Changes in Plant Cover and Soil Acidification Drive Changes in Soil Biodiversity: Research

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Changes in Plant Cover and Soil Acidification Drive Changes in Soil Biodiversity: Research

Soil is the most biologically diverse component in our planet/ Photo By Varin Rattanaburi via 123RF

 

Almost everything on our planet has been deeply affected by climate change, specifically our land, water, and air. The most biologically diverse component in our planet, soil, is also being challenged by the climate. The soil is extremely important in our ecosystem not only because it contains one-fourth of the global carbon pool but also because a number of living organisms survive because of it. 

The soil has a wide array of functions, such as cycling of nutrients and soil structure modifications. It can also influence water retention and soil fertility. Aside from that, it plays a major role in reducing carbon emissions, as well as increasing soil carbon storage. All of these have the potential to mitigate climate change and can be very beneficial for food production. Without the functions of the soil, life would become unsustainable for a myriad of animals, insects, and plants. 

Thus, it is important that people learn the value of soil biodiversity. An article by Recare defined soil biodiversity as "the variability of living organisms in soil and the ecological complexes of which they are part." It is the variety of life that exists within the soil. This includes fungi, bacteria, termites, and earthworms. Maintaining soil biodiversity is not only essential to our environment but also to agricultural industries. 

Changes in Soil Biodiversity

A recent study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered that changes in plant cover and soil acidification are some of the main factors in the changes in soil biodiversity. These major ecological patterns have been the driving force in those changes for over a million years now. The study shows critical insights about the factors that control fungi, soil bacteria, invertebrates, and protists for over a thousand years. 

According to an article by the Science Daily, the study showed that soil microbes and animals are critical in maintaining both human existence and the global biosphere. In an interview, Mark A. Williams, an associate professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, "This research provides a new framework for understanding soil and ecosystem biodiversity, which is fundamental to maintaining our global biosphere and managing for future global change." 

Aside from being the most abundant and diverse organisms on our planet, soil creatures also provide a lot of benefits in our ecosystem. This includes regulating the atmosphere and having clean drinking water, which allows nutrients to help in a sustainable and productive crop. According to the researchers, the increase in soil productivity is usually followed by an increase in plant cover in less productive ecosystems. 

Changes in plant cover and soil acidification are some of the main factors in the changes in soil biodiversity/ Photo By gajus via 123RF

 

Additionally, the study showed that resource availability is more abundant in more productive ecosystems. However, the decline in soil biodiversity is due to acidification during soil development. 

 

The Importance of Conserving Soil Biodiversity

There are a number of reasons why soil biodiversity is an important component of our ecosystem. This includes soil determining the nutrients that are available for plants, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, sulfur, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and micronutrients. It also influences the distribution of animals in connection with plant species. This provides shelter and food for them. 

It was also reported that conserving soil biodiversity is great for agricultural productivity. The publication "Soil Biodiversity and Soil Organic Carbon: Keeping Dry Lands Alive" emphasizes the significance of sustainable land management practices for conserving soil biodiversity. A great example of this is when the Loess Plateau projects in China encouraged the farmers to allow marginal land to grow wild again and also plant trees. 

According to an article by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Loess Plateau projects had increased grain yields, restored the degraded landscape, and lifted more than 2.5 million people out of poverty. In an interview, Jonathan Davies, global coordinator of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Program, stated that the fertility and productivity of land depend on the soil biodiversity of a land. 

An article by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage also added that soil biodiversity has the ability to enhance sustainability through improving soil water movement, soil structure, nutrient availability, and suppression of pests and diseases. However, with a number of threats, soil biodiversity should be protected and sustained. 

The reduced productivity of land had already affected millions of people around the world. "Governments, agricultural producers, conservation practitioners, and other stakeholders must speak to one another and channel their collective resources toward strengthening investment and legislation in sustainable land management practices," Davis said. 

Additionally, climate change also contributes to the biodiversity loss in the soil. This is because it leads to subsequent lack of oxygen and compaction, flooding, prolonged periods of drought, and loss of organic matter through enhanced oxidation that are all drivers of soil biodiversity loss. Aside from that, a change of climatic and hydrological regime and exploitation and overuse negatively impact our planet's soil.

 

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