Soil microorganisms may be the key to restoring the critical ecosystem services lost in soils spoilt by human activities and climate change. In this Review, Oksana Coban and colleagues highlight recent research suggesting soil microbiota’s potential as “game changers” in restoring soil function in degraded lands. Earth’s soils play a crucial role in supporting a vast amount of life. They filter and store water resources. They also offer a substrate that allows plants to grow and that makes a habitat for an incredibly large number of diverse organisms. Many of the critical ecosystem services that soil provides result from the dynamic interactions between soil life and the biogeochemical and physical dimensions of soil. Although a healthy soil ecosystem largely maintains itself, changes in land management or climate can drastically impact soil functioning and the ecosystem services it supports. Land degradation due to human activities can affect soil hydrological functioning, which plays a central role in the hydrological cycle. While it’s known that the microorganisms that inhabit soils affect soil hydrology, the role of soil microbiota in forming and sustaining soil isn’t fully understood. Coban et al. review a growing body of evidence that underscores the potential of leveraging soil microbiota in state-of-the-art land restoration technologies. They also discuss the groups of microorganisms that have the greatest potential to be used in restoring soil’s physical and hydrologic properties, as well as how they could be used in future long-term strategies for the restoration and management of lands degraded by human activity and climate change. “Understanding the interaction between soil microbial and hydrological dynamics will create the foundation for restoration practices that can return the resilience to the soil-plant ecosystem,” write Coban et al.
Soil microbiota as game-changers in restoration of degraded lands
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