Soil diversity study and conservation


There is no strict and unambiguous definition of soil diversity term yet. Mainly it is quality characteristics of soil composition on certain territory with additional information of rare, endemic and endangered soils increasing the soil diversity of the territory.

There are several lines of investigations in soil diversity studies during last decades: development of quantitative methods for soil structure estimation in certain regions, examination of relationships between soil diversity and biodiversity, detection of soil diversity interdependence and ecological factors modification, development of soil diversity indeces for geostatistics etc.

According with P.V.Krasilnikov with co-authors there are three main soil science problems to be decided by using soil diversity indeces and models: comparative-geographical analysis of different territories, comparative-historical analysis of landscape evolution and detection of relationships between soil diversity and biodiversity. Similar problems are solved in the framework of geological and landscape diversity studies. However, the use of quantitative assessment of soil diversity depends on the linking of diversity indicators to soil classification systems and original soil maps. There are also difficulties in interpreting the results of assessing soil diversity due to the inability to use in soil studies scientific explanations developed for the analysis of biological diversity. P.V.Krasilnikov with co-authors defines three main promising research areas in soil diversity studies i.e. assessment of the functional diversity of soils by their characteristics, integration with methods for assessing soil variability based on geostatistics and the assessment of soil diversity on different scales.

Soil diversity in Russia

Specific features of the soil cover are determined by the heterogeneity of soil composition and properties, soil genus and types, that is why this natural phenomenon is of great interest from both scientific and practical points of view.

Taxonomic soil diversity (i.e., diversity of individual soils or soil groups in a certain area) considers as a measure of soil-forming potential realizing. The potential of natural factors shows itself in the ability to form a variety of genetic soil horizons in the soil profile and specific soils forming the soil cover .

To assess soil diversity (or the degree of differentiation of parent rock materials into soil bodies and soil covers), two indices have been introduced: the vertical differentiation index (Ird) and the spatial lateral differentiation index (Ild). These indices were computed based on the soil cover structure shown on the Soil Map of the Russian Federation on a scale of 1 : 2.5 M within the spatial framework of the Map of Soil-Ecological Zoning of the Russian Federation on a scale of 1 : 2.5 M.

The greatest soil diversity in the plains is identified in the zones of soddy-podzolic soils of the southern taiga and gray forest soils of deciduous forests. These zones are occupied at the boundary of the Boreal and Subboreal geographical belts and characterized by (wide spreading ) of dynamically mature soils. Complex soil covers and soil profiles were also identified in mountainous soil provinces of the Altai and Caucasus.

Biodiversity and soil diversity

Biodiversity is the main resource of food and environmental comfort as far as a factor of stability of living conditions for humanity. The activity of living organisms underlies the state of atmosphere, hydrosphere and climate of the Earth. However, with a general understanding of the problem, the significance in the biodiversity formation of some of the most important factors such as soils and soil is underestimated. It is known that there is a close interdependence between the soils and inhabiting them living organisms communities, therefore, the problem of biodiversity conservation cannot be solved without preserving the soil diversity. At present, efforts to create conditions for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity are far from consistent with the scale of human agricultural activities. The task of preserving soil diversity, soil cover patterns, preserving natural soils, including rare and endangered, is closely connected with the problem of biodiversity conservation on Earth.

The role of soils in the formation and preservation of biodiversity

Soil is a unique habitat for different kinds of life forms from microorganisms to higher plants and vertebrates. According to geneticists around 92% of the known fauna and flora genetic diversity are represented in soils. The biomass of plants and animals associated with Earth soil cover is 99,8% of the total Earth biomass.

There is a close connection and interdependence between soils and inhabiting them living organisms communities. Prominent Russian soil scientists demonstrate that each type of soils is characterized by peculiar communities of plants, microorganisms and animals. Evidently the problem of biodiversity conservation cann’t be solved without preserving the natural soils diversity, including rare and endangered.

The importance of soils for maintaining of life diversity is primarily caused by its environmental role. Soil is the most important factor in the formation of conditions for the existence of the whole life diversity. At the same time, the ecosystem functions of soils are determined by the level of ecosystem diversity.

Preservation of the natural soil diversity of Russia within the nature protected areas

Soils are often considered as a substrate for ecosystems existence but not as their integral component. The maintenance of historical cycles of matter and energy in the biosphere and the preservation of natural ecosystems diversity and genetic diversity of organisms are not associated with the preservation of the natural soils’ diversity in tradition common environmental activity.

However, the effect of geomorphological and geological parameters, such as terrain, level and composition of groundwater, chemical and physical properties of soil-forming rocks on the diversity of biocenoses is as significant as the influence of the general laws of wildlife distribution (zonal and provincial). In most cases, geomorphological and geological factors have an effect on the composition and functioning characteristics of biocenosis through the soil, which is a link connecting together the geospheric and biospheric components of a common circulation of matter and energy in the biosphere.

Soils are the main habitat of genetically diverse species of plants, animals and microorganisms. They are an obvious reflection of the physico-georgraphic and bioclimatic situation and the history of the territory. Therefore, the preservation of soil diversity is an indispensable condition for the preservation of the diversity of natural complexes in the network of specially protected natural areas.

Assessment of the representation of natural soils’ diversity of Russia in the system of state specially protected natural areas

The representativeness of the system of state specially protected natural areas was assessed based on the analysis of vectorized Soil Map of the Russian Federation on a scale of 1 : 15 M. Insufficient coverage of the soil diversity of Russia by nature reserves and national parks can be stated on the basis of the study.

16 soils and 8 soil complexes (from 76 Units of Soil map legend) are not represented in reserves and national parks of Russian Federation that is one third of all soils of the country, if we consider the natural diversity of soils at the classification level. The total area of unrepresented soils is 11.36% of the land area of Russia.

The most significant of unrepresented soil units in terms of area and typical for definite regions are the most fertile soils - micellar-calcareous chernozems and meadow chernozems. There are completely unique permafrost pale-yellow and pale-yellow solodized soils typical for only one Earth region among unrepresented soils and also very interesting from science point of view soils with second humic horizon.

Soils, unrepresented in state nature reserves and national parks of Russian Federation
Soils, unrepresented in state nature reserves and national parks of Russian Federation

Materials for the section

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