Polycultures store more soil carbon (journal)
Microbial spatial footprint as a driver of soil carbon stabilization
Increasing the potential of soil to store carbon (C) is an acknowledged strategy for capturing atmospheric CO2. Yet experimental evidence often fails to support anticipated C gains. Here, authors demonstrate for the first time that plant-stimulated soil pore formation appears to be a major, hitherto unrecognized, determinant of whether new C inputs are stored or lost. Unlike monocultures, diverse plant communities favor the development of 30–150 µm pores. Such pores are the micro-environments associated with higher enzyme activities, and greater abundance of such pores translates into a greater spatial footprint that microorganisms make on the soil and consequently soil C storage capacity.