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Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils

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New research improves European soil management

A research consortium in the EU has developed knowledge, policies, and monitoring and evaluation techniques to help protect the biodiversity and functioning of Europe's soils.

Climate Change and Environment

Soil is a non-renewable resource essential for agriculture and forestry; it also regulates biogeochemical and water cycles and biodiversity. To ensure that Europe's soils are used sustainably, a solid scientific understanding of the relationship between soil biodiversity, soil functions and ecosystem services is required. The EU-funded ECOFINDERS (Ecological function and biodiversity indicators in European soils) research project was established for this purpose. It aimed to develop, standardise and apply tools to study soil ecosystems, and to develop cost-effective indicators to monitor soil quality. Researchers established five core long-term observatories (LTOs) in different land-use and climatic zones and under varying intensities of management. These LTOs revealed that the chemical and physical properties of soil, as well as land use, drive biodiversity. Another finding was that earthworm diversity plays a major role in those chemical properties. ECOFINDERS examined nutrient flows and chemical, biological and physical interactions between above- and below-ground life. In addition, the team selected and validated relevant biological indicators for soil biodiversity, functions and ecosystems services, as well as standard operating procedures for soil sampling. Researchers then devised a conceptual framework linking soil biodiversity and soil ecosystem services to their economic value. A model linking the hydrological services provided by soils to soil biodiversity and farmers' decision making was developed as well. Ultimately, this work will assist the European Commission in finalising policies aimed at protecting this valuable resource for future generations.

Keywords

Soil, monitoring and evaluation, biodiversity, agriculture, forestry, ecosystem services

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