Reduced greenhouse gas mitigation potential of no-tillage soils through earthworm activity

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Abstract

Concerns about rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations have spurred the promotion of no-tillage practices as a means to stimulate carbon storage and reduce CO2 emissions in agro-ecosystems. Recent research has ignited debate about the effect of earthworms on the GHG balance of soil. It is unclear how earthworms interact with soil management practices, making long-term predictions on their effect in agro-ecosystems problematic. Here we show, in a unique two-year experiment, that earthworm presence increases the combined cumulative emissions of CO2 and N2O from a simulated no-tillage (NT) system to the same level as a simulated conventional tillage (CT) system. We found no evidence for increased soil C storage in the presence of earthworms. Because NT agriculture stimulates earthworm presence, our results identify a possible biological pathway for the limited potential of no-tillage soils with respect to GHG mitigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13787
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2015

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zero tillage
earthworm
greenhouse gas
mitigation
soil
ecosystem
soil management
carbon sequestration
tillage
management practice
agriculture
prediction
experiment
effect

Cite this

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title = "Reduced greenhouse gas mitigation potential of no-tillage soils through earthworm activity",
abstract = "Concerns about rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations have spurred the promotion of no-tillage practices as a means to stimulate carbon storage and reduce CO2 emissions in agro-ecosystems. Recent research has ignited debate about the effect of earthworms on the GHG balance of soil. It is unclear how earthworms interact with soil management practices, making long-term predictions on their effect in agro-ecosystems problematic. Here we show, in a unique two-year experiment, that earthworm presence increases the combined cumulative emissions of CO2 and N2O from a simulated no-tillage (NT) system to the same level as a simulated conventional tillage (CT) system. We found no evidence for increased soil C storage in the presence of earthworms. Because NT agriculture stimulates earthworm presence, our results identify a possible biological pathway for the limited potential of no-tillage soils with respect to GHG mitigation.",
author = "I.M. Lubbers and {van Groenigen}, K.J. and L. Brussaard and {van Groenigen}, J.W.",
year = "2015",
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day = "4",
doi = "10.1038/srep13787",
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Reduced greenhouse gas mitigation potential of no-tillage soils through earthworm activity. / Lubbers, I.M.; van Groenigen, K.J.; Brussaard, L.; van Groenigen, J.W.

In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 5, 13787, 04.09.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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T1 - Reduced greenhouse gas mitigation potential of no-tillage soils through earthworm activity

AU - Lubbers, I.M.

AU - van Groenigen, K.J.

AU - Brussaard, L.

AU - van Groenigen, J.W.

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AB - Concerns about rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations have spurred the promotion of no-tillage practices as a means to stimulate carbon storage and reduce CO2 emissions in agro-ecosystems. Recent research has ignited debate about the effect of earthworms on the GHG balance of soil. It is unclear how earthworms interact with soil management practices, making long-term predictions on their effect in agro-ecosystems problematic. Here we show, in a unique two-year experiment, that earthworm presence increases the combined cumulative emissions of CO2 and N2O from a simulated no-tillage (NT) system to the same level as a simulated conventional tillage (CT) system. We found no evidence for increased soil C storage in the presence of earthworms. Because NT agriculture stimulates earthworm presence, our results identify a possible biological pathway for the limited potential of no-tillage soils with respect to GHG mitigation.

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