BE-18 :: Soil biology and soil biodiversity

Soil biodiversity is the driving force behind the regulation of soil ecosystem services. Many of the functions performed by soil organisms can provide essential services to human society. Most of these services are supporting services, or services that are not directly used by humans but which underlie the provisioning of all other services. These include nutrient cycling, soil formation and primary production. In addition, soil biodiversity influences all the main regulatory services, namely the regulation of atmospheric composition and climate, water quantity and quality, pest and disease incidence in agricultural and natural ecosystems, and human diseases. Soil organisms may also control, or reduce environmental pollution (bioremediation). Finally, soil organisms also contribute to provisioning services that directly benefit people, for example the genetic resources of soil microorganisms can be used for developing novel pharmaceuticals.
Soil biodiversity is threatened due to soil degradation, land use management, climate change, pollution by chemicals and GMO’s and invasive species. This decline leads to high societal costs. For instance, the consequences of soil biodiversity mismanagement have been estimated to be in excess of 1 trillion dollars per year worldwide.
Research questions:
What is the potential of soil biodiversity for the development of new pharmaceuticals?
What kind of soil biodiversity is important for the farmer?
Natural capital
How to sample, analyse and evaluate (the status of) soil biodiversity? How to extrapolate field data?
How can we visualize and communicate the role of soil biodiversity to stakeholders in the agricultural sector in order to make its importance easily understood?
Land management
How to protect/restore soil biodiversity?
Impacts of land management
What is the role (and impact) of soil biodiversity on agricultural processes? And vice versa? What is the impact of agricultural practices on soil biodiversity?
Is the bioavailability of soil nutrients (e.g. P) influenced by soil life / soil biodiversity? And vice versa. How is this different in manure or chemical fertilizers?