A recent issue of the journal Ambio (Vol. 26, No. 8, 1997) contains four papers from the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) which address the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, especially in relation to soils, and freshwater and marine sediments1. (Other articles examine moral and monetary aspects of biodiversity.)
An article especially relevant to the Biological Survey’s project on arthropods of soil (see Project Update) by L. Brussaard et al., is entitled “Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in soil”. The article reviews the current knowledge on biodiversity in soils, its role in ecosystem processes, its importance for human purposes, and its resilience against stress and disturbance. The abstract reads in part: “The number of existing species is vastly higher than the number described, even in the microscopically visible taxa, and biogeographical syntheses are largely lacking. A major effort in taxonomy and the training of a new generation of systematists is imperative”. The paper goes on to urge that effort in this regard be focused on the groups of soil organisms that appear to play key roles in ecosystem functioning, such as the root biota, the shredders of organic matter, and the bioturbators of the soil.
[1Linking biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of soils and sediments, D.W. Freckman et al., pp. 556-562; Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in soil, L. Brussaard et al., pp. 563-570; Biodiversity and ecosystem processes in freshwater sediments, M.A. Palmer et al., pp. 571-577; The importance of marine sediment biodiversity in ecosystem processes, P.R. Snellgrove et al., pp. 578-583.]
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