How Soil Fungus Changes with Land Use and Phosphorus Levels

Jenn Hoskins
22nd April, 2024

How Soil Fungus Changes with Land Use and Phosphorus Levels

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In northeastern China, converting cropland to grassland improves soil health
  • Grasslands support more diverse soil fungi than croplands, aiding nutrient cycling
  • Changes in soil fungi due to land conversion affect plant-available phosphorus
Understanding the health of soil and its capacity to support plant life is crucial for maintaining ecosystems and agricultural productivity. A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences[1] has shed light on how converting cropland to grassland affects soil health, specifically looking at fungal communities and phosphorus availability in saline-alkali soils of northeastern China. This research is particularly important because phosphorus is a vital nutrient for plants, and its availability can significantly influence ecosystem dynamics. The study investigated the effects of land use changes from maize cropland to different types of grasslands: alfalfa, Leymus chinensis, and natural restored grasslands. Researchers focused on fungal diversity and phosphorus fractions, including Olsen-P, which is a measure of the phosphorus available for plants, and inorganic phosphorus (Pi), which refers to phosphorus that is not part of living organisms and is found in soil minerals and salts. Previous research has demonstrated that fungi, especially arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), play a pivotal role in soil nutrient cycling, particularly phosphorus[2]. AMF form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, enhancing nutrient uptake. The study in Inner Mongolia, North China, found that overgrazing decreased mycorrhizal colonization in certain grass species, which could imply a decline in soil quality[2]. This finding is important as it suggests that land management practices can influence soil fungal communities and, by extension, soil health. The research on post-agricultural oak forests in Belgium and Denmark showed that over time, there is a shift from inorganic to organic phosphorus fractions with forest development[3]. This shift has implications for the availability of phosphorus to plants and underscores the importance of organic matter in maintaining soil fertility. Similarly, a study on the conversion of rainforests to rubber plantations in Southern China revealed that such land use changes negatively impacted soil microorganisms and the associated enzyme activities, leading to alterations in soil phosphorus fractions[4]. The microbial community composition was closely linked to variations in soil phosphorus availability, highlighting the interconnectedness of biological and chemical soil properties. The current study builds upon these earlier findings by examining the link between fungal communities and phosphorus fractions under a specific type of land use change, from cropland to grassland, in a different environment characterized by saline-alkali soils. The researchers found that the conversion to grassland altered both the diversity and composition of soil fungi. These changes in fungal communities were in turn associated with different phosphorus fractions in the soil. The study's methods involved collecting soil samples and analyzing them for fungal DNA to identify the types of fungi present. The researchers also measured the amounts of different phosphorus fractions to see how they changed with land use conversion. By comparing the fungal communities and phosphorus fractions in maize cropland with those in the converted grasslands, the researchers could infer the impact of the land use change on soil health. One key finding was that grasslands, especially those with natural vegetation, supported a more diverse and functionally different fungal community compared to cropland. This diversity is beneficial for soil health because a variety of fungi can contribute to different aspects of nutrient cycling and soil structure. Moreover, the study found that the availability of phosphorus to plants changed with the conversion to grassland. The implications of these findings are significant for land management practices, as they suggest that converting cropland to grassland can improve soil health by enhancing fungal diversity and altering phosphorus dynamics. In summary, the study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences contributes to our understanding of how land use changes affect soil ecosystems. It provides evidence that such conversions can have positive effects on fungal communities and phosphorus availability, which are critical for sustaining plant growth and soil quality. These insights are valuable for informing sustainable land management practices that aim to restore and maintain healthy soil ecosystems.



Main Study

1) Phosphorus fractions affect fungal compositions and functions under land use conversions in saline-alkali soil in northeastern China

Published 20th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Spatio-temporal dynamics of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi associated with glomalin-related soil protein and soil enzymes in different managed semiarid steppes.

3) Four decades of post-agricultural forest development have caused major redistributions of soil phosphorus fractions.

4) Conversion of rainforest into agroforestry and monoculture plantation in China: Consequences for soil phosphorus forms and microbial community.

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