Soil Biodiversity: Key to Sustainability?

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Hoover (Marriott Wardman Park)
Diana H. Wall, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Soils, and its inhabitants, form one of the most biologically diverse systems on Earth. Due to recent technological advances, soil biodiversity is no longer a ‘black box’ of unknown species and there is sufficient evidence to show that loss of soil biodiversity can negatively affect the sustainability of global ecosystems. Despite the many essential services provided by life in the soil, it has been largely ignored in global and regional policies addressing land management, food security, climate change, loss of biodiversity and desertification. We must embrace the increasing scientific evidence indicating that optimization of soil biodiversity is critical for sustainability, and for the successful implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  For example, recognition that improved land management practices can have beneficial effects on soil health and thereby improve plant, animal and human health is growing. There are key opportunities to advance and share this knowledge on soil biodiversity and use it where applicable to meet the needs of people around the world and the SDGs. However, this requires a convergence of knowledge beyond traditional disciplines and a transformation in scientific thought that includes the boundaries and interfaces of soils and biodiversity that contribute to human well-being. Additionally, current (and future) knowledge needs to be collated and analyzed to identify gaps and prioritize new research that will support productive and sustainable systems.

The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative ( aspires to promote interactions between scientists across disciplines, policy markers and the general public in order to transfer and implement findings about the benefits of soil biodiversity and ways to restore and conserve it. Since increased education and awareness are key strategies in conveying to the global public the importance of soil biodiversity to our life and economy, the first Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas was created in conjunction with the European Commission Joint Research Centre, with contributions from 100 experts from 29 countries. The Atlas presents the first overview of soil biodiversity on a global scale, highlighting how this dazzling and spectacular world beneath our feet (from bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites, ants and earthworms to recognizable animals such as moles, gophers and reptiles) works together, mostly unseen, to provide us benefits necessary for life.