SYMP 20-6 - Essential partners: Soil biodiversity and functioning in grasslands

Thursday, August 10, 2017: 4:10 PM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Elizabeth M. Bach, Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO and Diana H. Wall, Department of Biology, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Soil biodiversity supports grassland ecosystems and the services they provide. Soil ecology is a strongly interdisciplinary field, yet an enduring challenge is to integrate expertise across soil taxa. Microbial community ecology rarely incorporates the importance of higher trophic levels. Belowground food-web research typically focuses on invertebrates. Plants are often included in microbial and food-web research, but rarely are all these components integrated. Burrowing vertebrates are almost never integrated with microbial or invertebrate studes. Emerging work indicates biodiversity across taxonomic division may be more important for supporting ecosystem functioning than diversity within a group (e.g. plants). As ecologists, we need to think broadly across soil taxa not only to test new hypotheses on connections between biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, but to incorporate robust scientific understanding into land use and management recommendations.


Several recent studies in grasslands provide examples of innovative integration of soil biodiversity across traditional taxonomic boundaries to elucidate the role of diverse communities in key ecosystem functions, like carbon cycling. This presentation will synthesize several case-studies of work that integrates belowground biodiversity broadly, including methodologies and collaborative approaches. In addition, soil biodiversity plays a critical role in advancing multiple goals for a sustainable future, including supporting aboveground biodiversity, clean water, food production, and climate regulation. Broadly integrated soil ecology research not only advances ecological knowledge, but also provides an important way to synthesize and apply this knowledge to pressing ecological challenges.