Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability Leads Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative

The Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability is leading the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative in Wageningen, The Netherlands, with a series of U.S. and international partners concerned about the future of soils for the planet.

This initiative, open to all interested in sustaining soils, was formed based on growing international concern by scientists, policymakers and the public over the status of the world’s soils and increased recognition that the life in soil is key to sustaining food production, ecosystem maintenance and control of global atmosphere and climate warming.

The new initiative serves as a primary means of informing the newly announced Global Soil Partnership signed in Rome earlier in September by three international conventions.

“Without soil and their biodiversity, there is no human life,” said Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State and director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. “Life in soil is key to sustaining food production, ecosystem maintenance, water quality and control of global atmosphere and climate change. Colorado State is leading this effort because we are a world leader in interdisciplinary soil research in many colleges that connect the social, economical and environmental aspects of sustainability.”

The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, announced this month during the conference on Soil Science in a Changing World in Wageningen, is a collaborative initiative by representatives from each of five institutions: Professor Diana Wall, Colorado State University, USA; Professor Wim van der Putten, Netherlands Institute of Ecology/Wageningen Centre for Soil Ecology; Professor Richard Bardgett, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK; Professor Johan Six, University of California, Davis; and Dr. Luca Montanarella, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy.

These individuals will lead the further initiation of the initiative and be responsible for the development of an active platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy to assure management and enhancement of ecosystem services such as water quality, food production, soil fertility, and biocontrol of human and animal diseases.

The initiative will contribute biodiversity knowledge to the Global Soil Partnership signed in Rome, Italy, in early September that brings together three international agreements interested in sustaining soils: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the U.N. Convention on Desertification and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The partnership will be operated by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Global Soil Partners recognize that soils and their biodiversity are rapidly being degraded as a result of poor management of soils, while acknowledging that proper soil management can, for example, increase soil carbon storage, thereby affecting global carbon cycling, and stabilize soils, thereby decreasing erosion, and promote other ecosystem services provided by soils and soil biodiversity, such as control of pests, pathogens and invasive species. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative will encourage and bring together interested people, including scientists and policymakers from many scientific, government and non-governmental organizations, to formulate plans, synthesize data and collectively address loss and maintenance of biodiversity in the subsurface.

The initiative will make better use of the current knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services rather than starting new research. Mission goals are to:

• Provide evidence and examples of possible solutions where soil biodiversity and helps makes a difference for human-well being and helps policy makers with their agenda.

• Exchange of knowledge and questions from users and stakeholders at an open science conference in order to set agendas.

• Provide a central forum for input to IPBES working groups on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. A framework of agreed soil biodiversity and ecosystem services will be identified.

• Provide a central focus to the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) for incorporating scientific knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Sponsor follow-up workshops to identify case studies where integrating soil biodiversity knowledge might improve sustainable management of soils and the ecosystem services. The results will help address the GSP’s mission of ‘sustainable management of soil resources for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation’; and

• Sponsor working groups to assess and integrate results across disciplines that can be used to: a) develop scenarios of how climate change or desertification will alter services in relation to (land) management types and types of biomes, and b) identify gaps needed for qualifying/quantifying global soil biodiversity and relating it to ecosystem functioning models.

The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative is seeking partners from Europe, South America, Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Asia to broaden this initiative, with the hope that it may one day be incorporated into organizations involved in soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. For more information, go to