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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR IMPROVING ORGANIC FARMING IN THE MID-ATLANTIC REGION

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Title: Managing Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Authors
item CAVIGELLI, MICHEL
item MAUL, JUDE
item Szlavecz, Katalin -

Submitted to: Soil Ecology & Ecosystem Services
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: April 4, 2011
Publication Date: June 27, 2012
Citation: Cavigelli, M.A., Maul, J.E., Szlavecz, K. 2012. Managing Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. In: Wall, D.H., Bardgett, R.D., Behan-Pelletier, V., Herrick, J.E., Jones, T.H., Ritz, K., Six, J., Strong, D.R., van der Putten, W.H., editors. Soil Ecology & Ecosystem Services. London, England: Oxford University Press. p. 337-356.

Interpretive Summary: Management practices impact soil organisms by altering their environment and therefore favoring some species over others. Management only rarely results in the elimination of an entire functional group that then impacts an ecosystem service, as in the example of repeated tillage eliminating earthworms and reducing water infiltration. Instead, management impacts on ecosystem services and soil biodiversity are often complex such that responses may be subtle and vary with soil type, climate, ecosystem, taxonomic and/or functional group, and ecosystem service. This review summarizes the impacts of plant selection, tillage, chemical applications, organic amendment application, and organic farming on soil biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. While there are many examples of management impacting soil biodiversity and ecosystem services, there are few solid examples showing that management-induced impacts on the provision of ecosystem services are necessarily the result of changes in soil biodiversity. While there is a strong need for additional studies carefully designed to test mechanistic links between various management practices, biodiversity of functional groups, and ecosystem functions, management that improves ecosystem services is also likely to improve soil biodiversity.

Technical Abstract: Management practices impact soil organisms by altering their environment and therefore favoring some species over others. Management only rarely results in the elimination of an entire functional group that then impacts an ecosystem service, as in the example of repeated tillage eliminating earthworms and reducing water infiltration. Instead, management impacts on ecosystem services and soil biodiversity are often complex such that responses may be subtle and vary with soil type, climate, ecosystem, taxonomic and/or functional group, and ecosystem service. This review summarizes the impacts of plant selection, tillage, chemical applications, organic amendment application, and organic farming on soil biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. While there are many examples of management impacting soil biodiversity and ecosystem services, there are few solid examples showing that management-induced impacts on the provision of ecosystem services are necessarily the result of changes in soil biodiversity. While there is a strong need for additional studies carefully designed to test mechanistic links between various management practices, biodiversity of functional groups, and ecosystem functions, management that improves ecosystem services is also likely to improve soil biodiversity.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014