MEX-PhD-4. Soil biodiversity and ecosystem processes for sustainable delivery of key ecosystem services in a Mexican agro-forest frontier

Agro-forest frontiers support diverse land uses: agricultural lands are intertwined with forested lands in a highly dynamic mosaic landscape. These landscapes are commonly found in tropical areas and their land-use diversity implies the presence of multiple stakeholders. Resource management decisions taken by these stakeholders actively drive ecosystem processes, thus affecting the capacity of production and delivery of ecosystem services in such landscape mosaics. Key ecosystem services such as nutrient retention and provision, carbon storage, and erosion control support and regulate supply of other goods and services. This study focuses on the contribution of the (diversity of) the soil biota to ecosystem processes taking place in rangelands in tropical landscape mosaics.

The objective of this research is to analyse the influence of livestock management practices, soil conditions and biota on the delivery of soil-related ecosystem services for multiple beneficiaries in a mosaic rangeland landscape. Specific we aim to answer three questions:

(i) how do different rangelands affect soil conditions, soil biota and ecosystem processes?;

(ii) how do livestock management practices change soil conditions and biota, and what are their consequences for ecosystem processes?;

(iii) how are ecosystem processes and services associated in different rangelands and what are the trade-offs between ecosystem services and among beneficiaries?

We will collect soil samples for chemical and physical analyses and will inventory the soil macrofauna (earthworms), the microbial community (bacteria and fungi) and the microfauna (nematodes), and the root network. Additionally, we will collect information on management practices by interviewing farmers. Samples will be collected in 12 farms, at 3 altitudinal zones and covering the two dominant rangeland types, totalizing 72 sampling locations.