Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).
Litter provides carbon sources and nutrients for biota in ecosystems, this process includes the physical fragmentation of complex molecules in the litter into simpler organic and inorganic compounds that can be mineralized and absorbed by the microbiome and next generation of plant community. Sensitive to the global climate change, litter decomposition can strongly influence local and global biogeochemical cycles, playing an essential role in soil quality and carbon cycling.
During this process, biota (such as bacteria, fungi, protists, nematodes, virus and pathogens) acts as the decomposer controlling the carbon balance by stabilization and respiration. However, species are linked by trophic interactions to species that are above and below them in a food web, and such prey-predator interaction during the decomposition processes hasn’t been fully unraveled. For example, protists, who occupy a central position in soil food-webs, with especially phagotrophic protists being intimately associated with multiple processes in nutrient cycling by feeding on some kind of bacteria and fungi, if there’s alteration change the relative abundance of protists, effects may then be cascaded to the abundance of their prey through chains of prey-predator interactions. Soil biodiversity can be severely threatened by human activities, especially the agricultural settings with the common characteristics of low crop diversity, nutrient runoff from fertilizers and pesticide use, affecting network complexity and the abundance of keystone taxa in soil- and plant-associated communities, with subsequent impacts on ecosystem services. These changes in soil biodiversity can undoubtedly affect host nutrition, behavior, physiology, development, and survival in various ways.
My research focus is to reveal the potential mechanism of prey-predator interaction regulating the litter decomposition in agriculture settings under the context of global climate change by applying modern genomic, metagenomic, and stable isotope probing techniques with eco-statistical modelling approaches. If we can control the process of decomposition by regulating the activities of biota, we can contribute much to the carbon sequestration and mitigate of the impact of climate change on ecosystem.