Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI)


The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI), now open to all interested in sustaining soils, was formed based on growing international concern by scientists, policy makers and the public over the status of the world's soils and increased recognition that the life in soil is key to sustaining our food production, ecosystem maintenance and control of global atmosphere and climate warming. The GSBI will serve as a primary means of informing the newly announced Global Soil Partnership (GSP - operated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and signed in Rome (Italy) in September 2011 by three international conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention on Desertification, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The GSBI, announced in this month during the conference on Soil Science in a Changing World in Wageningen, The Netherlands, is a collaborative initiative brought forth by representatives from each of five institutions: Prof Diana Wall (Colorado State University, USA), Prof Wim van der Putten (Netherlands Institute of Ecology/Wageningen Centre for Soil Ecology), Prof Richard Bardgett (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK), Prof Johan Six (University of California, Davis), and Dr Luca Montanarella (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy). These individuals will lead the further initiation of GSBI and be responsible for the development of an active platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy to assure management and enhancement of ecosystem services such as water quality, food production, soil fertility, and biocontrol of human and animal diseases.

The Global Soil Partners recognize that soils and their biodiversity are rapidly being degraded as a result of poor-management of soils, while acknowledging that proper soil management can, for example, increase soil carbon storage, thereby affecting global carbon cycling, and stabilize soils, thereby decreasing erosion, and promote other ecosystem services provided by soils and soil biodiversity, such as control of pests, pathogens and invasive species. The GSBI will encourage and bring together interested people, including scientists and policy makers from many scientific, government and non-governmental organizations, to formulate plans, synthesize data and collectively address loss and maintenance of biodiversity in the subsurface.


The Earth's soils are living, dynamic interfaces that are habitats for millions of microbial and animal species. One square metre of land houses thousands of soil species. The activities of these soil biota are critical to the wellbeing of humans, because they support the delivery of major ecosystem services like food and fiber provision, carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, clean air and ground water, and they are vital for controlling erosion, and plant, animal and human diseases. However, intensive use and mis-use of soils, or their complete sealing due to urbanization, puts the sustainability of these biota-driven services at risk, while the majority of people are hardly aware of the significant role of soil biota. While human population is growing, we need to get more goods and services out of a continuously shrinking area of open land. It is essential that we incorporate into future regional and national management and policy plans the growing scientific knowledge on the provision of vital ecosystem services by the large numbers of species that live in soil. Here, the GSBI represents a global soil biodiversity venture to develop a comprehensive course of action for such issues.

Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment - GSBA number 1

The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative is excited to announce that we will be coordinating a science-based Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment (GSBA). The GSBA will coordinate an international network of scientists and policy makers in an effort to synthesize present knowledge of crucial taxonomic groups in soil, identify how soil biodiversity and its services can be measured across the wide range of ecosystems in the world, address vulnerabilities of soil biota and ecosystem services and recommend future management applications based on scientific knowledge. Through the Assessment, we aim to will translate findings for use by the scientific community, policy makers and other interested parties.


Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment as high-priority need was discussed for the first time at the Open London Meeting held March 2012. To initiate the translation of scientific knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy and sustainable land management for the protection and enhancement of ecosystem services, the GSBI in collaboration with EC-JRC and Colorado State University (CSU) are hosting an international workshop for the Planning of the Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment at CSU, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA 26-28 February, 2013 (globalsoilbiodiversity/GSBA-Workshop).

Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas – GSBA number 2

In the frame of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, the SOIL Action (22004) of the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Environment and Sustainability is glad to announce that the writing of the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas (GSBA) has been scheduled. The development of the GSBA will be coordinated by the SOIL Action itself (contact: Alberto Orgiazzi ). 
The GSB Atlas represents the perfect sequel of the already published European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity and fits in the framework of the soil Atlases produced by the JRC SOIL Action since 2005.

Experts from all over the world will be involved in this project aiming at the creation of a reference point not only for soil biodiversity researchers but also policy makers and general public. 
You can follow @theGSBI on Twitter for updates on GSB Atlas/Assessment and biodiversity issue in general. A dedicated web page will be soon available for all the involved authors.


