Fertilizer Threatens Grasslands Globally
The world's grasslands are being destabilized by fertilization, according to a paper recently published in the journal Nature. In a study of 41 grassland communities on five continents, researchers found that the presence of fertilizer weakened grassland species diversity.
The researchers surveyed grasslands in countries around the world, such as China, the U.S., Switzerland, Tanzania and Germany, and discovered that grassland communities that had not been managed by humans contained more species. They also had greater species asynchrony, which means that different species thrive at different times so that the grassland produces more consistently over time, resulting in more stable biomass production.
Grasslands, such as this one in the U.S. state of Nebraska, are found on all continents except for Antarctica. They have significant underground biomass and carbon-storing abilities, are also home to multitudes of unique species, and provide valuable ecosystem services.
However, the researchers found exposure to fertilizer reduced species asynchrony, leading to less production over time.
Lead researcher Yann Hautier said grasslands are of global importance due to the many ecosystem services they provide.
"Not only are grasslands very beautiful, the also supply food for domestic livestock, maintain nutrient cycling, store carbon and water, purify soil and water, regulate the weather and climate, protect against disasters such as landslides and provide pollination," he said.
Read more at ENN affiliate Mongabay.com.
Nebraskan grassland image via Shutterstock.