Soil biota play fundamental roles in delivering key ecosystem goods and services of soils and are both directly and indirectly responsible for delivering many important soil functions such as soil organic matter (humus) formation, realising nutrients from soil organic matter, forming and maintaining soil structure and contributing to water storage and transfer in soil.1 Because of the organic matter of soils is one of the largest carbon pool, humus formation is extremely important to CO2 sink. The good quality soil is as important and as valuable as clean air or clean water.

Soil degradation, therefore, is a serious threat, which the European Union is facing. In addition, the level of threat is continuously increasing due to global warming, inappropriate land use (overgrazing, over-exploitation, over-irrigation, etc.) and river regulations.

Soil organisms are responsible for supplying the environment with a number of critically important ecosystem services:

However the knowledge on the function performed by soil biota is still very limited. Here there are some aspects of the decline of soil biodiversity in view of other soil threats.

Climate change, by the mean of temperature and precipitation variations in time and space, will play a major role among soil biodiversity threats.

Land use change and the consequent habitat and ecosystem disruption, is probably the main threat on biodiversity.

Soil erosion affects managed and natural ecosystem, and the consequences of this process on soil biodiversity will be both direct and indirect.

Soil compaction: the use of heavy load machinery in agriculture and the reduction in soil organic carbon content can determine soil compaction

Soil biological activity and diversity is important in all habitat types and all soil types, therefore the prototype will be tested all main soil types occur in Hungary and relevant in Europe (except podsols and related soil types in North Europe)(see additional details in question 14. concerning procedures in Action 3. and Action 4.). Concerning use of the prototype coarse sandy soils seem to be the only questionable ones, because the sand particles dropping to the traps make overestimation. These sand particles are counted electronically as being soil microarthoropods. In the improvement of mechanical part in Action 2 we will find a mechanical solution for this problem.

In order to preserve good quality soils, experts need to know when, where and how they should interfere in to negative processes. For such an interaction up-to-date, good quality data possibly on large-scale are indispensable.

European Union (6th EAPís Thematic Strategy for Soil) and national environmental policies for soil protection need precise and accurate data on field or landscape level to check environmental status and performance. For example, mapping polluted areas, or following changes in soil quality are main tasks in environmental protection. However, recently there is not any cost-effective and reliable method for assessing soil quality on large scale. None of the methods used today is able to provide such set of data because they are whether time-consuming, expensive or unreliable. Although, using soil biological activity indicators is one of the possibilities to reduce the very high costs of delineation in remediation actions. measuring soil biological activity is labour-intensive, needs special experts and provides unreliable data. Due to the high spatial and temporal variability of soil organisms low precision comes from inadequate sampling tool and design.

1 Bardgett, R.D., Hopkins, D.W. and Usher, M.B. (2005) Biological Diversity and Function in Soils. Cambridge University Press.