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The potential impacts of interactions of multiple climate change factors in soil ecosystems have received little attention. Most studies have addressed effects of single factors such as increased temperature or atmospheric CO2 but little is known about how such environmental factors will interact. In the present study we investigate the effects of in situ exposure to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration, increased temperatures and prolonged drought episodes on field communities of Enchytraeidae (Oligochaeta) in a dry heathland (Brandbjerg, Denmark). Increased CO2 had a positive effect on enchytraeid biomass, whereas drought significantly reduced it. Elevated temperature did not result in any detectable effects. No interactions between the three factors were observed. Interestingly, the positive effect of increased CO2 and the negative effect of drought were cancelled out when applied in combination. Thus, in the combined drought and CO2 treatment, and when additionally combined with increased temperature, the total biomass of enchytraeids was similar to those in the ambient plots. The positive effect of increased CO2 seemed to be influenced by season, as the response was most pronounced during summer, and less so in autumn. The impact of the drought was more consistent, with enchytraeids reduced at all sampling occasions. Moreover, the negative effect of drought seemed to depend on the inter-annual variability of precipitation. The year with a dry summer and autumn (2006) showed a stronger impact of drought on the enchytraeids, compared to the year with a wet summer and autumn (2007). Our study emphasises the importance of multi-factorial experimental design as a means to investigate effects of climatic changes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil Biology & Biochemistry
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1958-1966
StatePublished - 2010
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 13


  • Bio systems, Environment and climate
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ID: 4676728