13.12.2010 / News - EU Level

New atlas of soil biodiversity launched

New atlas highlights the value of Europe's soil biodiversity and reveals how it is under threat.

One of the resulting outputs  of the SOIL Action of the Joint Research Centre’s Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit project, which was focusing exclusively on life in the soil is the first ever European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity. The atlas consists of 128 pages, which are filled by photographs, maps and texts.  Potential threats to soil biodiversity were selected and ranked in an expert evaluation organised by the Soil Biodiversity Working Group. It explains the great biodiversity and has the aim to:
•    support policies such as the EU biodiversity action plan; the Soil Thematic Strategy, the European Research Area,
•    promote the activities related to soil protection and soil biodiversity,
•    bring soil biodiversity into policy focus by identifying needs for policy and research strategies aimed at soil protection and enhancement of biodiversity
The first section of the atlas examines the soil environment, its multiple uses, the ecosystem "goods and services" that it provides, and the role that the soil biodiversity play in these. The second is a kind of encyclopedia of soil biodiversity, with high resolution images bringing the reader face to face with many of the main groups of organisms found in soils.
There are six key messages coming out of the atlas:
1.) Biodiversity loss and climate change are two of the most pressing challenges of our time.
2.) Raise awareness of life in soil and of its environmental importance and global significance.
3.) Yet only around 1% of soil microorganisms have been identified compared to 80% of plants.
4.) Life within the soil is complex to observe and suffers greatly by being ‘out of sight and out of mind’. While most terrestrial ecosystem processes that sustain life on the planet are in fact all driven by soil biology.
5.) Soil biodiversity and the ability of the soil to perform its basic ecosystem functions and services are threatening.
6.) Taking steps to protect soil biodiversity may be doubly useful.
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