The British Society of Soil Science’s Annual Conference 2021, sponsored by Arcadis, considered soil health from five different perspectives, providing insight into a prominent topic across professional and academic practice.
Dr Felicity Crotty presented “Using soil biology to assess soil health”. Soil biodiversity and abundance can act as an indicator of soil health, with a functioning biodiverse soil food web exemplifying a healthy soil which is able to deliver ecosystem services. Soil quality and soil health have been used frequently and interchangeably within the scientific literature, but only something alive can be considered healthy, thereby we are already (unconsciously) acknowledging the importance of soil biology when we talk about soil health. In agricultural practice, earthworms are often used as the emblem of soil health. They are ecosystem engineers, having an impact on the whole soil environment through bioturbation and mixing of plant litter and the cycling of nutrients. Earthworm numbers can decline through poor agricultural management. Therefore, assessing earthworm numbers and how they change with practice is an important measure of soil health. Felicity’s presentation included discussions of recent projects that have monitored soil biology and how fauna are impacted by changing agricultural practices.