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?