Soil Properties and Ecosystem Services: Overview and Introduction
Soils being the most complex and important biomaterials have a rightful place in the pedosphere, wherein lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere interact in an intimate manner. Although soils have a tremendous role in providing ecosystem services to mankind, adequate recognition of this fact is seldom highlighted in an appropriate manner. This has been the main reason why soil science still appears be an inward-looking field of science. To remove this misunderstanding, soil scientists need to argue in a manner that is readily understood by all and with both scientific and economic rigours so that they become able to establish the fact that soils are one of the important determinants of a nation’s economic status and, thus, inclusion of soils in the ecosystem services framework, policy and decision-making is indispensable.
It is noticed that most studies attempted so far on the valuation of ecosystem services overlooked the need of a soil component, and in some studies such evaluation remained too generalized or poorly defined. In addition, in studies that were conducted to link soil properties to ecosystem services, soil scientists refrained from being bold to use ‘ecosystem service’ even though their research was devoted to linking soils to the ecosystem. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Economics and Ecosystems and Biodiversity and the Common International Classification Services have categorized ecosystem services, which are defined and classified differently, and they are often context specific. Ecosystem services are divided into lower-level services such as food, fibre, water supply and aesthetic values. It has been always difficult to manage Indian tropical soils to sustain their productivity because some unique soil properties are yet to be linked explicitly to soil ecosystem services even when Indian pedologists and earth scientists have provided insights into several aspects of pedogenetically important soil orders, for enhancing crop productivity and maintaining soil health in the twenty-first century. To establish the crucial role of soil properties in ecosystem services of Indian tropical soils, some pertinent lower-level ecosystem services are chosen such as (1) agro-ecological regions as a tool for ecosystem services, (2) organic carbon sequestration and ecosystem service, (3) soil inorganic carbon sequestration and soil ecosystem services, (4) soil modifiers as ecosystem engineers and (5) degradation in Indian tropical soils.
KeywordsIndian tropical soils Ecosystem services Agro-ecological zones Soil organic and inorganic carbon Soil modifiers Soil degradation
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