Researchers call for a deeper look at soil biodiversity and function in international conservation strategies

Earthworms are soil architects. They mix soil layers, form a network of burrows essential for soil water, air and nutrient dynamics, and break down dead material. Credit: Valentin Gutekunst

When asking people about the richest group of animals on the planet, few know the right answer. Ali? fish? No, I’m not human either. The answer is a nematode, also known as a roundworm. Four out of five on earth belong to this group, and the reason no one is aware of that fact is that they live underground and are invisible to us. Along with thousands of other soil organisms, they quietly, carefully and constantly perform very important services for the world above them.

Soil is one of the most species-rich habitats in existence. Living under 1 square meter of healthy soil, you can find up to 1.5 kilograms of organisms. In particular, roundworms, earthworms, springtails, mites, and insect larvae. There are also numerous microorganisms, including bacteria, protists, and fungi. They eat the ingredients of living animals and dead animals and plants, turning them into nutrients that are the basis of growth and new life. Without soil organisms, plants cannot grow and humans cannot live.

So, so far, it is even more surprising that soil has been rarely covered in international strategies for protecting biodiversity.New article author Science Think of this as a big problem. “If we don’t protect the soil for the next generation, we can’t guarantee biodiversity and food production on the ground.” Their appeal is directed to 196 countries currently negotiating new strategies to protect biodiversity within the framework of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Healthy soil is becoming increasingly scarce. They suffer from the intensive cultivation burden of heavy machinery, fertilizers and pesticides and are compressed, stacked and lost due to wind and water erosion. Global warming is putting more pressure on them. According to the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Germany, about 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost each year around the world. As a result, various soil services such as water purification and plant disease prevention are gradually declining. In addition, soil is the most important carbon reservoir on the planet, which helps delay global warming.

Underground measurement

This Acanthanurasp. Collembola, such as Collembola, is a useful indicator of soil quality and is also the focus of nature conservation measures. Credit: Andy Murray

Call for further consideration of soil biodiversity in global biodiversity conservation strategies

According to researchers, these services have received little attention in political debate. “To date, soil conservation has been largely limited to the impacts associated with soil erosion and its importance to agriculture,” said lead author Dr. Carlos Gera (iDiv, MLU). “It’s time for soil conservation policies to consider protecting soil organisms and ecosystem functions, as well as food production and other production systems. Soil biodiversity monitoring and conservation covers areas such as climate. We can support the achievement and tracking of many sustainability goals. Food and biodiversity protection. “

“So far, conservation measures have focused primarily on life on earth, such as the designation of protected areas,” said Dr. Dianawall, senior author at Colorado State University. However, these do not necessarily benefit underground biodiversity, so the specific needs of the soil community must be taken into account.

A global network for discovering soil biodiversity observations for research and policy support. Credits: SoilBON, Guerra et al. , Science (2021)

Establishment of global monitoring network SoilBON

Sufficient information on soil biodiversity conditions and trends must be available to be able to determine which parts of the world are in particular need of protection and which safeguards are appropriate. not. So far this has not been the case, so researchers have set up a soil BON surveillance network. “We want to shift soil biodiversity to the focus of conservation efforts, which requires providing policy makers with the information they need to support decision-making,” said iDiv and the University of Leipzig. Said Professor Niko Eisenhower, senior author of the research group at. “SoilBON supports the creation and creation of relevant data to achieve this goal.”

The purpose of Soil BON is to enable comprehensive and long-term collection of equivalent soil data. What is needed is an internationally recognized standard that defines what to record and how to record it. Researchers have proposed an overall system for this, the so-called essential biodiversity variable (EBV). EBV is an important parameter for measuring biodiversity. This concept was developed specifically by iDiv and includes criteria such as soil respiration, nutrient turnover, and genetic diversity. Indicators are derived from EBV, which serves as the basis for assessing soil condition and subsequent decisions regarding the level and type of protection required for the soil.

According to researchers, the monitoring and indicator systems they have proposed enable efficient recording of the global condition of the soil and its ability to function and long-term monitoring. They emphasize that it also acts as an important early warning system. With its help, it will be possible to identify early on whether existing conservation goals can be achieved with current measures.

Conservation of soil biodiversity essential for adaptation to climate change

For more information:
CA Guerra et al. Soil biodiversity tracking, targeting, and conservation. Science (2020).… 1126 / science.abd7926

Provided by Halle-Jena-Leipzig, German Center for Integrated Biodiversity (iDiv)

Quote: Researchers have obtained an international conservation strategy from on January 14, 2021 (January 14, 2021). We are calling for further study of soil biodiversity and function in Japan). html

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Researchers call for a deeper look at soil biodiversity and function in international conservation strategies

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