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The United Nations estimates that 33% of global soils are moderately to severely degraded, and that given average rates of erosion, topsoil could be gone in 60 years. In response, the UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. Their goal: to take a decidedly prosaic topic — soil health — and make it relevant and urgent to policymakers and the public.

Their case was a strong one: soils hold a quarter of the world’s biodiversity, hosting billions of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoans, as well as thousands of insects, mites and worms. In addition, they provide the anchorage, oxygen, moisture, and nutrients that plants need to survive, as well as maintaining a large store of terrestrial carbon. Soil plays a crucial role in most every biogeochemical cycle — and therefore, in sustaining life on earth.

Yet scientists still don’t fully understand the way soil mediates all these processes. Many LTER investigators are at the center of ongoing research on soils. Join 24 of these researchers as they present their observations, experiments, and analyses at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting.

Questions being explored in these sessions include:

  • What role does fungal competition play in the decomposition of soil organic matter? How does this differ across forest ecosystems?

  • What situations make the consideration of soils imperative to restoration projects, and where is it less critical?

  • How do fungal communities on roots respond to climate change impacts (e.g. less and later snowpack)?

  • Why are biocrusts especially important to ecosystem processes in dryland regions? How does this impact the way we envision the critical zone in deserts?

  • How does carbon storage vary across depth? How might that impact current carbon sequestration estimates?

  • Does crop diversification make soil microbial communities’ carbon and nutrient cycling more resilient against drought and flooding?

  • What is the influence of soil on the establishment and persistence of urban plant species? Do these plants exhibit trait variability in response to different urban soil types?

TUES (8/9)
8:00 AM Rethinking the ‘Gadgil effect’: Understanding mechanisms and context-dependency of ectomycorrhizal effects on organic matter decomposition
8:00 AM

Integrating soil ecological knowledge into restoration: How relevant is theory to practice?

9:00 AM Is ignoring soil characteristics in restoration efforts a recipe for disaster?
9:40 AM Landscape soil variability in relatively static and dynamic properties in arid and semi-arid ecosystems: Do they matter for restoration?
10:30 AM Effects of climate change across seasons on mycorrhizal community composition at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
1:30 PM Why Restore Biocrusts in Dryland Regions
1:50 PM

Soil diversity and functioning in dry tropical forests: A review of case studies from Puerto Rico

WED (8/10)
On-view all day; poster session 4:30-6:30 PM POSTER: Carbon pool increased in surface soil, but declined in subsurface soil after agricultural abandonment
(see above) POSTER: Does crop rotational diversity increase soil microbial resistance and resilience to drought and flooding?
(see above) POSTER: Effects of grazing and fire frequency on floristic quality and soil structure and function in tallgrass prairie”
(see above) POSTER: Pathways and patterns of litter chemistry during decomposition
(see above) POSTER: Unquelchable fires: Two decades of soil warming selects for a smaller, more active microbial community
9:50 AM Functional trait responses of urban plants to different soils
2:30 PM

Nitrogen effects on decomposition: Similar patterns but different underlying mechanisms for litter versus soil organic matter

2:50 PM

Soil oxygen mediates dinitrogen emissions from a wet tropical forest in Puerto Rico

3:40 PM

Interactions among climate and soil properties influence current and future geographic distribution of an invasive grass in the Chihuahuan Desert

THURS (8/11)
On-view all day; poster session 4:30-6:30 PM POSTER: Nitrogen deposition determines soil microbial functional responses to chronic elevated CO2 in a dry grassland
8:00 AM Restoration of soil microbial function following biological invasion
9:50 AM Identifying the carbon sources of soil foodwebs in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
10:30 AM Soils of urban woodlands
3:10 PM Life under the city: The decomposer community of urban soils
3:20 PM Plant-soil feedbacks as a potential mechanism reinforcing alternative states in biodiversity
FRI (8/12)
8:00 AM Response of an Antarctic soil invertebrate to warming and freeze-thaw cycles
10:50 AM Too much of a good thing: Soil alterations following woody species encroachment in tallgrass prairie