The establishment of the range of soil biodiversity found within European soils is needed to guide EU policy development regarding the protection of soil. Such a base-line should be collated from a wide-ranging sampling campaign to ensure that soil biodiversity from the majority of soil types, land-use or management systems, and European climatic (bio-geographical zones) were included. This paper reports the design and testing of a method to achieve the large scale sampling associated with the establishment of such a baseline, carried out within the remit of the EcoFINDERS project, and outlines points to consider when such a task is undertaken.
Applying a GIS spatial selection process, a sampling campaign was undertaken by 13 EcoFINDERS partners across 11 countries providing data on the range of indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem functions including; micro and meso fauna biodiversity, extracellular enzyme activity, PLFA and community level physiological profiling (MicroResp™ and Biolog™). Physical, chemical and bio-geographical parameters of the 81 sites sampled were used to determine whether the model predicted a wide enough range of sites to allow assessment of the biodiversity indicators tested.
Discrimination between the major bio-geographical zones of Atlantic and Continental was possible for all land-use types. Boreal and Alpine zones only allowed discrimination in the most common land-use type for that area e.g. forestry and grassland sites, respectively, while the Mediterranean zone did not have enough sites sampled to draw conclusions across all land-use types. The method used allowed the inclusion of a range of land-uses in both the model prediction stage and the final sites sampled. The establishment of the range of soil biodiversity across Europe is possible, though a larger targeted campaign is recommended. The techniques applied within the EcoFINDERS sampling would be applicable to a larger campaign