Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses

Morriën, W.E.; Hannula, S.E.; Snoek, L.B.; Helmsing, N.R.; Zweers, Hans; Hollander, M. de; Soto, Raquel Luján; Bouffaud, Marie Lara; Buée, M.; Dimmers, W.J.; Duyts, Henk; Geisen, Stefan; Girlanda, Mariangela; Griffiths, R.I.; Jorgensen, H.B.; Jensen, J.; Plassart, P.; Redecker, Dirk; Schmelz, R.M.; Schmidt, Olaf; Thomson, Bruce C.; Tisserant, Emilie; Uroz, Stephane; Winding, Anne; Bailey, M.J.; Bonkowski, M.; Faber, J.H.; Martin, F.; Lemanceau, Philippe; Boer, W. de; Veen, J.A. van; Putten, W.H. van der


Soil organisms have an important role in aboveground community dynamics and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial ecosystems. However, most studies have considered soil biota as a black box or focussed on specific groups, whereas little is known about entire soil networks. Here we show that during the course of nature restoration on abandoned arable land a compositional shift in soil biota, preceded by tightening of the belowground networks, corresponds with enhanced efficiency of carbon uptake. In mid- and long-term abandoned field soil, carbon uptake by fungi increases without an increase in fungal biomass or shift in bacterial-to-fungal ratio. The implication of our findings is that during nature restoration the efficiency of nutrient cycling and carbon uptake can increase by a shift in fungal composition and/or fungal activity. Therefore, we propose that relationships between soil food web structure and carbon cycling in soils need to be reconsidered.