Soils: delivering ecosystem services

From carbon store to urban heat buffer, from waste recycling site to water filtration medium, soil performs a wide range of functions. What used to be regarded solely as a rooting medium for crops is now recognised as a vital multi-functional natural resource capable of providing a wide range of ecosystem services when managed properly.

The ecosystem services approach is now firmly established in government thinking as the basis for the sustainable management of our planet. It treats the environment as an integrated system; no longer can one element (soil, water, biota) be managed in isolation. The upcoming conference ‘Soils: Delivering ecosystem services’ will explore how the ecosystem services approach is being applied to soil and how soils can be managed to best effect, for delivery of a wide range of ecosystem goods and services.

This event took place on Thursday 8 October 2009, at SCI’s offices in Belgrave Square, London, and is aimed at all engineers, scientists, consultants and researchers working on aspects of land or site management. The morning session outlined the role of the ecosystem services approach in soil protection with guest speakers Dr Peter Costigan (Defra) and Ms Helen Taylor (Environment Agency) providing an opportunity for delegates to learn about the principles of the ecosystem service approach. Professors Joe Morris (Cranfield University) and David Manning (Newcastle University) setting out how ecosystem services can be valued and quantified. In the afternoon the conference moved onto the practical application of the ecosystem services approach, in areas ranging from planning, to sports surfaces and forestry.

Professors Phil Haygarth (Lancaster University) and Karl Ritz (Cranfield University) set the tone by outlining how ecosystem services approach can, and should, be used in land use planning. Their recent research has explored the need to audit soil resources to gain an understanding of their current status and use this information to make smarter land use planning choices. Paul Mathers (WRAP) then discussed the regeneration of brownfield sites for biomass production, followed by Professor Andy Moffat from Forest Research who addressed forestry management in relation to ecosystem service provision. Dr Mark Bartlett (Cranfield University) then discussed how the management of sports turf can increase ecosystem service provision. The speakers are at the forefront of knowledge and actively involved in the development and application of the ecosystem service approach within their field. Lord Selbourne FRS along with Professor Harris (Cranfield University) chaired the event.

This event was jointly organised with the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists (IPSS). IPSS is the professional body for the promotion and enhancement of soil science and its allied disciplines.

Kathryn Alton, Cranfield University
Agriculture and Environment Group 

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