Project: Managing soil biodiversity and ecosystem services in agroecosystems across Europe under climate change

Acronym SOILCLIM (Reference Number: 135)
Duration 31/12/2016 - 30/12/2019
Project Topic The project SOILCLIM will address the pressing need to better predict consequences of climate change on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services in agroecosystems over a European transect of climatic conditions and soil properties and under different long-term fertilization strategies. Together with the development of indicators that can act as an early warning system for a decline of the provision of soil ecosystem services in response to summer drought, the project will provide pivotal evidence of how to counteract negative consequences of climate change on agricultural production. Land-owners and policy makers critically depend on such information to identify current and future threats to soil ecosystem services and to monitor the success of remediation measures. Within the project framework four major objectives are addressed in regard to theme #1 of the BiodivERsA 2015 joint call: Objective 1: To determine the relationships between soil management, biodiversity and ecosystem services under climate change across a range of present climatic conditions from Atlantic and Central to Mediterranean Europe. Objective 2: To identify how the relationships between soil management, biodiversity and ecosystem services under climate change depend on organic carbon content of local soils and fertilization strategies. Objective 3: To identify key components of soil biodiversity that closely relate to levels of ecosystem processes and services in agricultural soils. Objective 4: To develop indicators that act as an early warning system for a reduction in soil ecosystem services under climate change, including threshold values at which multiple ecosystem services may show trade-offs. Soil organisms are pivotal for the production of a range of ecosystem services, such as nutrient mineralization and decomposition of organic matter, that contribute to climate mitigation and food production in agroecosystems. The provision of soil ecosystem services in arable land partly depends on the intensity of agricultural management that influences soil biodiversity, but will in the future also be impacted by changing climatic conditions and their interactions with farming. The impact of altered precipitation patterns and soil carbon on soil biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions is on top of the list of eight major research gaps identified by an expert group at the European commission. Most countries in Europe lack monitoring schemes of drought events or decision-support tools to mitigate negative effects of drought which can be problematic for farming given the projected summer drought trends throughout Europe. Summer precipitation is according to climate change scenarios projected to decline across Southern and major parts of Central Europe (10 - 50%), but will slightly increase in Southern Sweden (+10%). Understanding how climate change affects relationships between soil biodiversity and processes across climatic gradients is therefore crucial to determine ecosystem-level responses at large spatial scales and to address threats to the provision of ecosystem services in agricultural soils. We will establish field experiments in Sweden, Germany and Spain that simulate summer droughts to improve our understanding of the links between soil biodiversity and multiple ecosystem functions and services across large spatial scales. These links will be studied in combination with varying levels of soil organic carbon content in agricultural fields and by addressing the interaction with different long-term fertilization strategies (Switzerland). We will use established and innovative methods to develop indicator sets of declines in soil ecosystem service delivery and to predict fluctuations in soil biodiversity (dynamics) in agroecosystems in response to future climate change. Indicators of soil health are traditionally based on abiotic properties and we will test the suitability of community metrics that are based on trait information and functional diversity as alternative indicators of soil biodiversity and ecosystem service losses. The project will emphaisze the active dialogue with farmers, farmer associations and advisors as an integrated part of the project and will facilitate knowledge exchange between scientific experts and end-users. Communication will be guaranteed through a series of workshops with end-users, stakeholders and scientists in related projects, through the project website, through annual letters to participating farmers (including fact sheets) and through a stakeholder report at the end of the project. The stakeholder report will summarize project results on indicators and identify measures that conserve soil biodiversity and ecosystem services that are threatened by summer droughts and low soil carbon contents.
Network BiodivERsA3
Call BiodivERsA3 Joint Call 2015

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Lund University Coordinator Sweden
2 Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas Partner Spain
3 Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Partner Germany
4 Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Partner Switzerland
5 University of Tartu Partner Estonia