Context Dependence of Environmental Controls

Environmental controls of soil ecosystem processes and the delivery of soil ecosystem goods and services depend on climate, soil type, vegetation, and the local context (Figure 2.1). Stressed systems, whether they are stressed from extreme climatic seasonality (seasonal forests and savanna) or human interventions (managed grassland, managed forest, and tilled arable land), are usually characterized by lower diversity of soil fauna (there is little comparative information on microbes) and greater dominance of certain species (see Tables 2.2—2.4). Under these conditions the effects of key organisms, sometimes at species level, become more apparent (Anderson 1994). In arable soils, soil tillage consistently reduces the abundance of animals with large body sizes, whereas microbes and microfauna are not affected so much (Wardle et al. 1995). Here, we illustrate the consequences of the local context by discussing ecosystem processes, goods and services for three major types of land use: grassland, forest, and arable land and the role of soil organisms in controlling ecosystem goods and services (see Tables 2.2—2.4 for an overview of processes, goods, and services for grassland, forest, and arable land, respectively). Later, we discuss management trade-offs for each of these three systems and provide a conclusion on the importance of soil biodiversity.

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