Protecting Soil Biodiversity and Soil Functions: Current Status and Future Challenges

  • Sara MendesEmail author
  • Anabela Marisa Azul
  • Paula Castro
  • Jörg Römbke
  • José Paulo Sousa
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


Living soils are fundamental for human life as we know it. The top layer of Earth’s crust, essentially composed of minerals, water and air, harbours an immense variety of organisms, from plants to microorganisms, which qualifies it as a living system. Soil biodiversity is the main actor underlying the provision of services that are essential for regulating, providing and supporting human life. The increasing level of human activity has been subjecting soil to multiple pressures, resulting in soil degradation and biodiversity decline, hence deterioration in the system’s capability to render those ecosystem services. Growing concern on this resource’s misuse has led to a series of conventions and strategies targeting its conservation (such as the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection in the European Union (EC) 2006) and advocating for specific protection measures that can ensure a sustainable use of soil. These measures mainly focus on extending our knowledge on how soil functions but also on developing monitoring programmes that can detect trends and changes in soil biodiversity. This demand boosted research on soil ecology over the last decades, with significant increases of scientific knowledge on its structural and functioning complexity. However, there are still some gaps and needs to be addressed in order to design adequate measures for soil protection. In this chapter we review the main advances in soil ecological research and monitoring and further discuss the status of current strategies towards soil protection and sustainability. Moreover, we present here a strategy, consisting of three action lines, for effectively contributing to soil protection. It is based on monitoring and mapping, experimentation and raising awareness towards soil issues, which hopefully can change the way we perceive and use soil, this very dynamic but non-renewable resource at the human life time scale.


Ecosystem Service Soil Function Soil Organism Soil Protection Ecosystem Service Provision 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Mendes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anabela Marisa Azul
    • 2
  • Paula Castro
    • 1
  • Jörg Römbke
    • 3
  • José Paulo Sousa
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Center for Neuroscience and Cell BiologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbHFlörsheimGermany

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