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SOIL An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 1, issue 2
SOIL, 1, 665–685, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-1-665-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
SOIL, 1, 665–685, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-1-665-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Review article 19 Nov 2015

Review article | 19 Nov 2015

Biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity as key drivers of ecosystem services provided by soils

P. Smith1, M. F. Cotrufo2, C. Rumpel3, K. Paustian2, P. J. Kuikman4, J. A. Elliott5, R. McDowell6, R. I. Griffiths7, S. Asakawa8, M. Bustamante9, J. I. House10, J. Sobocká11, R. Harper12, G. Pan13, P. C. West14, J. S. Gerber14, J. M. Clark15, T. Adhya16, R. J. Scholes17, and M. C. Scholes17 P. Smith et al.
  • 1Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences, Scottish Food Security Alliance-Crops and ClimateXChange, University of Aberdeen, 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK
  • 2Department of Soil and Crop Sciences & Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499, USA
  • 3CNRS, IEES (UMR UPMC, CNRS, UPEC, INRA, IRD) and Ecosys (UMR INRA, AgroParisTech), Campus AgroParisTech, Bâtiment EGER, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France
  • 4Alterra Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 47, 6700AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 5Environment Canada, National Hydrology Research Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 3H5, Canada
  • 6AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand
  • 7Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK
  • 8Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan
  • 9Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade de Brasília, I.B. C.P. 04457. Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro – UnB. D.F. CEP: 70919-970 Brasília, Brazil
  • 10Cabot Institute, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
  • 11National Agriculture and Food Centre Lužianky, Soil Science and Conservation Research Institute Bratislava, Gagarinova 10, 827 13 Bratislava, Slovakia
  • 12School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch WA, 6150, Australia
  • 13Institute of Resources, Environment and Ecosystem of Agriculture, Nanjing Agricultural University, 1 Weigang, Nanjing 210095, China
  • 14Global Landscapes Initiative, Institute on the Environment (IonE), University of Minnesota, 325 Learning & Environmental Sciences, 1954 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
  • 15Soil Research Centre, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6DW, UK
  • 16School of Biotechnology, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar – 751024, Odisha, India
  • 17Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute and School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Studies, University of Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa

Abstract. Soils play a pivotal role in major global biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nutrient, and water), while hosting the largest diversity of organisms on land. Because of this, soils deliver fundamental ecosystem services, and management to change a soil process in support of one ecosystem service can either provide co-benefits to other services or result in trade-offs. In this critical review, we report the state-of-the-art understanding concerning the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity in soil, and relate these to the provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services which they underpin. We then outline key knowledge gaps and research challenges, before providing recommendations for management activities to support the continued delivery of ecosystem services from soils.

We conclude that, although soils are complex, there are still knowledge gaps, and fundamental research is still needed to better understand the relationships between different facets of soils and the array of ecosystem services they underpin, enough is known to implement best practices now. There is a tendency among soil scientists to dwell on the complexity and knowledge gaps rather than to focus on what we do know and how this knowledge can be put to use to improve the delivery of ecosystem services. A significant challenge is to find effective ways to share knowledge with soil managers and policy makers so that best management can be implemented. A key element of this knowledge exchange must be to raise awareness of the ecosystems services underpinned by soils and thus the natural capital they provide. We know enough to start moving in the right direction while we conduct research to fill in our knowledge gaps. The lasting legacy of the International Year of Soils in 2015 should be for soil scientists to work together with policy makers and land managers to put soils at the centre of environmental policy making and land management decisions.

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Soils play a pivotal role in major global biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nutrient, and water), while hosting the largest diversity of organisms on land. Soils deliver fundamental ecosystem services, and management to change a soil process in support of one ecosystem service can affect other services. We provide a critical review of these aspects, and conclude that, although there are knowledge gaps, enough is known improve soils globally, and we suggest actions to start this process.
Soils play a pivotal role in major global biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nutrient, and water),...
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