, Volume 19, Issue 13, pp 3743-3756

Buried treasure: soil biodiversity and conservation

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Abstract

Soils are incredibly biodiverse habitats, yet soil-dwelling organisms have received little attention within the field of conservation biology. Due to difficulties involved in studying soil biota, and to taxonomic biases in conservation research, the full extent of soil biodiversity is not well understood, and soil-dwelling organisms are rarely candidates for conservation. The biogeography of soil biota differs significantly from that of plants or animals aboveground, and the taxonomic and functional diversity of soil-dwellers allows them to have a multitude of ecological effects on aboveground organisms. Soil organisms exhibit levels of biodiversity several orders of magnitude greater than those found in their aboveground counterparts on a per-area basis. The biodiversity of soils underpins many crucial ecosystem services which support the plants and animals typically targeted by conservation efforts. Strategies detailed in this paper provide practitioners with the ability to address many of the challenges related to incorporating soils and soil organisms into conservation planning.