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Vadose Zone Journal Abstract - Special Section: Soil Architecture and Function

Natural Capital, Ecosystem Services, and Soil Change: Why Soil Science Must Embrace an Ecosystems Approach

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This article in VZJ

  1. Vol. 11 No. 1
    Received: May 24, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): darearthscience@yahoo.com
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  1. D.A. Robinson *a,
  2. N. Hockleyb,
  3. E. Dominatic,
  4. I. Lebrona,
  5. K.M. Scowd,
  6. B. Reynoldsa,
  7. B.A. Emmetta,
  8. A.M. Keithe,
  9. L.W. de Jongef,
  10. P. Schjønningg,
  11. P. Moldrupg,
  12. S.B. Jonesh and
  13. M. Tulleri
  1. a Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Environment Centre Wales, Deiniol Road, Bangor, UK
    b School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor Univ., Bangor, UK
    c AgResearch, Grasslands Research Centre, Tennent Drive, Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
    d Dep. of Land, Air and Water Resources, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616
    e Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster, UK
    f Dep. of Agroecology, Aarhus Univ., Tjele, Denmark
    g Dep. of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, Aalborg Univ., Aaborg, Denmark
    h Dep. of Plants, Soils and Climate, Utah State Univ., Logan, UT 84322
    i Dep. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721


Soil is part of the Earth's life support system, but how should we convey the value of this and of soil as a resource? Consideration of the ecosystem services and natural capital of soils offers a framework going beyond performance indicators of soil health and quality, and recognizes the broad value that soil contributes to human wellbeing. This approach provides links and synergies between soil science and other disciplines such as ecology, hydrology, and economics, recognizing the importance of soils alongside other natural resources in sustaining the functioning of the Earth system. We articulate why an ecosystems approach is important for soil science in the context of natural capital, ecosystem services, and soil change. Soil change is defined as change on anthropogenic time scales and is an important way of conveying dynamic changes occurring in soils that are relevant to current political decision-making time scales. We identify four important areas of research: (i) framework development; (ii) quantifying the soil resource, stocks, fluxes, transformations, and identifying indicators; (iii) valuing the soil resource for its ecosystem services; and (iv) developing decision-support tools. Furthermore, we propose contributions that soil science can make to address these research challenges.

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