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The Early-career scientists group was officially launched at the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference. If you would like to be a part of future activities, please fill in this this document with your details. 


 

Current threats to soil biodiversity demand global scientific, political and economic actions to ensure the functioning of ecosystems for future generatio­­­­­­­ns

Biodiversity is now a well-accepted and understood concept of functional importance that is used ubiquitously! However, ‘biodiversity’ describes more than the organisms we can see aboveground - like plants, birds, and mammals. Biodiversity also includes the most diverse and complex ecosystem on the planet: SOIL! “Soils contain over 98 per cent of the genetic diversity in terrestrial ecosystems”. Yet, most of this belowground biodiversity is not visible, and, therefore, it is often overlooked in discussions regarding conservation of global biodiversity or its contribution to ecosystem services.[1]

Belowground biodiversity is critical to maintaining ecosystem functioning and global sustainability, and deserves the same attention as aboveground biodiversity. To reach this goal, we will face bottlenecks at the scientific, economic, and political level. Questions that must be addressed include: are policy-makers aware of soil biodiversity’s importance? Are scientists providing the evidence to support soil biodiversity’s importance to stakeholders and policy makers?

The Early Career Scientists group proposes to use the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference to give Soil Biodiversity a voice!

As a whole, the soil ecosystem provides myriad ecosystem services, both from its physical and chemical properties (e.g. nutrients, water, and texture), as well as from its biological properties (e.g. all the organisms living in the soil). Furthermore, the physical/chemical properties are intrinsically linked with soil biology. Soil biodiversity should be recognized as a crucial player in guaranteeing the functioning and the quality of soil. Taken together, the soil ecosystem with its biodiversity and concomitant ecosystem services provide a common denominator for all terrestrial ecosystems (e.g. agriculture, forests, grasslands, peatlands, deserts, and urban areas).

Numerous major anthropogenic pressures and threats are also exerted on soil and its biodiversity: from soil pollution and sealing to soil erosion and intensive human exploitation. As a consequence of these many pressures, soil-dwelling organisms are also under threat. In fact, the possible decline in soil biodiversity has been identified as one of the major issues that will need to be dealt with in the coming years. Yet, despite the clear threat, the overall relationship between pressures on soils and belowground organisms has been poorly investigated to date. A common framework and, consequently, suitable policies to protect soil biodiversity are still missing. This is mainly due to 1) the difficulty in disentangling how these real threats affect soil biodiversity, 2) the lack of standardized procedures, and 3) the lack of data on the distribution of soil organisms at large scale.

Further complicating efforts, soil processes do not occur within a time scale that is easily grasped by human society.  For example, soil formation is a process that takes thousands of years, but it can take only a matter of minutes to degrade soil. Therefore, tangible, operational, strategic policies and goals must be established to ensure sustainable soil management, to guarantee long-term ecosystem functioning of soil and to preserve and value soils and soil biodiversity. This challenge is global and cannot be limited to countries or even continents. It must be a global collaboration.

We, a group of early career scientists from all over the world, would like to actively contribute toward identifying and overcoming these bottlenecks to establish policies and initiatives to preserve the invaluable resource that is the soil ecosystem as a whole. Given the strong link between soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and considering that functioning ecosystems are necessary for a sustainable human society, we hope that policy makers, research institutions, and other scientific and non-scientific stakeholders will support us in taking an active role and encourage us to express our passion and willingness to contribute toward the responsible use of soils for the sake of our generation and generations to come.


[1] In fact, soil biodiversity is not addressed in the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (Secretariat of the CBD, 2010), and is not referred to in the popular International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2012).