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Soil-animal Biomass Declining from Climate Change and Cultivation

Scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig say the biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. They explain that while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. The researchers warn in the trade journal eLife that even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all the negative consequences of climate change, which challenges soil animals with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. Reduced biomass of these animals reduces their decomposition performance, and this means that nutrient recycling is slowed down. Although organically farmed ecosystems are generally deemed less susceptible to climatic disturbances, “not everything that threatens to break down as a result of warming can be saved by environmentally friendly land use,” note the scientists.