Applying soil ecological knowledge to restore ecosystem services

TitleApplying soil ecological knowledge to restore ecosystem services
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBaer, SG, Heneghan, L, Eviner, V
EditorWall, D
Book TitleSoil Ecology and Ecosystem Services
Pagination377 -393
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford, UK
Accession NumberKNZ001435
Keywordsagriculture, Invasive species, mining; novel ecosystem, plant–soil feedback, restoration, soil ecological knowledge

Ecological restoration is human-facilitated improvement of a degraded environment. This chapter synthesizes the relevance of soil ecological knowledge to restoration along a continuum of ecosystem degradation and in the context of novel ecosystems. At one end of the continuum, mining can result in severe soil degradation and contamination with metals. Restoration of mined sites often focuses on decontamination, and success can be affected by soil heterogeneity, organic matter content, and refugia for soil biota that possess biodegradation pathways. Former agricultural sites can exhibit a wide range of soil and ecosystem legacies, with restoration goals ranging from simply reducing erosion with perennial plants to establishing a suite of historic ecosystem attributes and services through the re-introduction of many species. Although recovery of soil structure and function can coincide with plant establishment, knowledge of soil processes and plant–soil feedbacks have been applied to promote resource heterogeneity and plant diversity, and to reduce non-native species in restored agricultural systems. Even in relatively undisturbed sites with high legacy of native plants and soil, invasions of undesirable species may occur. Restoration of invaded systems may necessitate knowledge of how invaders impact resource availability and capture, as well as potentially complex multi-trophic interactions and feedbacks with soil. Last, restoration of novel ecosystems with new and self-sustaining assemblages of plant species in no-analog environments may require sophisticated consideration of biogeochemistry, plant population and community dynamics, and soil ecology to reintroduce and sustain native species long extirpated from local environments.