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Science of The Total Environment
Vol. 589, 2017, Pages: 236–249

Assessing soil biodiversity potentials in Europe

Ece Aksoy, Geertrui Louwagie, Ciro Gardi, Mirko Gregor, Christoph Schröder, Manuel Löhnertz

European Topic Centre on Urban, Land and Soil systems (ETC/ULS), University of Malaga, Malaga, Spain.


Soil is important as a critical component for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. The largest part of the terrestrial biodiversity relies, directly or indirectly, on soil. Furthermore, soil itself is habitat to a great diversity of organisms. The suitability of soil to host such a diversity is strongly related to its physico-chemical features and environmental properties. However, due to the complexity of both soil and biodiversity, it is difficult to identify a clear and unambiguous relationship between environmental parameters and soil biota. Nevertheless, the increasing diffusion of a more integrated view of ecosystems, and in particular the development of the concept of ecosystem services, highlights the need for a better comprehension of the role played by soils in offering these services, including the habitat provision. An assessment of the capability of soils to host biodiversity would contribute to evaluate the quality of soils in order to help policy makers with the development of appropriate and sustainable management actions. However, so far, the heterogeneity of soils has been a barrier to the production of a large-scale framework that directly links soil features to organisms living within it. The current knowledge on the effects of soil physico-chemical properties on biota and the available data at continental scale open the way towards such an evaluation. In this study, the soil habitat potential for biodiversity was assessed and mapped for the first time throughout Europe by combining several soil features (pH, soil texture and soil organic matter) with environmental parameters (potential evapotranspiration, average temperature, soil biomass productivity and land use type). Considering the increasingly recognized importance of soils and their biodiversity in providing ecosystem services, the proposed approach appears to be a promising tool that may contribute to open a forum on the need to include soils in future environmental policy making decisions.

Graphical abstract


Keywords: Soil functions; Biodiversity pool; Mapping; Earthworms; Biological activity; Environmental variables.

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