Conclusions

Soils are key sites of ecosystem functions, providing cata-bolic analogs to the aboveground processes of photosynthesis, assimilation, and primary production. Decomposition of plant material drives the cycling of nutrients, and it is the activity of microbes that controls the availability of nutrients in the soil. The role of soil biota in ecosystem processes and functions has long been recognized as important, yet the specific nature of these interactions and effects is still under investigation. Particularly of interest are linkages across broad spatial and temporal scales. There is much to be learned about how processes that occur at the micro- and millimeter-scale in soils (and is observed in meter-scale plot research) can be scaled up to the level of ecosystems and the biosphere. This has implications that extend beyond basic scientific research. The majority ofcarbon that is stored in terrestrial ecosystems exists in soil organic matter. The response of soils to global change processes is an important control and feedback point in global biogeochemical cycles. For example, an important aspect unknown is how soils will respond to potential shifts in detritus quantity and quality that comes about from plant responses to global climate change. Further complicating matters is that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO2 levels, global climate change, chronic N-deposition, and landscape transformations will have interactive effects on soils, yet we do not know ifthey will be additive or multiplicative interactions. The implications of these interactions for the management of soils within the context of global change, ecological restoration, and landscape transformations remain an important component of understanding and managing the resilience and sustainability of ecological systems.

See also: Composting and Formation of Humic Substances; Decomposition and Mineralization; Denitrification; Detritus; Ecosystems; Pedosphere; Soil Formation; Soil Movement by Tillage and Other Agricultural Activities.

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