Project title: Ecosystem services driven by the diversity of soil biota – understanding and management –

Project type: ERANET

Authority: UEFISCDI

Contractor: University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca

Project manager:  Conf. dr. Mignon Șandor  

Website SoilMan:



      Soil biota diversity is ensuring primary production in terrestrial ecosystems and agricultural productivity. Water and nutrient cycling, soil formation and aggregation, decomposition and carbon sequestration as well as control of pest organisms are important functions in soil that are driven by biota and biota interactions. In agricultural systems these functions support and regulate ecosystem services directed to agricultural production and agricultural sustainability. A main goal of future cropping systems will be to maintain or raise agricultural productivity while keeping production sustainable in spite of increasing food demands and on going soil degradation caused by inappropriate soil management practices. Tillage, fertilization, crop rotation including cover crops and the residue management are the main farm based tools that farmers use to engineer soils for plant production. These four soil management factors depend on decisions by farmers, which are triggered by regional traditions, knowledge and also by agriculture policies as a governance impact. However, biological impacts on soil fertility and soil health are often neglected or overseen when planning and shaping soil management in cropping systems. SoilMan aims at forstering the understanding of how the interplay of farm based soil management practices affect soil biodiversity and how soil biodiversity in turn feeds back to soil functions and ecosystem services as factors for productivity and sustainability. SoilMan investigations will take place in the four main biogeographical regions of Europe (Mediterranean, Atlantic, Continental, and Boreal).
Using a selection of field sites representing regional variations in tillage intensities, fertilization regime (organic vs. mineral), crop rotation length and complexity, as well as in crop residue managements, inventories of major soil biota groups will be performed to determine the response of soil biodiversity to soil management practices in different regional contexts (Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Romania).
Together with the recording of metadata concerning the field sites enchytraeidae, earthworms, collembolan, mites and gastropods will investigated as fauna groups using both morphological identification and molecular markers. Total bacteria and total fungal communities including a specific look on arbuscular mycorrhiza will be analyzed by barcode PCR-based approaches. Soil respiration and community level physiological profiling (CLPP) assessed by the MicroResp method will be applied to determine microbial activity and functional diversity. Also, processes driven by soil biota will be investigated in a comprehensive way including decomposition &carbon cycling, soil aggregation , water infiltration, nutrient availability to plants, nutrient transport and leaching, and suppressiveness (of pathogens), will be quantified and analyzed in detail using field or lab-based experiments. The experiments will either be carried out on the SoilMan field sites or will use soil from these sites. A joined factor for the experiments is the manipulation of soil communities and the determination of related consequence for the provision of functions and services. Moreover, experiments will enable to include regional constrains since experiments will be repeated at or for at least two of the four biogeographical regions covered by SoilMan field sites. Both perspectives (management vs biodiversity and biodiversity vs functions and services) will be combined to demonstrate and quantify the interdependencies from soil management inputs via habitat conditions and biodiversity to soil sustainability and productivity.
Soil biota driven ecosystem services will be valuated from socio-economic as well as socio-ecological view points. This valuation will form the basis for identifying and developing best practice soil management options maximizing biodiversity and sustainability by minimizing economic losses of farmers and the society at the same time. Policies and policy drivers will be compared and related to regional constraints in sustainable soil management with a special focus on trade related international and regional as well as knowledge related drivers. SoilMan will deliver strategies for improving soil biodiversity levels and associated services for the long-term sustainable management of soils as a basis of human nutrition and wellbeing. This will be achieved by developing communication plans directed to the scientific community (BiodivERsA-workshops, conferences, papers) as well as to stakeholders and decision makers (e.g., policy briefs).




1. Explore soil biodiversity as a function of soil management characteristics and regional constraints.
2. Explore the impact of soil biodiversity on soil functioning and the provision of soil related ecosystem services.
3. Develop an integrative approach for management induced biological interactions and ESS provision in the soil system.
4. Value the most important goods and services that soil biodiversity can provide for society and assess the impact of policy on its provision.
5. Compare the specific regional results and to link them with the European policies and laws debate in such a way that the results of SoilMan can be useful for policy and decision makers.