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Soils and Landscape Restoration
2021, Pages 39-62

Soil ecology and restoration science

Mac A.CallahamJr.1, John A.Stanturf2

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Athens, GA, United States.


Soil ecology and restoration ecology are offshoots of the broader discipline of ecology and have essentially developed and operated as separate subdisciplines. Although restoration ecologists have long appreciated soils as important to the practice of restoring ecosystems, there has been relatively little overlap between the disciplines apart from straightforward single-factor manipulations (e.g., addition of organic matter), and application of soil microbial inoculations. Here, we not only briefly review some of these soil microbial manipulations but also focus on several other components of soil ecological systems, with emphasis on soil fauna. Expanding the soil ecological context to include fauna in restoration science is needed because these organisms are known to influence soil physical and chemical attributes, as well as the functions of soil microbes. In spite of their demonstrated influences on ecological processes, the soil fauna are usually considered in terms of their responses to restorative treatments, and not as agents of restoration themselves. The fauna that engage in ecological engineering (i.e., those that move large quantities of soil and provide habitat for other organisms) are of particular importance in the development of soil profiles, small-scale heterogeneity, and ecosystem function, but these are rarely considered in restoration projects. The group consists of a myriad of invertebrate and vertebrate animals including earthworms, ants, termites, mammals, and reptiles (among others). Detailed knowledge of these different fauna is required for application to restoration scenarios because not all engineering taxa are equivalent, and some are not appropriate, as some nonnative engineers can cause damage to ecosystems. Thus we hope to inspire dialog among all disciplines with interests in ecosystem restoration, to further the ultimate goal of producing fully functional, diverse, and resilient restored ecosystems.

Keywords: Ecosystem restoration, soil invertebrate, soil fauna, soil macroinvertebrate, soil mesoinvertebrate, soil microinvertebrate, fossorial mammal, fossorial reptile, fossorial bird, ecosystem engineer.

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