Marie Curie Fellowship
Project duration: 
Jun 2014

Soils and the communities within them have a central role in numerous ecosystem processes, including complex interactions with biotic and abiotic factors. 


Soils contain the largest pool of terrestrial carbon therefore they are important for climate predictions, due to their role in the exchange of large amounts of atmospheric CO2 and links with vegetation change. In recent years, the importance of below-ground processes has become clear but this remains an area with many unanswered questions. There is an immense gap in our knowledge about how soil microorganisms interact with climate and how this may impact on ecosystem responses to global change and there may even be ways of mitigating climate change impacts through manipulation of soil microbial processes.

One of the regions that is most at risk from climate change is the Mediterranean-climate region, which is predicted to experience an increase in annual average temperature, by up to 6ºC in summer, and a 30-45% decrease in summer precipitation by the end of this century. This region is a conservation priority as it contains high plant diversity, with almost 20% of global plant species in an area less than 5% of the Earth’s surface, and a high percentage of those species (around 60%) are endemic. Although this ecosystem is already characterised by relatively low precipitation in summer, climate change will likely lead to more extreme drought, of higher frequency and intensity. This could have wide-ranging impacts on both natural and agricultural habitats, such as a loss of biodiversity, land degradation, and potentially eventual desertification.

Any attempt to mitigate these effects will require a thorough understanding of drought impacts on plants and soils and also the complex interactions between the two. Plants are linked with the soil community through root exudates, which are compounds released by roots into the soil that interact with other plants and microorganisms. However our understanding of the mechanisms behind these interactions is incomplete. In this project we aim to acquire a fuller understanding of the mechanisms of plant-soil interactions, the role of root exudates, and the importance of soil communities for ecosystem stability.

  • Efectes de la sequera en les interaccions vegetació-sòl i en l’estabilitat de l’ecosistema