Why Soil Biodiversity?
The Earth’s soils are living, dynamic interfaces that are habitats for millions of microbial and animal species. The activities of soil biota are critical to the wellbeing of human societies because their activities underpin the delivery of major ecosystem services. Without soil biota, the soil resource as we know it would not exist, and soil recovery in most ecosystems would proceed at orders of magnitude less than a snail’s pace. Net primary productivity would be dramatically reduced by much slower rates of nutrient cycling, and therefore lower plant nutrient availability and nutrient effects would be exacerbated by water limitations as the lack of a stable soil structure would maintain relatively low plant available water holding capacities and even lower infiltration rates. Soil organisms are responsible for ensuring that the nutrients necessary to produce the ear of corn that we will consume next year will be made available from last year’s roots and residues. They are also responsible for sustaining the soil’s capacity to provide us with food in the decades and centuries to come: even the reduced levels of production predicted for lifeless soils would be virtually impossible to sustain without soil biota due to lower resistance to degradation and the lack of key recovery processes. Lower soil structural stability would be reflected in lower resistance versus soil erosion and higher runoff rates would effectively increase the erosivity of storms. The effects of anthropogenic disturbance on soil degradation would be amplified by lower resistance and extended in time by lower resilience. All of this is very well known by scientists, but the majority of people are hardly aware of this critical role played by soil biota. Meeting the challenges of land degradation and other global changes while having to sustain the productivity of our natural and managed lands requires not only knowing the role of soil biota but also implementing that knowledge. It is therefore of utmost importance that we effectively incorporate the growing scientific knowledge on the provision of vital ecosystem services by the vast numbers of species that live in the soil into future regional and national management and policy plans. Scientists have been actively interacting with users and policymakers in order to extend knowledge of soils and the services they provide and integrate such understanding into environmental policy, but so much more needs to be done. Therefore, here we present, a global soil biodiversity initiative to develop a coherent platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy and sustainable land management for the protection and enhancement of ecosystem services.
The GSBI will be structured and coordinated by a Secretariat, and priority setting will be through an Advisory Board of scientists and other interested parties and the EC – JRC. It will contribute to the Global Soil Partnership’s mission by incorporating knowledge of soil biodiversity to improve ecosystem functioning and sustain ecosystem services. It will contribute to the IPBES as appropriate by identifying and providing data, case studies, results and scientists for working groups. The Global Soil Biodiversity Intitiative started as a bottom-up collaboration of international scientists dedicated to enhancing the use of soil biodiversity science and ecosystem services into policies and management of global terrestrial ecosystems. The GSBI receives institutional funding only from the founding institutions of the Leadership, particularly Colorado State University.
Connect with us
Currently, organizations and individuals that will support this initiative are being approached with the hopes that it may one day be incorporated into organizations involved in soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. If you are interested in becoming connected with the initiative, please join today.