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Research platform in dunes opened

With the sowing of the last experimental plot, new research platform TERRA-Dunes was officially opened on 29 June 2018. The experiment has a fundamental scientific character, but has important practical applications in nature restoration.

The TERRA-Dunes facility is a field research platform aimed at examining how soil biota impacts functioning and successional development of dune ecosystems. It is a joint research effort of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and the Institute of Biology. Nadia Soudzilovskaia (CML) and Martijn Bezemer (IBL) are leading this challenging innovative project. The institutes work together with water company and nature manager Dunea, which owns the terrain where the experiments will take place.

Article continues after photo report.

Research leader Nadia Soudzilovskaia explains the experimental setup.
Guests on their way to experimental plots in Meijendel dunes.
Faculty of Science dean Geert de Snoo and Harrie van der Hagen, senior ecologist at Dunea, sow in the last experimental plot.
Finishing touches on the last plot.
Left to right: Wim Drossaert – CEO Dunea, Martijn Bezemer, Harrie van der Hagen senior ecologist at Dunea, Nadia Soudzilovskaia, Geert de Snoo, Riccardo Mancinelli PhD student at CML closely involved into the experiment, Marie Duhamel post doc researcher at IBL closely involved into the experiment

The role of soil

Dunes represent a mosaic of ecosystems at distinct successional stages – primary dunes, grasslands, and ultimately forest. This mosaic of landscapes is what makes dunes attractive for tourists and what sustains a high level of biodiversity – i.e. the diversity of living organisms is supported by a mosaic of habitats. Soil is known to be an important factor controlling the spatial and temporal development of ecosystems. However the mechanisms through which soils impact processes in above-ground communities are poorly understood.

Unique experiment

In this research the scientists aim to disentangle the roles of chemical and mechanical properties of soil versus the role of the microbial composition of soil in controlling the above-ground processes. In a full factorial design, they transplant soils from different successional stages and introduce different types of soil communities to the same, previously degraded, dune area. Through the years they will examine how ecosystem development will be affected by distinct combinations of biotic and abiotic conditions created within this unique experiment.

Restoration of nature

While the research has a fundamental scientific character, it has important practical applications. Restoration of nature in degraded areas is difficult. Manipulating the plant community is often not enough for such aims. Outcomes of the research will provide practical solutions for the use of soil in ecosystem restoration.This knowledge will make it possible to efficiently protect biodiversity of organisms and landscapes in dunes.

Background information about this research: Dunea and Leiden University in search of dune restoration

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