Call for Photos for the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas

 How you can contribute to the Atlas? Pick one of your pictures on soil and its biodiversity and send it to us. Get more information about this Photo Contest (ENFRDEIT)

Taking pictures of soil biodiversity is not limited to soil-dwelling organisms. In fact soil biodiversity incorporates many other aspects. Here is a list of the four topics for the photos that you could send us:

  1. Soil organisms. Soils are inhabited by many different organisms such as bacteria, fungi, insects, earthworms, and mammals. Just look down and click.
  2. Soil ecosystems. Soil biodiversity is present in all environments, from the Arctic to deserts, through forests, agricultural fields, and grasslands. Take pictures of landscapes where soil biodiversity is present.
  3. Threats to soil biodiversity. Soil biodiversity is increasingly under threat. Soil erosion, urbanization (soil sealing), pollution, fire, climate change, deforestation, and intensive land use are some examples. You could take pictures showing one of these critical aspects.
  4. Awareness of soil biodiversity. It is more and more important to raise awareness of the importance of soil biodiversity among the public as well as policy makers. Education and playing with soil represent some of the ways to reach this goal. Furthermore, soil has different meanings for different cultures. If you have captured one of these cultural differences during one of your journeys, please send us your photo!

We would like to thank all contributors for making the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas possible with their wonderful snapshots.


The GSBI will make better use of the current knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services rather than starting new research. Through this, their mission goals are to:

  1. Provide evidence and examples of possible solutions where soil biodiversity and helps makes a difference for human-well being and helps policy makers with their agenda.
  2. Exchange of knowledge and questions from users and stakeholders at an open science conference in order to set agendas.
  3. Provide a central forum for input to IPBES working groups on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. A framework of agreed soil biodiversity and ecosystem services will be identified.
  4. Provide a central focus to the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) for incorporating scientific knowledge on soil biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  5. Sponsor follow-up workshops to identify case studies where integrating soil biodiversity knowledge might improve sustainable management of soils and the ecosystem services. The results will help address the GSP’s mission of ‘sustainable management of soil resources for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation’.
  6. To sponsor working groups to assess and integrate results across disciplines that can be used to: a) develop scenarios of how climate change or desertification will alter services in relation to (land) management types and types of biomes, and b) identify gaps needed for qualifying/quantifying global soil biodiversity and relating it to ecosystem functioning models.

Connect with us

Currently, partners from Europe, South America, Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Asia are being approached in order to broaden this initiative, with the hope that it may one day be incorporated into organizations involved in soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. If you are interested in becoming connected with the initiative, please submit an inquiry.



Supporting Documents

 White Paper on the First Open Meeting of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) held in London, England, 30 March 2012

 GSBI Information Flyer presented in International Conference on Managing Soils for Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Press Release (27/09/2011): Colorado State University Announces the Launch of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative


1st GSBA Workshop for planning of the Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 26-28 February, 2013. Details and agenda: . You can follow the videos of the GSBA Opening session. Click here.

Post Planet Under Pressure Conference, London 30 March 2012. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative hosted its first Open Meeting immediately after the Planet Under Pressure Conference in London, England. Find attached:

Working group members – Main GSB Atlas Authors

  • Alberto Orgiazzi, Joint Research Centre (European Commission, Europe)
  • Ellen Kandeler, University of Hohenheim (Germany, Europe)
  • Gerlinde de Deyn, Wageningen University (Netherlands, Europe)
  • Jean-Luc Chotte, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (France, Europe)
  • Johan Six, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Switzerland, Europe)
  • Katarina Hedlund, Lund University (Sweden, Europe)
  • Luca Montanarella, Joint Research Centre (European Commission, Europe)
  • María Jesús Iglesias Briones, Universidad de Vigo (Spain, Europe)
  • Paul Eggleton, Natural History Museum (England, Europe)
  • Philippe Lemanceau, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France, Europe)
  • Richard Bardgett, Lancaster University (England, Europe)
  • Simon Jeffery, Wageningen University (Netherlands, Europe)
  • Stefan Scheu, University of Goettingen (Germany, Europe)
  • Wim van der Putten, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (Netherlands, Europe)
  • Barbara Fricks, Colorado State University (United States of America, North America)
  • Diana Wall, Colorado State University (United States of America, North America)
  • Kelly Ramirez, Colorado State University (United States of America, North America)
  • Miguel Dita Rodríguez, Bioversity International (Costa Rica, North America)
  • Nancy Collins Johnson, Northern Arizona University (United States of America, North America)
  • Noah Fierer, University of Colorado Boulder (United States of America, North America)
  • Patrick Bohlen, University of Central Florida (United States of America, North America)
  • Valerie Behan-Pelletier, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Canada, North America)
  • Junling Zhang, China Agricultural University (China, Asia)
  • Nobuhiro Kaneko, Yokohama National University (Japan, Asia)
  • Fátima Maria de Souza Moreira, Universidade Federal de Lavras (Brazil, South America)
  • Patrick Lavelle, International Center for Tropical Agriculture and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Colombia, South America
  • Edmundo Barrios, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) (Nairobi, Africa)
  • Brajesh Singh, University of Western Sydney (Australia, Oceania)

For any information about the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas you may contact Alberto Orgiazzi