Evaluating threats to soil biodiversity

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MCIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 24/06/2013

Some people may wonder what the benefit is in evaluating soil biodiversity and wonder why money ought to be spent on further research. While you may be aware of the importance of bees or wildflowers in preserving the environment it is easy to forget that organisms in soil play a critical role in the biological processes that create and sustain life and are at least as important. The presence or absence of soil organisms can indicate the health of the environment.

It is difficult to assess the exact amount of damage that climate change and intense agriculture have on species of soil because of the lack of baseline data. Increasingly EU member states like the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Portugal have begun the monitoring process but there have been calls for more widespread research around the world and the research is starting to show some startling results.


One study by the Soil Biodiversity Working Group of the European Commission used research from 20 experts, compiling data from all over Europe. The researchers identified 12 potential threats to soil biodiversity including reduced amounts of organic matter in soil, overly intensive farming and disrupting habitats, all of which can result in environmental damage. Using mathematical models and mapping software they found that soil biodiversity was said to be under threat in 56% of EU territories with 15% considered high, very high or extremely high threat.


Admittedly the authors of the research have confirmed that this is not totally comprehensive as it does not include how climate change could affect soil diversity, mainly because it has still been unconfirmed how much of an effect climate change has (and this has been debated in a number of other environmental studies as well).  It is hoped the model used in this research can allow future researchers to study this in more depth later on. Monitoring is a crucial part of preventing long term environmental damage.


The biggest benefit of this research is that it can broaden policy maker’s understanding of potential threats to soil biodiversity, helping to ensure that resources are used effectively to minimise harm to the environment in the short and long term.