Ecology of the underworld and why it matters for human health
Society depends on soils for a vast diversity of benefits including food, fibre, clean water, and disease control. Soils are a habitat for dynamic communities of numerous microbes and animal species that are intimately connected to each other and tied to life above-ground, which ultimately affect human health. To better understand the role that soil biodiversity plays in human health, it takes combined knowledge of the soil habitat, taxonomy and the life history of organisms, climate, and the effect on humans. Many animal, plant and human disease organisms live fully or partially in soil, but linking these to human diseases and the environment has been challenging considering the many processes involved. On the other hand, human health is dependent on soil biodiversity to provide nutrients for food production, water cleansing, and disease suppression (in plants, animals and humans).
Managing soil biodiversity to improve human, animal and plant health requires a new interdisciplinary approach to land management that considers the numerous functions of soil biota that provide multiple benefits. The goal of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) is to facilitate collaborations across regions, disciplines, public and policy makers, in order to assess knowledge and develop new practices and priorities on management and conservation of soil biodiversity. To improve human health, soil biodiversity knowledge should be brought to the table of international environmental issues as a consequence of soil misuse and mismanagement. The connection of soil maintenance, preservation and/or conservation of soils with soil biodiversity is key to sustained human well-being.