“Predicting climate change impacts on the crop microbiome and cascading effects on ecosystem services delivery in agroecosystems” is a Horizon 2020 project which will start in April 2021.
Climate projections show that most of Europe will experience higher levels of warming than the global average. This is particularly worrisome in agroecosystems, where the accelerated pace of climate change and interactions with other direct drivers such as unsustainable land management, directly threatens food production in the context of a growing population.
Below ground soil biodiversity is crucial to maintaining ecosystem function as biodiversity shifts can affect ecosystem multifunctionality. There is great potential in harnessing microbial functions for improving sustainable agricultural production. Microorganisms can also modulate the resistance and resilience of crops to climate change.
Natural climate gradients and in-situ field manipulation experiments are two innovative ways to study the effects of climate change and on the crop-soil-microbiome system, and MICROSERVICES will adopt both approaches in a dual framework. Based on this dual framework, MICROSERVICES’ main goal is to improve the forecasting capacity of the cascading effects of climate change on crop-associated microbial diversity, crop-microbiome interactions, and the agricultural ecosystem services delivered by the microbiome, thereby contributing to a sustainable agriculture, impacting conservation and policy agendas, and raising public awareness of the importance of soil biodiversity for the planet. This goal will be achieved by using Earth Observation based on regional climate models, surveying wheat rhizosphere microbial diversity, crop-microbiome interactions, and ecosystem multifunctionality, establishing an in-situ field experiment to simulate drought condition, employing machine learning algorithms to find correlations and develop a predictive regression model, and promoting strong collaboration between research entities, agriculture stakeholders and policymakers.
MICROSERVICES will mainly focus on wheat cropping systems. Europe is the largest wheat producer accounting for nearly one third of the global wheat production and wheat cultivation is spread across most European biogeoclimatic regions. Wheat cultivation will face various challenges under future climatic conditions and climate resilience of many current wheat cultivars are reportedly declining. MICROSERVICES sees the need to assess region specific effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem multifunctionality across Europe, since different biogeoclimatic regions will be affected differently.