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Ecosystem services driven by the diversity of soil biota – understanding and management -

Soil biota diversity is ensuring primary production in terrestrial ecosystems and agricultural productivity. Water and nutrient cycling, soil formation and aggregation, decomposition and carbon sequestration as well as control of pest organisms are important functions in soil that are driven by biota and biota interactions. In agricultural systems these functions support and regulate ecosystem services directed to agricultural production and agricultural sustainability. A main goal of future cropping systems will be to maintain or raise agricultural productivity while keeping production sustainable in spite of increasing food demands and ongoing soil degradation caused by inappropriate soil management practices. Tillage, fertilization, crop rotation including cover crops and the residue management are the main farm based tools that farmers use to engineer soils for plant production. These four soil management factors depend on decisions by farmers, which are triggered by regional traditions, knowledge and also by agriculture policies as a governance impact. However, biological impacts on soil fertility and soil health are often neglected or overseen when planning and shaping soil management in cropping systems. SoilMan aims at forstering the understanding of how the interplay of farm based soil management practices affect soil biodiversity and how soil biodiversity in turn feeds back to soil functions and ecosystem services as factors for productivity and sustainability. SoilMan investigations will take place in the four main biogeographical regions of Europe (Mediterranean, Atlantic, Continental, and Boreal). Using a selection of field sites representing regional variations in tillage intensities, fertilization regime (organic vs. mineral), crop rotation length and complexity, as well as in crop residue managements, inventories of major soil biota groups will be performed to determine the response of soil biodiversity to soil management practices in different regional contexts (Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Romania). Together with the recording of metadata concerning the field sites enchytraeidae, earthworms, collembolan, mites and gastropods will investigated as fauna groups using both morphological identification and molecular markers. Total bacteria and total fungal communities including a specific look on arbuscular mycorrhiza will be analyzed by barcode PCR-based approaches. Soil respiration and community level physiological profiling (CLPP) assessed by the MicroResp method will be applied to determine microbial activity and functional diversity. Also, processes driven by soil biota will be investigated in a comprehensive way including decomposition & carbon cycling, soil aggregation , water infiltration, nutrient availability to plants, nutrient transport and leaching, and suppressiveness (of pathogens), will be quantified and analyzed in detail using field or lab-based experiments. The experiments will either be carried out on the SoilMan field sites or will use soil from these sites. A joined factor for the experiments is the manipulation of soil communities and the determination of related consequence for the provision of functions and services. Moreover, experiments will enable to include regional constrains since experiments will be repeated at or for at least two of the four biogeographical regions covered by SoilMan field sites. Both perspectives (management vs biodiversity and biodiversity vs functions and services) will be combined to demonstrate and quantify the interdependencies from soil management inputs via habitat conditions and biodiversity to soil sustainability and productivity. Soil biota driven ecosystem services will be valuated from socio-economic as well as socio-ecological viewpoints. This valuation will form the basis for identifying and developing best practice soil management options maximizing biodiversity and sustainability by minimizing economic losses of farmers and the society at the same time. Policies and policy drivers will be compared and related to regional constraints in sustainable soil management with a special focus on trade related international and regional as well as knowledge related drivers. SoilMan will deliver strategies for improving soil biodiversity levels and associated services for the long-term sustainable management of soils as a basis of human nutrition and wellbeing. This will be achieved by developing communication plans directed to the scientific community (BiodivERsA-workshops, conferences, papers) as well as to stakeholders and decision makers (e.g., policy briefs).

Acronym (Reference Number) SoilMan (56)
Duration 31/12/2016 - 30/12/2019
Project Topic 1: Understanding and managing the biodiversity dynamics of soils and sediments to improve ecosystem functioning and delivery of ecosystem services

Project partner

Number Short Name Name Role Country
1 GAU University of Goettingen Coordinator Germany
2 IFAB Institut für Agraökologie und Biodiversität Partner Germany
3 Agrocampus Ouest Partner France
4 INRA French National Institute for Agricultural Research Partner France
5 Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fishe Partner Germany
6 CSIC Spanish National Research Council Partner Spain
7 SLU Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Partner Sweden
8 CNRS Université de Rennes 1 - UMR CNRS Ecobio Partner France
9 UASVM Cluj-Napoca University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj Napoca Partner Romania
10 UT University of Tartu Partner Estonia