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Priorities for research in soil ecology

Eisenhauer, N, Antunes, PM, Bennett, AE, Birkhofer, K, Bissett, A, Bowker, MA, Caruso, T, Chen, B, Coleman, DC, Boer, WD, Ruiter, PD, DeLuca, TH, Frati, F, Griffiths, BS, Hart, MM, Hättenschwiler, S, Haimi, J, Heethoff, M, Kaneko, N, Kelly, LC, Leinaas, HP, Lindo, Z, Macdonald, C, Rillig, MC, Ruess, L, Scheu, S, Schmidt, O, Seastedt, TR, Straalen, NMV, Tiunov, AV, Zimmer, M and Powell, JR (2017) Priorities for research in soil ecology. Pedobiologia, 63. ISSN 0031-4056

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Abstract

The ecological interactions that occur in and with soil are of consequence in many ecosystems on the planet. These interactions provide numerous essential ecosystem services, and the sustainable management of soils has attracted increasing scientific and public attention. Although soil ecology emerged as an independent field of research many decades ago, and we have gained important insights into the functioning of soils, there still are fundamental aspects that need to be better understood to ensure that the ecosystem services that soils provide are not lost and that soils can be used in a sustainable way. In this perspectives paper, we highlight some of the major knowledge gaps that should be prioritized in soil ecological research. These research priorities were compiled based on an online survey of 32 editors of Pedobiologia – Journal of Soil Ecology. These editors work at universities and research centers in Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia. The questions were categorized into four themes: (1) soil biodiversity and biogeography, (2) interactions and the functioning of ecosystems, (3) global change and soil management, and (4) new directions. The respondents identified priorities that may be achievable in the near future, as well as several that are currently achievable but remain open. While some of the identified barriers to progress were technological in nature, many respondents cited a need for substantial leadership and goodwill among members of the soil ecology research community, including the need for multi-institutional partnerships, and had substantial concerns regarding the loss of taxonomic expertise.

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