We aimed to understand the effect of mulching (i.e., cutting and leaving the crushed biomass to decompose in situ) on above- and below-ground plant functional traits and whether this practice may be a potential tool for enhancing the phytoremediation of lowland hay meadows. To this aim, we evaluated at the community level seven years of mulching application in a PCBs and HMs soil-polluted Site of National Interest (SIN Brescia-Caffaro) through the analysis of the floristic composition and the above- and below-ground plant traits. We found that the abandonment of agricultural activities led to a marked increase in the soil organic carbon and pH, and the over-imposed mulching additionally induced a slight increase in soil nutrients. Mulching favored the establishment of a productive plant community characterized by a more conservative-resource strategy, a higher biomass development, and lower plasticity through an adaptative convergence between above- and below-ground organs. In particular, the analysis of the root depth distribution highlighted the key role of roots living in the upper soil layer (10 cm). Mulching did not show a significant effect on plant species known to be effective in terms of PCB phytoremediation. However, the mulching application appears to be a promising tool for enhancing the root web that functions as the backbone for the proliferation of microbes devoted to organic contaminants' degradation and selects a two-fold number of plant species known to be metal-tolerant. However, besides these potential positive effects of the mulching application, favoring species with a higher biomass development, in the long term, may lead to a biodiversity reduction and thus to potential consequences also on the diversity of native species important for the phytoremediation.

Mulching in lowland hay meadows drives an adaptive convergence of above- and below-ground traits reducing plasticity and improving biomass: A possible tool for enhancing phytoremediation

Dalle Fratte, Michele
;
Montagnoli, Antonio;Beatrice, Peter;Cerabolini, Bruno Enrico Leone
2022-01-01

Abstract

We aimed to understand the effect of mulching (i.e., cutting and leaving the crushed biomass to decompose in situ) on above- and below-ground plant functional traits and whether this practice may be a potential tool for enhancing the phytoremediation of lowland hay meadows. To this aim, we evaluated at the community level seven years of mulching application in a PCBs and HMs soil-polluted Site of National Interest (SIN Brescia-Caffaro) through the analysis of the floristic composition and the above- and below-ground plant traits. We found that the abandonment of agricultural activities led to a marked increase in the soil organic carbon and pH, and the over-imposed mulching additionally induced a slight increase in soil nutrients. Mulching favored the establishment of a productive plant community characterized by a more conservative-resource strategy, a higher biomass development, and lower plasticity through an adaptative convergence between above- and below-ground organs. In particular, the analysis of the root depth distribution highlighted the key role of roots living in the upper soil layer (10 cm). Mulching did not show a significant effect on plant species known to be effective in terms of PCB phytoremediation. However, the mulching application appears to be a promising tool for enhancing the root web that functions as the backbone for the proliferation of microbes devoted to organic contaminants' degradation and selects a two-fold number of plant species known to be metal-tolerant. However, besides these potential positive effects of the mulching application, favoring species with a higher biomass development, in the long term, may lead to a biodiversity reduction and thus to potential consequences also on the diversity of native species important for the phytoremediation.
2022
2022
PCB; fine-root traits; functional traits; global plant spectrum; heavy metals; leaf economics spectrum; phytoremediation; root economics spectrum
Dalle Fratte, Michele; Montagnoli, Antonio; Anelli, Simone; Armiraglio, Stefano; Beatrice, Peter; Ceriani, Alex; Lipreri, Elia; Miali, Alessio; Nastasio, Paolo; Cerabolini, Bruno Enrico Leone
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11383/2144331
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