A platform for soil biodiversity data synthesis
Soils contain an immense amount of biodiversity; yet, with an estimated 10-100 million organisms belonging to over 5000 taxa in a handful of soil, our understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of soil organisms, and the factors controlling distribution remains incomplete. While data is rapidly accumulating, there is a lack of coordination and networking among the different information sources characterizing soil biodiversity. Here, we present a global effort to bring together and synthesize soil biodiversity information for use in current and future research, and for informing policy and management decisions. This work is being led by the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and is an open, collaborative, and international effort – meaning any and all interested parties are welcome to contribute to the ongoing discussion. Over the last year two workshops (in Leipzig, Germany and in Dijon, France) were held to explore this challenge and propose tangible solutions. The results of the international meetings will be presented here, along with an action plan for moving the project forward.
Thus far, the group has outlined the potential practical applications and theoretical advances that would result from a global synthesis, including research questions that could be answered, and proposed an action plan to link disparate soil biodiversity data. Briefly, the action plan addresses both the logistics of linking various datasets and impending challenges. The effort will be led by the GSBI, will link with the well-established Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) platform, and be structured to accept input from the scientific community and other biodiversity synthesis efforts (e.g. Edaphobase). Practically speaking, a global synthesis of soil biodiversity data will require participation and contribution from the entire soil biodiversity community. Here we present on the outcomes and products of the initial planning workshops, including: overview of current datasets and databases, summary of current biogeography knowledge and guidelines for standardization. Future meetings will also need to address the resources necessary for such a large proposal and outline a clear timeline and precise goals to be reached. With the rapid influx of soil biodiversity information, now is the time to take the first steps forward in establishing a global platform to link data and make them available for use in ecological studies.