Partenariat mondial sur les sols

Advancing soil biodiversity through the International Network of Soil Biodiversity

From January 16 to 18 January 2024, the International Network of Soil Biodiversity (NETSOB) of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) convened two significant gatherings: a virtual annual network meeting and a board workshop. These events attracted the interest of over 300 participants, signifying a robust interest in the preservation and understanding of soil biodiversity.



Annual network meeting highlights

Chaired by Prof. Peter de Ruiter, the annual meeting was opened by the Director of the Land and Water Division of FAO, Mr Lifeng Li, who highlighted the stressing need for the network to design and build a robust Global Soil Biodiversity Observatory (GLOSOB). Carlos Guerra and Brajesh Singh emphasized the cooperative efforts necessary to fortify soil biodiversity initiatives worldwide, including the establishment of standard methods and the building of local capacity.

Key decisions emerged from the meeting, notably the merger of Working Groups 3 (Economics of soil biodiversity) and Working Group 4 (Policies protecting soil biodiversity) to streamline operations and enhance efficiency. Jacob Parnell, NETSOB coordinator, presented recommendations for implementing the GLOSOB, outlining crucial biodiversity metrics and the observatory's establishment process.

George Brown, NETSOB Vice-chair and lead of the Measurement working group, presented the outcomes of a global survey on soil biodiversity. He highlighted discrepancies in research methodologies and the lack of standardized protocols across projects. Brown's report underscored the necessity of uniform methods and collaboration among stakeholders.

To close the annual meeting, the election of a new Chair took place. Brajesh Singh was elected as the new chair of the NETSOB, succeeding Peter de Ruiter, who received accolades for his dedicated service, as noted by Director Lifeng Li.

Updates from the working groups

The Working group 1 - Measuring, monitoring, and assessing working group prioritized the development of a guidebook containing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for soil biodiversity. Additionally, the group assisted the Global Soil Laboratory Network in establishing protocols for various soil parameters. Efforts for SOPs for nematodes, mesofauna, and macrofauna are ongoing, with consideration given to adopting existing SoilBON methods.

The Working group 2 - Land management/best practices working group issued a call for chapter submissions focusing on soil biodiversity conservation practices. While many responses lacked specificity, the group plans to issue a revised call with clearer guidelines in the second half of 2024.

The Working group 3 - Economic valuation working group has developed an economic model for assessing soil biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services. This model is slated for publication in the latter half of 2024.

The Working group 4 -  Policy working group will produce a policy brief on soil biodiversity protection and conservation, linking soil health to human well-being. The brief, scheduled for release in late 2024, will propose strategies and example policies to overcome economic and legal barriers.

Highlights from the NETSOB Board workshop:

During the NETSOB Board workshop, significant decisions to propel the network's initiatives forward were made. One key decision was to publish a special issue in the Soil Organisms journal in 2024. This special issue aims to encapsulate the pivotal progress made by the network over its initial two years. Contributions from each of the working groups will be featured, covering a range of critical topics including:

  • Editorial: provide insights derived from a global survey and a comprehensive literature review, shedding light on the current status of soil biodiversity research. 
  • Survey report: Key findings from the global survey on soil biodiversity research will be presented, and the data collected will be made freely available.
  • Literature review on soil microbes: An in-depth analysis of literature spanning the past decade will explore the trends and areas of focus in soil microbe research.
  • Literature review on micro/mesofauna: a similar review will be conducted for micro and mesofauna, examining research trends and geographical focus over the past decade.
  • Literature review on macro/megafauna: this section will delve into literature over the past ten years to understand the research landscape concerning soil macro and megafauna.
  • Literature review on ecosystem services: an examination of the literature over the past decade will explore the research on soil ecosystem services and its geographic distribution.
  • Proposed model for economic valuation of soil biodiversity: A model for assessing the economic value of soil biodiversity will be presented.
  • Brief on soil biodiversity policies: this section will outline policies aimed at the protection and conservation of soil biodiversity, emphasizing their importance in maintaining soil health and human well-being.
  • Detailed survey on management practices: a comprehensive survey will be conducted to identify management practices that effectively conserve or sustainably utilize soil biodiversity.
  • Design of the Global Soil Biodiversity Observatory: the design and implementation plan for the GLOSOB will be outlined.

The board also approved the concept note outlining the plan for implementing the GLOSOB. This concept will be presented to the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) in March 2024 and to the GSP Plenary Assembly in June 2024 for endorsement.