Scientists have been awarded £1.6M to investigate how we can ensure that our soil management practices are resilient to environmental change in the future.

The earth’s soil resources are being put under increasing pressure and there is an urgent need to ensure that soils found across different landscapes continue to deliver vital resources for humans.

Professor Pete Smith, from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and a team of scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), Lancaster University, Rothamsted Research and Imperial College London, have been awarded the grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The study will see the team investigate how soils in different ecosystems – ranging from intensive agriculture through to extensive, semi-natural systems – support ecosystem services, and to what extent they are resilient to environmental pressures from climate change and human activity.

During the project, the team will investigate how soil in each of these systems respond to change, and how management might be used to improve the delivery of the vital ecosystem services provided by soils. The team aim to identify which management interventions will benefit the widest range of services, and where trade-offs, such as improving soil fertility but decreasing water quality, might occur.

Professor Pete Smith said: “This grant will allow us to carry out research to address fundamental knowledge gaps with respect to how soils sustain different services under different intensities of management across the UK.

“The ultimate goal of this research is to inform government policy makers, and also land managers, on how best to protect our soils, which underpin the vital goods and services provide by the land.”

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