Permanent grassland ecosystems provide multi-functional services. Besides feed and food production, they are of primary importance for conservation of above- and belowground biodiversity, and mitigation of climate change through enhanced sequestration of carbon and nutrients. The current European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and European Habitats Directive for 2014 to 2020 point towards an increased importance of permanent and extensively managed grassland systems (PEGS). The agro-ecological scheme of PEGS primarily aims at reducing fertilizer input and at the same time enhancing above- and below-ground biodiversity to profit from their support functions, while decreases in food and feed provision are only accepted to a certain extent. PEGS ideally complement intensively managed grasslands, which mainly satisfy the increasing global demand for feed and food. PEGS thus may serve as a refuge for biodiversity, a typical feature for this habitat. The practicable ratio of PEGS versus intensively managed grasslands will very much depend on the productivity of PEGS and their effectiveness in promoting biodiversity. Therefore, it is of prime importance to understand the interactions of above- and below-ground biodiversity of PEGS and its ecosystem services. This knowledge gain is vital to optimally manage PEGS for ideal and sustainable productivity and biodiversity promotion.
The overall aim of BIOINVENT is to deliver science-based understanding of how soil microbial biodiversity and its functional potential is promoted by the innovative agro-ecological scheme of PEGS at a farm-site European scale to derive a robust and generic inventory approach applicable across Europe. In order to trace effects of grassland management (i.e., fertilisation, plant diversity) on microbial belowground processes at a European scale, a wide range of agronomic and ecological factors have to be considered as drivers of soil microbial diversity and functioning. Therefore, we will investigate whether grassland management is a stronger regulator of soil microbial diversity than agro-ecological distinctions across Europe. We will also investigate if PEGS select for those microbial groups showing a stronger functional adaptation to below-ground resource limitation than more intensively managed grassland systems.