Soil organic matter as a key factor in the provision of soil ecosystem services
1-10-2011 – 30-9-2014

Soil functions and ecosystem services
Sustainable agriculture and forestry

Parties involved:

The general scope of ECOSOM is on the good ecological status of soil in arable lands. The project is focussed on 2 management practices (organic waste recycling and tillage reduction) that can sustainably enhance the provision of ecosystem services (ES) to farmers as well as to other indirectly involved stakeholders who may benefit from other ES also enhanced (or reduced) by these practices. Central in our research is soil organic matter (SOM) and soil structure as key factors in soil functioning and subsequent provision of ES, and the relationship with key functional groups of soil biodiversity that interact with the regulation of SOM and soil structure. Through biological, chemical and physical analyses ECOSOM will increase the mechanistic understanding of relationships between soil functioning and soil ecosystem services, as affected by organic waste recycling and reduced tillage measures. Thus we will provide guidance for farmers and stakeholders in a transition process of sustainable agriculture in a modernised society with greater adaptability and resilience to the effects of climate change.

ECOSOM will address:

  • Supporting services such as regulation of SOM, soil structure, nutrient dynamics
  •  Regulating services such as organic contaminant filtering or degradation, pathogen behaviour, water regulation (infiltration, soil moisture), regulation of greenhouse gasses,
  • Provisioning services: crop production through nutrient availabilities

To contribute to a scientific basis for national and European policy development regarding sustainable land use, ECOSOM will comply with and contribute to SNOWMAN objectives on basis of three principles.

  1. The project aims to enhance research efficiency through cooperation between partners at selected long-term experimental field plots and private-owned farmland. We will share sites and exchange sample materials for better standardisation and complementary analyses, covering a wider range of climatic conditions..
  2. The project will enhance the flow of knowledge and expertise on sustainable use of soils in Europe and beyond. We will disseminate our findings at national and international scientific for a and stakeholder platforms in appropriate communication formats. We will contribute to integrated and system-oriented management of the environment, e.g. between soil and water compartments, by providing guidance on sustainable practices to relevant actors and stakeholders. Through interaction with national environmental agencies ECOSOM can further contribute to raising awareness amongst politicians, managers, and commercial entrepreneurs that interference with soil and water systems should fit in sustainable management schemes.
  3. The regulation of soil organic matter and soil structure are key processes that support all provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant for sustainable agriculture and environmental management. By focusing on these soil functions through field and practice-based observation and experimentation, ECOSOM will obtain knowledge and validated expertise that isrelevant and applicable to much of the SNOWMAN research agenda, including:
  • recognition and management of functional soil biodiversity
  • assessment of good ecological soil status
  • integration of soil ecosystem services in decision making
  • impact of agricultural practices on soil quality
  • significance of soil in climate proofing the agricultural sector
  • risk assessment and management.

Research coordinator ECOSOM: Dr Sabine Houot, INRA, France

ECOSOM will work in cooperation with the SUSTAIN project.

 Project Deliverables