, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 131-139
Date: 12 May 2009

Biotechnology, environmental forcing, and unintended trophic cascades

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A long ongoing discussion between scientists and policy decision-makers seems to have entered recently into a new phase. The consequences of release of transgenic crops into the environment are being discussed not only by scientists but also by farmers, environmental groups and politicians, while an increasing amount of data is becoming available at all biological scales, including the field level. However, data still rely on experiments designed to capture direct consumer–resource interactions. Here we argue that we should attempt to concentrate on the ecosystem functioning of soil biota under genetically-modified (GM) plants, because functional and mechanistic analysis of the multitrophic effects of GM plants on soil biota is still lacking. It is our opinion that we should avoid addressing taxa and soil communities separately, but link them at their functional level. We shall explain why, using examples from ecosystem services, allometric scaling, and soil food webs. The energy flow of any food web under stress incorporates several factors and pooled information on ecosystem services and on the different responses of soil invertebrates to induced perturbations in other trophic levels. Therefore, we will systematically focus on the complementarities of these approaches.

Handling editor: Sam Cook