Dear moderators and colleagues,
I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Soil Spatial Ecology from The Sydney Institute of Agriculture at The University of Sydney in Australia.
- Our team here value that soil biodiversity is a critical contributor to food security and nutrition. There is no way how to replace its biochemical performance behind soil health conditions (nutrients availability and soil structure, for instance) on which relies agricultural productivity. Unfortunately, carrying out a large scale study across the main agricultural zone (so-called Wheatbelt region) across the state of New South Wales (> 800,000 km2), we found how soil biodiversity is lower in cropping areas and that the extent of this reality varies across different soil types - even beyond other environmental variables and land uses. To assess the real impacts on food security we are now profiling these relationships since a proper measure and a reference is needed for those different scenarios. As indicated by other studies, a decrease in soil biodiversity brings down the soil functionality that would compromise food security if an overuse of biodiversity occurs. A baseline to estimates those critical points compromising food production should be established for the different soil environments – something that we are developing for this study area.
- In our study, the paired soil ecosystems under more sustainable uses (but not productive ones) such as natural grasslands, forests and woodlands were also assessed in the same sampling points. In these environments, a higher microbial diversity showed up indicating how soil biodiversity is higher under natural ecosystems that any conservation measures would be a contribution to avoid biodiversity degradation.
- I know about the local initiative looking after soil biodiversity in New South Wales. The NSW government has defined The Draft New South Wales Biodiversity Strategy 2010–15 which aims to improve and maintain soil biodiversity by promoting and educating in the use of sustainable land practices to keep soils healthy. Globally, my main understanding is on the activities organised by the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. All of those sectors involved somehow either in the exploitation or protection/conservation of soil ecosystems should be partners for promoting soil biodiversity mainstreaming strength. Producers, landowners, representatives from agricultural industry and experts from multidisciplinary areas to provide scientific support and tool for guiding a sustainable and resilient agriculture.
- Declines of biodiversity should be stopped and avoided but there are no ‘values’ to show and tell the extent of this damage. The same lack of references does not allow an economic valuation of this damage to promote protective regulations. There are not standardized references showing, for example, what would be the best biodiversity level to promote nutrients availability or at which level certain pathogens can become a problem affecting soil productivity, etc. Landholders require guidelines on which rely how good o bad or far away are for sustaining biodiversity. Certainly, these references are variable by specific agroecological conditions. This requires investigation and observations encompassing different environments and the development of tools and collaborative guidelines from the different agricultural sectors. This information requires a technical and institutional capacity for its development. This is a developing knowledge that needs to be captured and then organised to reflect the extent of its economic and social impacts that will support the urgency for policies and regulations on behalf of its protection.
Dr. Vanessa Pino