Change in grasshopper's diet `may affect how soil releases CO2`
Washington, June 16 (ANI): A grasshopper's change in diet to high-energy carbohydrates while it is being hunted by spiders may affect the way soil releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, new research has revealed.
Grasshoppers like to munch on nitrogen-rich grass because it stimulates their growth and reproduction.
But when spiders enter the picture, grasshoppers cope with the stress from fear of predation by shifting to carbohydrate-rich plants, setting in motion dynamic changes to the ecosystem that they inhabit, scientists have found.
"Under stressful conditions they go to different parts of the "grocery store" and choose different foods, changing the makeup of the plant community," Oswald Schmitz, a co-author of the paper and an ecologist at Yale University, said.
The high-energy, carbohydrate diet also tilts a grasshopper's body chemistry towards carbon at the expense of nitrogen.
So when a grasshopper dies, its carcass breaks down more slowly, thus depriving the soil of high-quality fertilizer and slowing the decomposition of uneaten plants.
"This study casts a new light on the importance of predation in natural communities," Saran Twombly, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research, said.
"A clever suite of experiments shows that the dark hand of predation extends all the way from altering what prey eat to the nutrients their decomposing bodies contribute to soil," Twombly said.
Microbes in the soil require a lot of nitrogen to function and to produce the enzymes that break down the organic matter.
"It only takes a slight change in the chemical composition of that animal biomass to fundamentally alter how much carbon dioxide the microbial pool is releasing to the atmosphere while it is decomposing plant organic matter," Schmitz said.
"This shows that animals could potentially have huge effects on the global carbon balance because they're changing the way microbes respire organic matter," he said.
The researchers have found that the rate at which the organic matter of leaves decomposed increased between 60 percent and 200 percent in stress-free conditions relative to stressed conditions, which they consider "huge."
"Climate and litter quality are considered the main controls on organic-matter decomposition, but we show that aboveground predators change how soil microbes break down organic matter," Mark Bradford, a co-author of the study and also an ecologist at Yale, said.
For the study, the researchers took soil from the field, put it into test tubes and ground up grasshopper carcasses obtained from environments either with or without grasshopper predators.
They then sprinkled the powder atop the soil, where the microbes digested it.
When the grasshopper carcasses were completely decomposed, the researchers added leaf litter and measured the rate of leaf-litter decomposition.
The experiment was then replicated in the field at the Yale Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut.
"It was a two-stage process where the grasshoppers were used to prime the soil, then we measured the consequences of that priming," Schmitz said.
The effect of animals on ecosystems is disproportionately larger than their biomass would suggest.
"Traditionally people thought that animals had no important role in recycling of organic matter, because their biomass is relatively small compared to the plant material that's entering ecosystems," Schmitz said.
"We need to pay more attention to the role of animals, however. In an era of biodiversity loss we're losing many top predators and larger herbivores from ecosystems," he said,
The research is published in the journal Science. (ANI)
Read More: National Book Trust | National Literacy Mission | Saran | National Physical Laboratory | R K Puram (main) | Ram Saran Majra | Science College | Lic Division | Veterinary Science College | Science Institute Lsg So | High Forest | Cherambadi Tea Division | Calicut Arts & Science College | Matha Forest | Forest Bazar | Kohima Science College | K.r.high School | Climate Change | Mark Zuckerberg | Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga
7 ROB ATM MACHINE FILLED WITH CASH
June 18, 2013 at 8:35 PM
SALWA JUDUM SPO BRUTALLY BEATEN UP BY POLICE OFFICER (NNIS SPECIAL)
June 18, 2013 at 8:25 PM
BJP SAYS, IT IS SETTING THE AGENDA FIRST FOR DELHI POLLS
June 18, 2013 at 8:19 PM