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Ecosystem Services from Soil

This component is primarily focussed on developing and improving the understanding of the biophysical role of soil capital (e.g. type, extent, stock, status) in maintaining a wider range of ecosystem services in a landscape setting and across time.

Our aims

We will address all services within the MA/UKNEA categories; provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting. A key aspect will be characterising and quantifying links between supporting services and the other three service categories, since fundamental soil ecosystem properties and processes (soil fertility, soil formation and soil water dynamics) underpin food and fibre production, water distribution/quality, biodiversity, carbon storage. Soil models that can function at both plot and landscape scale can be used to bring together mechanistic understanding from the plot, and scale up to the landscape but there are major challenges to effectively characterise functions at landscape scale, as opposed to plot scale, due to challenges of accurate measurement and representative sampling across a landscape. Characterising soil functions across time is also challenging since some processes are rapid and fluctuate over a short period of time (e.g. nitrogen fluxes, water infiltration) while other processes continue to change over centuries e.g. decomposition of stable organic matter. A combination of field plots and long term (>25 year) field experiments have been used to develop models that can accurately simulate both types of processes to characterise the dynamics of carbon, water, erosion and nutrients. These models will be used to integrate the results of field experiments to give predictions both within the year and extended over 100 years to investigate sustainability.

The main tasks to be undertaken are to:

  • Establish relationships between soil capital, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services.
  • Collect and generate new biophysical information, especially soils data, to enable the characterisation of ecosystem functions and services.
  • Quantify the impact of soil management and restoration on ecosystem services and identify the potential to enhance ecosystem services through management.
  • Investigate climate change influences on ecosystem services through soil function changes.