Global change alters ecosystem functions: insights from the biodiversity under our feet

Senast ändrad: 27 februari 2024

Nadia Maaroufi.

Soil is one of the most diverse habitat on Earth and possesses one of the most diverse assemblage of living organisms. The complexity of the soil matrix, both chemically and physically has restricted our understanding of the interactions within organisms and with their environment. Since the 17th century and the first discovery of soil microbes and invertebrates, soil ecology research has traditionally developed on morphological, anatomical and cultivation based experiments, which require high-level of expertise for each of the organism of interest.

The current ‘omics-based technic’ era and the current use of ecological traits have alleviated some of the limitations of traditional technics. As a result, we have gained insights on soil community structure and functional diversity that has furthered our ability to grasp the complexity of the below-ground world. Despite the immense diversity of soil organisms and their significant contribution to key ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling, net primary production; most of the current body of ecological theories and studies have had an aboveground and aquatic focus omitting soil systems.

Efforts to link above- and below-ground communities and associated feedback processes have demonstrated their vulnerability to global change drivers such as nitrogen enrichment and biodiversity loss. Despite advances in our understanding of some of these processes, little is known about how global change drivers jointly and interactively affect soil organisms and their functioning. As a result, this lack of knowledge impedes our ability to predict the consequences of current and future global change drivers on soil community structure, dynamics, and functioning.

A new age of research, digging deeper into the complex soil matrix and testing new sets of ecological theories will surely reveal new subtle interactions between soil organisms, ecosystem properties and the above-ground world. A better understanding of the biology under our feet will allow us to better anticipate the long-term ramifications of global change, for the ecosystem processes upon which life on Earth depends.