Research Needs and Recommendations

Soil biota provide many services in a wide range of terrestrial ecosystems. Our knowledge of how to manage and protect species in the soil and the processes that they drive is, however, limited (Wall et al. 2001). Areas that need further studies in order to enhance the effectiveness of management are:

1. Incorporate the role of soil organisms and soil biodiversity in crop protection. Soil organisms influencing plant defense against aboveground insects and pathogens and soil management may, therefore, influence plant protection in arable ecosystems.

2. Acknowledge the role of soil biota in restoration and conservation of aboveground biodiversity. Soil organisms are strongly involved in primary and secondary succession and in the regulation of plant species diversity in unmanaged ecosystems. More studies are needed to determine how these processes operate and how they can be used and influenced in order to reach management goals, such the conversion from arable land to more natural systems in order to conserve and protect biodiversity.

3. Use soil organisms in bioremediation. Many soil organisms can play a role in cleaning polluted soils and the sheer diversity of microbes provides ample opportunities for reducing pollution loads in contaminated soils.

4. Use food web modeling to improve the conservation and use of soil nutrients. Soil ecology has been strong in developing functional group approaches and in modeling the interactions between functional groups in order to assess the stability of ecosystem processes. These food web models may be further developed for use in testing land management options—for example, in relation to land use history, current status of the soil abiotic and biotic conditions, and management goals.

5. Communicate the role of soil biota and soil biodiversity to land managers and policy makers. Soil organisms for too long have been "out of sight, out of mind." However, increasingly, land managers and policy makers express interest in the sheer diversity underneath their feet. Communication of the relation between soil biota, soil biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and ecosystem services and practical recommendations are, therefore, of top priority. We hope that this chapter will inspire end users and stakeholders to start collaborative actions leading to enhancing both knowledge about soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and the application of these results in order to improve the sustainability of ecosystem goods and services as provided by the soil biota.

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