Soil Biodiversity and the Link to Human Health

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Hoover (Marriott Wardman Park)
Johan Six, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH-Zurich), Zurich, Switzerland
Soil biota are intimately tied to life above-ground, which ultimately affect human health. Although plant, animal and human disease-causing organisms live in the soil and can directly affect human health, humans also depend on soil biodiversity to provide nutrients for food production, soil formation and suppression of pests and pathogens. It is well known that through conversion of native ecosystems to agroecosystems and agricultural intensification, we have drastically reduced the soil biodiversity in agricultural land and thereby reduced the provision of ecosystem services (i.e. provision of clean air, water, and food) supporting human health. Nevertheless, it is less recognized that these changes in land use and poor soil management can increase the prevalence of soil-borne diseases. Furthermore, how to then manage soil biodiversity within agricultural landscapes to enhance agroecosystem service provision is even less obvious and needs to be further explored and elucidated. Nevertheless, we will discuss ways to include soil biodiversity in management strategies for sustainable production and biodiversity conservation. Several successful and less successful approaches for increasing agroecosystem services by increasing soil biodiversity will be presented. Our main conclusion is that using conservation and restoration of soil biodiversity as a management tool to improve human health requires a new approach that considers the numerous functions of soil biota to provide multiple benefits. We conclude by highlighting key research challenges to further improve our knowledge of soil biodiversity and its management.