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Diverse plant communities improve soil structure and, therefore, ecosystem services

Science for Environment Policy  │  Issue 481  │  26 January 2017

This study, which covered a range of different soil types, is one of the first to investigate the effects of plant diversity on soil structure, which is important for provision of ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and the mitigation of excessive run-off. The findings could help tackle the problem of soil degradation, the researchers suggest.

Biodiversity declines are a threat to ecosystems worldwide, and upward of 25% of all plant species are threatened with extinction.

Several studies have attempted to understand how this loss of diversity is affecting ecosystems, with many showing that by disrupting ecosystem functioning, it affects the delivery of essential ecosystem services.

While valuable, most past studies have focused on the impact of plant diversity loss on soil’s biological properties and functions, rather than the impact on its physical structure. As the structure of soil is essential to its function (including delivering critical ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, carbon storage and flood prevention), this represents a significant gap in understanding.

It is especially important to investigate this connection because soil degradation is affecting one third of the earth’s soils and is largely due to deterioration in soil’s physical structure.

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SOURCE: EC Environment