Diana H Wall Richard D Bardgett Alan P Covich and Paul VR Snelgrove

There is an astonishing diversity of life in mud and dirt. Much of life as we know it is supported by the soils and sediments of freshwater lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers, and the vast sediments of estuaries and the ocean floor. Together, soils and sediments form an interconnected subsurface habitat that teems with millions of species providing essential ecosystem services for human well-being, such as cycling of nutrients, soil stabilization, and water purification. Like microbes, plants, and animals in more visible habitats across the earth, the below-surface habitats and their biodiversity are being modified at an unparalleled rate. Land use change and sediment change (trawling, dredging, damming, drying up of rivers), the movement and introduction of biotic species, changes in atmospheric composition (CO2, increasing availability of fixed nitrogen), climate change, and pollution are all agents of change to subsurface ecosystems. These alterations of soil and sediment habitats, and their biota, have major consequences for humans. Soils, freshwater and marine sediments and their biota are non-renewable natural resources that humans depend on for the many goods and services that are so tightly linked to the economic basis of societies. Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once noted, "A nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself."

In the face of the rapid and massive transformation of global ecosystems, we need to assess the vulnerability of soil and sediment biodiversity to change and, in turn, to assess how this affects the nature of ecosystem services provided to humanity. This becomes increasingly important as we ask how we can sustainably conserve and manage these biota and habitats to ensure that future generations receive their critical ecosystem services.

This book addresses these and other important questions relating to how soil and sediment biodiversity contribute to human well-being and overall ecosystem function.

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