Warming alters energetic structure and function but not resilience of soil food webs

Benjamin Schwarz, Andrew D. Barnes, Madhav P. Thakur, Ulrich Brose, Marcel Ciobanu, Peter B. Reich, Roy L. Rich, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Artur Stefanski, Nico Eisenhauer

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12 Scopus citations


Climate warming is predicted to alter the structure, stability, and functioning of food webs 1-5 . Yet, despite the importance of soil food webs for energy and nutrient turnover in terrestrial ecosystems, the effects of warming on these food webs - particularly in combination with other global change drivers - are largely unknown. Here, we present results from two complementary field experiments that test the interactive effects of warming with forest canopy disturbance and drought on energy flux in boreal-temperate ecotonal forest soil food webs. The first experiment applied a simultaneous above- and belowground warming treatment (ambient, +1.7 °C, +3.4 °C) to closed-canopy and recently clear-cut forest, simulating common forest disturbance 6 . The second experiment crossed warming with a summer drought treatment (-40% rainfall) in the clear-cut habitats. We show that warming reduces energy flux to microbes, while forest canopy disturbance and drought facilitates warming-induced increases in energy flux to higher trophic levels and exacerbates the reduction in energy flux to microbes, respectively. Contrary to expectations, we find no change in whole-network resilience to perturbations, but significant losses in ecosystem functioning. Warming thus interacts with forest disturbance and drought, shaping the energetic structure of soil food webs and threatening the provisioning of multiple ecosystem functions in boreal-temperate ecotonal forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-900
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

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    Schwarz, B., Barnes, A. D., Thakur, M. P., Brose, U., Ciobanu, M., Reich, P. B., Rich, R. L., Rosenbaum, B., Stefanski, A., & Eisenhauer, N. (2017). Warming alters energetic structure and function but not resilience of soil food webs. Nature Climate Change, 7(12), 895-900. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0002-z