NSP - Soil Biodiversity Initiatives

The International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity

The Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), at its 6th meeting (Nairobi April 2002), decided "to establish an International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity as a cross-cutting initiative within the programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, and invited the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and other relevant organizations, to facilitate and coordinate this initiative" (COP decision VI/5, paragraph 13). This decision came about following discussions at the 7th meeting of the CBD’s intergovernmental Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA).

Moreover, at their 4th meeting, the Parties "decided to expand the focus placed on soil micro-organisms in annex 3 of decision III/11 to address all soil biota, as outlined in paragraph 8 of SBSTTA recommendation III/4, and invited Parties, Governments and international organizations to conduct case-studies on soil biota in agriculture and to provide them to the Executive Secretary for compilation in the form of a synthesis report for consideration by SBSTTA (COP decision IV/6 on Agricultural Biodiversity).

FAO actively supports The International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity as part of its work in support of the CBD. Past activities undertaken to this end, include the:

  • Organization of an International Technical Workshop on Biological Management of Soil Ecosystems for Sustainable Agriculture organized by EMBRAPA Brazil and FAO in Londrina, in June 2002, as a contribution to the joint programme of the CBD and FAO (in accordance with FAO’s mandate and with COP Decision V/5) which developed a framework for action on soil biodiversity to address identified priority issues at international and regional levels (see workshop report);
  • Development of a website, newsletter and technical materials on soil biodiversity to link the many organizations and institutions working on different dimensions of soil biodiversity for food and agriculture;
  • Raising awareness of the importance of and supporting case studies on soil biodiversity in countries; and
  • Linking research and development practitioners and liaising with soil biodiversity projects such as the GEF funded project led by CIAT-TBSF.

In Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010, COP Decision X/34 on agricultural biodiversity, in the preamble: "Notes with appreciation the ongoing work of FAO and its Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) on the implementation of the agricultural biodiversity programme of work and the three international initiatives, on soil biodiversity, pollinators and biodiversity for food and nutrition,…..etc"; and in para. 11 of that decision: "Invites FAO to provide an expanded progress report on the implementation of the International Initiative on Soil Biodiversity (in addition to information already submitted in the progress report of FAO on selected activities related to agricultural biodiversity circulated at the fourteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to the Executive Secretary for dissemination through the clearing-house mechanism".  

Soil biological management is an important component of FAOs technical advice and support to countries on integrated soil fertility management and sustainable production intensification and addressing soil/land degradation. To further increase attention to and work on soils in view of their vital importance for food and agriculture, FAO is setting up the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), which aims to address all the dimensions of soils including soil biodiversity, soil fertility, soil carbon and so forth. Through its 5 pillars, the GSP intends to strengthen soil data and information, standards of measurement, soil protection and management, the research-development interface, technical cooperation, education and investment in soils. The GSP is expected to be considered by FAO member countries in May 2012. 

The GSP supports FAO in coordinating the work on soil biodiversity, in accordance with relevant COP decisions in regard to the CBD International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity. It also facilitates FAO’s role to ensure synergies and strengthen collaboration between the different soil initiatives and partner institutions, to avoid duplication of efforts and to recognize the complementary roles and mandates of the concerned bodies, such as the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI). As a result, a unified Soil Event at RIO+20 will be implemented in order to position soils globally under an attractive agenda.

Colorado State University: The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative

FORT COLLINS - The School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University is pleased to announce launch of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) in Wageningen, The Netherlands. This initiative, now open to all interested in sustaining soils, was formed based on growing international concern by scientists, policy makers and the public over the status of the world's soils and increased recognition that the life in soil is key to sustaining our food production, ecosystem maintenance and control of global atmosphere and climate warming. The GSBI will serve as a primary means of informing the newly announced Global Soil Partnership signed in Rome earlier in September by three international conventions. 

The GSBI, announced in this month during the conference on Soil Science in a Changing World in Wageningen, The Netherlands, is a collaborative initiative brought forth by representatives from each of five institutions: Professor Diana Wall, Colorado State University, USA, Professor Wim van der Pullen, Netherlands Institute of Ecology/Wageningen Centre for Soil Ecology, Professor Richard Bardgett, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK, Professor Johan Six, University of California, Davis and Dr. Luca Montanarella, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Rome, Italy. These individuals will lead the further initiation of GSBI and be responsible for the development of an active platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy to assure management and enhancement of ecosystem services such as water quality, food production, soil fertility, and biocontrol of human and animal diseases.

The GSBI will contribute biodiversity knowledge to the Global Soil Partnership signed in Rome, Italy in early September that brings together 3 international agreements interested in sustaining soils: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention on Desertification, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and will be operated by the Food and Agriculture Organization. The Global Soil Partners recognize that soils and their biodiversity are rapidly being degraded while acknowledging that proper management of soils can for example, increase soil carbon storage affecting global carbon cycling and stabilize soils, thereby decreasing erosion and promote other ecosystem services provided by soils and soil biodiversity, such as control of pests, pathogens and invasive species. The GSBI will encourage and bring together interested people, including scientists and policy makers from many scientific, government and non-governmental organizations to formulate plans, synthesize data and collectively address loss and maintenance of biodiversity in the subsurface.

The Earth's soils are living, dynamic interfaces that are habitats for millions of microbial and animal species. One square metre of land houses already thousands of soil species. The activities of these soil biota are critical to the wellbeing of humans, because their activities support the delivery of major ecosystem services like food and fiber provision, carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, clean air and ground water, and they are vital for controlling erosion, and plant, animal and human diseases. However, intensive use and misuse of soils, or their complete sealing due to urbanization puts the sustainability of these biota-driven services at risk, while the majority of people are hardly aware of the significant role of soil biota. While human population is growing, we need to get more goods and services out of a continuously shrinking area of open land. It is essential that we incorporate into future regional and national management and policy plans the growing scientific knowledge on the provision of vital ecosystem services by the large numbers of species that live in soil. Here, the GSBI represents a global soil biodiversity venture to develop a comprehensive course of action for such issues.

The GSBI will make better use of the current knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services rather than starting new research. Through this, their mission goals are to:

  1. Provide evidence and examples of possible solutions where soil biodiversity and helps makes a difference for human-well being and helps policy makers with their agenda.
  2. Exchange of knowledge and questions from users and stakeholders at an open science conference in order to set agendas.
  3.  Provide a central forum for input to IPBES working groups on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. A framework of agreed soil biodiversity and ecosystem services will be identified.
  4. Provide a central focus to the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) for incorporating scientific knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  5. Sponsor follow-up workshops to identify case studies where integrating soil biodiversity knowledge might improve sustainable management of soils and the ecosystem services. The results will help address the GSP's mission of 'sustainable management of soil resources for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation'.
  6. To sponsor working groups to assess and integrate results across disciplines that can be used to a) develop scenarios of how climate change or desertification will alter services in relation to (land) management types and types of biomes, and b) identify gaps needed for qualifying/quantifying global soil biodiversity and relating it to ecosystem functioning models.

Connect with the GSBI
Currently, partners from Europe, South America, Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Asia are being approached in order to broaden this initiative, with the hopes that it may one day be incorporated into organizations involved in soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. For more information, please visit the GSBI website at http://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org.

The Convention on Biological Diversity