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Assessment and evaluation of soil ecosystem services

Comerford, Nicholas B., Franzluebbers, Alan J., Stromberger, Mary E., Morris, Lawrence, Markewitz, Daniel, Moore, Rebecca
Soil Horizons 2013 pp. 1
biodiversity, construction materials, cultural heritage, economic valuation, ecosystem services, ecosystems, fauna, microorganisms, nutrients, recreation, religion, scientists, soil, soil ecology, soil management, wastes
Soil ecosystem services are diverse, valuable, and underappreciated. They are classified as provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services. This paper is the product of a Soil Science Society of America task force convened to define and value ecosystem services derived from soil for the benefit of scientists, elected officials, and practitioners with the hope that a better understanding of soil ecosystem services will result in informed decisions in the use of soils. Soil provides medicines, building materials, and nutrients. Soil controls nutrient and water cycles. Soil is capable of degrading wastes and detoxifying compounds. Soil is a habitat for diverse microorganisms and fauna, which in turn supports valuable ecosystem services. Soil also supports recreational activities and is part of our cultural heritage evident in legend, religion, song, and art. The value of soil’s ecosystem services exceeds that of other parts of an ecosystem, yet the scope and value of soil-derived ecosystem services remains poorly understood. Three of the greatest challenges that remain are to develop (i) a better understanding and documentation of soil biodiversity, (ii) more comprehensive economic valuation of soil services, and (iii) an understanding of how to manage soil to maximize its benefits to humankind.