European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity
Under the auspices of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity, the JRC’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability has published the first European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity, which was launched at the conference ‘Soil, Climate Change and Biodiversity – Where do we stand?’ on the 23rd and 24th September 2010 in Brussels.
Diversity of life in soils ranges from the familiar earthworms and beetles to microscopic bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Soil contains up to one third of all living organisms on the planet, yet only around 1% of soil microorganisms have been identified.
The ‘life under ground’ is complex to observe and yet plays a vital role in sustaining agriculture, driving the terrestrial nutrient and greenhouse gas cycles while maintaining other ecosystems and processes.
Therefore, it has huge ecological and economic value.
This 128-page Atlas is the result of collaboration between the European Commission’s JRC and DG ENV and partners from academia, industry and organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Under the lead of the IES’ Editorial Board (A. Jones, S. Jeffery, C. Gardi, L. Montanarella), more than 100 world experts contributed with significant articles, graphic materials and high resolution photographs, presented in a way that is accessible to non-specialists.
The Atlas consist of two parts: the first part describes the factors that govern soil biodiversity and the threats to soil biology. For the first time ever, the Atlas presents a map that highlights the potential threats to soil biodiversity from multiple pressure factors – including land use change, habitat disruption, intensive human exploitation, invasive species, soil compaction, erosion and pollution. These factors were selected and ranked in an expert evaluation organised by the JRC’s Soil Biodiversity Working Group.
The results show that human activities - such as increasing urbanisation and the introduction of invasive species greatly affect life in the soil. In fact, the risk of decline in soil biodiversity tends to be highest in areas of high population density and/or intense agricultural activity, e.g. the Po valley in Italy, north-western Europe. The second part of the Atlas introduces the reader to the various taxonomic groups that live in the soil and describes the key roles that they each play.
The Atlas provides a comprehensive source of information which helps the general public, researchers, teachers, land managers and policy makers to raise awareness about the environmental importance of soil biodiversity and guides them in protecting this crucial resource. It also represents a very useful tool for supporting policies such as the EU biodiversity action plan, the Soil Thematic Strategy and the European Research Area, and will be presented later this month as a major contribution from the EU to the forthcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science and Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment, issued a statement that read: "Soil is essential to the biodiversity which makes life on earth possible and keeps our economies sustainable. Soil degradation threatens our access to food, clean air and water, as well as to many crucial raw materials. This atlas is a major European contribution to the UN's International Year of Biodiversity 2010".
How to get a Copy of the Atlas?
The Atlas is available to the general public through the European Union’s Bookshop.
S. Jeffery, C. Gardi, A. Jones, L. Montanarella, L. Marmo, L. Miko, K. Ritz, G. Peres, J. Römbke and W. H. van der Putten (eds.), 2010, European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity. European Commission, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
Catalogue Number: LB-NA-24375-EN-C
ISBN: 978-92-79-15806-3, ISSN: 1018-5593