Lauchstädt, south of Halle, for the study. The data collected annually since 2015 and her interpretation of the results have been incorporated into the study.

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About the person:
Sylvia Haider has been Professor of Vegetation Ecology and Biodiversity Research at Leuphana University Lüneburg since March 2023. Her current research topics include the interactions between tree species diversity and ecosystem functions as well as the effects of climate-induced range shifts.

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