Short-term effects of re-grazing on soil microorganisms and biogeochemistry at a long-term abandoned alpine pasture

Dr Alix Vidal1, Dr. Noelia Garcia-Franco1, Dr. Anne Schucknecht2, Andrea Sierts1, Dr. Andreas Von Heßberg3, Dr. Diana Rocio  Andrade Linares4, Alexander Krämer5, Sarah Fuetterer6, Paul Toechterle2, PD Dr. Martin Wiesmeier1,7, PD Dr. Carsten W.  Mueller1,8, Dr. Michael Dannenmann2

1TU München, Lehrstuhl für Bodenkunde, Freising, Germany, 2Karlsruher Institut für Technologie , Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, 3Universität Bayreuth, Professur für Stürungsökologie, Bayreuth, Germany, 4Helmholtz Zentrum München, Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt, Neuherberg, Germany, 5Umweltplannung und Geoinformatik GbR, , Germany, 6University of applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Faculty of forestry, Freising, Germany, 7Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft, Freising, Germany, 8School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia

Traditionally, grazed alpine pastures have shaped most landscapes of the European Alps for centuries. However, especially steep alpine areas have largely been abandoned since the 1950s, resulting in a fast re-forestation of mountain pastures in the last decades, which is accelerated by climate change. Without grazing by cows, the once highly diverse plant communities are increasingly replaced by grass-dominated communities. Re-grazing is a practicable opportunity to preserve the high species diversity on mountain pastures. However, there is a lack of information on re-grazing effects on soil characteristics. This study aims at investigating effects of re-grazing of a long-term abandoned mountain pasture on soil carbon and nitrogen biochemistry, microbial communities, as well as water quality. In May 2018, we set up a pilot grazing experiment at Brunnenkopfalm (1500-1700 m a.s.l.), abandoned since 1955. Four ha were fenced and a herd of rustic breeds (ca 1/ha) was introduced. Two and five months after the beginning of grazing, we investigated the short-term re-grazing effects, considering grazing-induced heterogeneity. We depicted the faster cycling carbon pool by analysing the salt-extractable organic matter for total organic carbon. We quantified and classified microorganisms using the fumigation-extraction method and the analysis of phospholipid-derived fatty acids. Organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations increased only in intensively grazed areas, contributing insignificantly to the overall area so that concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and nitrate in the draining creek remained low. Re-grazing did not affect the microbial abundance relative to organic carbon, but induced a community shift towards a smaller proportion of fungi compared with bacteria. Overall, re-grazing of pastures had limited effects on soil organic carbon availability and on the microbial community composition, highlighting the resilience of alpine soils to short-term impacts of extensive re-grazing. Our results provide urgently needed knowledge to develop management strategies that preserves alpine pastures from degradation.


Dr. Alix Vidal, born 1989 in Epernay, France

7 ISI-papers with 39 citations, h-index is 4


Professional and academic career

->since 2016 – Research Assistant (Akademischer Ratin auf Zeit), Chair of soil science, Technical University of Munich

->Sep. 2016 – Dr. in Soil science, University Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), France

->2013 – 2016 – Doctoral candidate at UMR Metis, UPMC, France

->2013 – Dipl. Agricultural engineering, Ecole Supérieure d´Agriculture d´Angers, France

->2013 – Dipl. Agricultural engineering, Escola Superior de Agricultura « Luiz de Queiroz », São Paulo, Brazil

->2007-2013 – Study of agricultural engineering, France/Brazil


Research areas

->Soil biogeochemistry

->Biotic factors (litter type and earthworms) controlling soil organic matter decomposition

->Interactions between plant, soil and microorganisms in the rhizosphere

->Influence of organic amendments on soil characteristics

->Use of carbon stable isotope (13C) to trace carbon flows in soils

->Combination of classical quantitative (EA-IRMS, GC-MS, NMR spectroscopy) and spectromicroscopic (NanoSIMS) and imaging techniques (TEM, SEM)


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