EcoFINDERS: Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils

Project acronym: EcoFINDERS 
Project full title: Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils 
Instrument: Collaborative Project FP7 
Grant agreement no.: 264465 
Call: ENV.2010.2.1.4-4 ENV.2010.2.1.4-4 ENV SIncreasing the understanding of the role of soil biodiversity in ecosystem functioning Increasing the understanding of the role of soil biodiversity in ecosystem functioning Environment (including Climate Change)
Start: 01/01/2011, End: 31/12/2014, Duration: 48m; 
Consortium: 23 partners 
Project Coordinator: Dr. Philippe Lemanceau, INRA (FR) 
Project Web Site,
Key words: Soil biodiversity, soil functions, ecosystem services, bioindicators, microorganisms, fauna, environmental economy, long term observatories 
Press Release of European Commission DG RTD: (Brussels, March 2011) 
Soil Trec

Project Summary

Soils provide numerous essential ecosystem services such as: primary production (including agricultural and forestry products); regulation of biogeochemical cycles (with consequences for the climate); water filtration; resistance to diseases and pests; and regulation of above-ground biodiversity.

However, soils are subjected to many threats, so there is an urgent need to preserve this resource which is not renewable at the Human time scale. The European Commission wants to define a policy for the sustainable management of soils with a view to adopting a legally binding Soil Framework Directive, such as exists for air and water. Scientific and technological knowledge on soil biodiversity and functioning in relation with the above mentioned ecosystem services is required to reach this goal.

Soils host a huge biodiversity (microbes and fauna) of which our understanding remains very limited. Our lack of knowledge is related to: the small size of the soilborne organisms; their immense diversity; the difficulty in isolating them; and the great heterogeneity of their habitats across different scales. However, recent progress in the molecular characterization of soil biodiversity offers the exciting prospect of exploring its complexity and better understanding its functioning.

The EcoFINDERS (Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils) project will result in:

  • at the scientific level, increasing our knowledge of soil biodiversity and its role in ecosystem services across different soils, climate types and land uses
  • at the technological level, the standardization of methods and operating procedures for characterizing soil biodiversity and functioning, and the development of bioindicators
  • at the economic level, the assessment of the added value brought by cost-effective bioindicators, and of cost effectiveness of alternative ecosystem service maintenance policies.

The soil biodiversity studied includes microbes (archaea, bacteria, fungi) and fauna (protozoa, microarthropods, nematodes, oligochaeta), and their relation with above-ground biodiversity.

The corresponding research combines three approaches:

  • description of soil biodiversity and of the relations between soil biodiversity, soil functions and ecosystem services, in long term observatories representative of soil types, climates and land uses across Europe,
  • description of soil biodiversity and of the relations between soil biodiversity, soil functions and ecosystem services, in long term observatories representative of soil types, climates and land uses across Europe,
  • metadata analyses to raise a biodiversity database at the European level, and modeling to decipher relations between soil biodiversity and functions, as well as putting a value on ecosystem services.

This European project, coordinated by INRA, gathers together 23 partners from 10 European countries plus China, to harness expertise in ecology, biodiversity, environmental economy, modeling, bioinformatics and database management.


Dr. Philippe LEMANCEAU, project coordinator, Tel. +33 3 80 69 30 56, philippe.lemanceau (at)

Publications - Presentations


The first Global Soil Biodiversity Conference, Venue: Dijon - France, 2 - 5 December 2014

 Workshop - Selecting Indicators for Monitoring Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
7th – 11th April 2014, At Teagasc, Wexford, Ireland 
Open to students, partners and stakeholders, this 5 day course will cover molecular, microbial, faunal and functional methods of measuring indicators for monitoring schemes. All indicators investigated during the EcoFINDERS project will be included. The workshop will also take in related subjects such as managing costs, selecting the best sites for sampling, and co-ordinating a large scale sampling campaign.

JRC Contribution

The contribution of JRC is mainly concentrated on Work Package 4. JRC has the leadership of the Task 4.4, related to the evaluation and mapping of Soil Biodiversity Threats across Europe.


On-line Publications


  • Bardgett, R.D., Manning, P., Morriën, E., and de Vries, F.T. (2013). Hierarchical responses of plant-soil interactions to climate change: consequences for the global carbon cycle. Journal of Ecology, 101: pp. 334–343.
  • Faber, J.H, Creamer, R.E., Mulder, C., Römbke, J., Rutgers, M., Sousa, J.P., Stone D., and Griffiths, B.S. (2013). The practicalities and pitfalls of establishing a policy-relevant and cost-effective soil biological monitoring scheme. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 9 (2): pp. 276–284.
  • Griffiths, B.S., and Philippot, L. (2013). Insights into the resistance and resilience of the soil microbial community. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 37: pp. 112–129.
  • Jones, C.M., Graf, D., Bru, D., Philippot, L., and Hallin, S. (2013). The unaccounted yet abundant nitrous oxide reducing microbial community - a potential nitrous oxide sink. ISME Journal, 7: pp. 417–426.
  • Philippot, L., Spor, A., Hénault, C., Bru, D., Bizouard F., Jones, C.M., Sarr A., and Maron, P-A. (2013). Loss in microbial diversity affects nitrogen cycling in soil. ISME Journal.