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BHU RESEARCHERS PART OF INTERNATIONAL STUDY THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME IDENTIFIES GLOBAL SOIL HOTSPOTS FOR CONSERVING SOIL ECOLOGICAL VALUES

By   /  October 17, 2022  /  Comments Off on BHU RESEARCHERS PART OF INTERNATIONAL STUDY THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME IDENTIFIES GLOBAL SOIL HOTSPOTS FOR CONSERVING SOIL ECOLOGICAL VALUES

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VARANASI : A team of international researchers has for the first time identified global soil hotspots that are in urgent need of conservation. The findings were part of a research conducted by 39 scientists from different countries including Dr. Jay Prakash Verma, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development and his research scholar Mr. Arpan Mukherjee. The work has been published in the internationally reputed scientific journal Nature.

The research team recognized the global hotspots that must be of the highest importance for soil nature conservation planning, to minimise adverse impacts on soil ecosystems services and its productivity in a rapidly changing global climate. The study assessed the global hotspots for preserving soil ecological values and measured different dimensions of soil biodiversity (local species richness and uniqueness) and ecosystem services (like water regulation or carbon storage). The study surveyed over 10,000 observations of biodiversity and indicators of ecosystem services within 615 soil samples taken from 151 locations in 23 countries across all the continents, assessing three soil ecological factors, including local species richness, biodiversity uniqueness and ecosystem services, such as water regulation and carbon storage.

The study found that these dimensions peaked in contrasting regions of the world. For instance, temperate ecosystems showed higher local soil biodiversity (species richness), while colder ecosystems were identified as hotspots of soil ecosystem services. In addition, the results suggest that tropical and arid ecosystems hold the most unique communities of soil organisms.

Dr. Jay Prakash Verma, Senior Assistant Professor, Plant-Microbe Interaction Laboratory, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, BHU, said, Soil is the most important natural resource for providing all ecosystem services for human and all living things. The soils are a world of their own, hidden beneath our feet and bursting with life. They are home to billions of earthworms, nematodes, insects, fungi, bacteria and many other organisms. And yet, we are hardly aware of these organisms or their profound impacts on ecosystems, said Dr. Verma. He added that without soil, there would be little life on land and surely no humans. In fact, most of the food we consume depends directly or indirectly on soil fertility. However, soils are also rapidly becoming vulnerable to climate and land-use change. To better conserve soil ecological values, we must know where their protection is needed most, reiterated Dr. Verma. For plants and animals living above the soil, hotspots of biodiversity were identified decades ago. However, no such assessment was or could be made for soil ecological values until now.

The study reveals that the soil biodiversity and ecosystem services of soil are often overlooked in policy decision-making and nature conservation planning, with current conservation policies focused on only aboveground plants and animals. While the below ground soil biodiversity is also very important for Soil conservation and its productivity and sustainability.

The study provides scientific support for researchers, scientists and policy makers for urgent action on soil biodiversity conservation for the preservation of ecosystem services such as climate regulation and protection for biodiversity loss and environmental pollution. The research recommends the implementation of a policy-framework that explicitly includes the conservation of soil biodiversity, which is critical for minimising the impact of global changes on ecosystem services, agriculture productivity and restoring degraded environment.

Banaras Hindu University’s contribution to this research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, Science & Engineering Research Board, New, Delhi, and Institution of Eminence initiative, BHU.

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