Vulnerability to Global Change of Ecosystem Goods and Services Driven by Soil Biota

David A. Wardle,Valerie K. Brown,Valerie Behan-Pelletier, Mark St.John,Todd Wojtowicz, Richard D. Bardgett, George G. Brown, Phillip Ineson, Patrick Lavelle,Wim H.van der Putten, Jonathan M.Anderson, Lijbert Brussaard, H.William Hunt, Eldor A. Paul, and Diana H. Wall

Soil biota play an essential role in the delivery of a range of ecosystem goods and services. However, it is important to recognize that ecosystems are not static, and that human-induced global change phenomena have the potential to alter the capacity of soil organisms to provide this contribution. Given that global change phenomena directly or indirectly impact the soil biota in some way (Wolters et al. 2000; Wardle 2002), the question that emerges is how these phenomena may alter the goods and services, driven by soil organisms, upon which we all depend.

Predicting the effects of global change on ecosystem goods and services requires explicit acknowledgment of the vulnerability of ecosystems, and therefore of the organisms that drive those ecosystems, to global change. This chapter focuses on the vulnerability of goods and services to global change. In assessing this, we use the definition of vulnerability provided by the Resilience Alliance (, which is "the propensity of social and ecological systems to suffer harm from exposure to external stresses and shocks," a definition that involves three components: (1) exposure to events and stresses, (2) sensitivity to such exposures, and (3) resilience owing to adaptive measures to anticipate and reduce future harm. We first discuss conceptual issues regarding vulnerability of soil organisms and processes to global change in terms of effects of spatial scale, the extrinsic and intrinsic determinants of vulnerability, and the mechanistic bases of how the belowground subsystem responds to global change. We then demonstrate, through worked examples, the degree of vulnerability of those ecosystem goods and services driven by soil biota to selected agents of global change.

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