Grassland soil today experiences increased nutrient inputs, which have dramatic impacts on biodiversity. To help understand this issue, researchers at the University of Oklahoma are leading the American contribution to a global study that aims to measure the impact of increased nutrients on soil microbial biodiversity and the ecosystem-level functions for grasslands around the world.
“Human activities are increasing the amount of biologically limiting nutrients, such nitrogen and phosphorus, flowing into ecosystems on every continent, and this increased nutrient supply is causing dramatic impacts such as biodiversity loss,” said Jizhong Zhou, a George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Presidential Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology in the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences at OU. “Microbes comprise most of the biodiversity on earth, and the diversity of microbes in the soil is a critical link in maintaining the health of our ecosystems. However, we have little understanding of how alteration of global nutrient supplies is affecting soil microbial biodiversity.”
Zhou is the director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics and the principal investigator of this five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation. The global collaboration between the United States and China is supported by a total combined equivalent of nearly $2.5 million to advance a global understanding of soil nutrients’ impact on microbial diversity to better understand, predict and mitigate the impacts.