Assessing the state of soils

There are millions and millions of organisms in the soil under your feet that play a critical role in maintaining a multitude of global services. Often overlooked, these organisms control critical processes ranging from nutrient availability for plant growth to carbon sequestration for greenhouse gas mitigation. With recent advances in molecular techniques, global surveys and communication between researchers, scientists can now link this unseen diversity with key ecosystem services.

The next step, however, will be assembling these studies into a single resource that could be used by policy makers for more educated decisions, especially regarding land use, management and global changes. The GSBI and European Commission-Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) have joined forces to organize a global effort to synthesize the current state of soil biodiversity into a Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment (GSBA). The assessment will specifically summarize current knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services with topics critical to sustainable development (desertification, food security, biodiversity and climate change).

To kick off the assessment, the GSBI and EC-JRC, with support from Colorado State University, will host a planning workshop at the CSU Fort Collins campus February 26-28, 2013. Twenty renowned soil biodiversity scientists from around the world will attend the workshop. The three day workshop will open with a series of seminars open to the public (see the full schedule) on February 26, 2013. In the public Opening Session: Soil Security: Is Biodiversity The Missing Link? we will hear talks on research challenges and management options. Attendees will then get down to business in a series of closed-door sessions.

Ultimately the attendees will define the core topic areas of the GSBA, outline content, develop a timeline, identify products (maps, website, including a Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas), create working groups, and determine the process to complete the Assessment. There has never been a global attempt to synthesize the breadth of this data before. As past efforts by the EC-JRC in publishing the European Soil Atlas demonstrate, the passionate scientists who study soil biodiversity are up to the task.

To help achieve these goals, the workshop participants will need all the support they can get. To help support the efforts please take the time to submit any global and regional references you have. The GSBI will collect your submissions and present them to the GSBA committee.

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