HoliSoils research featured in New York Times!

New York Times article screenshot

A new article on the New York Times explores how climate change is impacting invertebrates in soil, drawing on HoliSoils research.

Soils are teeming with life, but we still have not enough information on the rich biodiversity hosted in soil. However, as Leticia Pérez Izquierdo (HoliSoils researcher form the Basque Centre for Climate Change) highlights in the article, we are stating to open the “black box” of soil.

The article explores how changes in rainfall, droughts, and aridity affect soil invertebrates, including insights from a freshly published HoliSoils study, that was featured also in this HoliSoils post. During droughts the population of these invertebrates can shrink by 39%, but Phil Martin (Basque Centre for Climate Change) points out that this percentage is even higher under extreme conditions.

Learn more in the New York Times piece!

Changing rainfall patterns impact soil invertebrate biodiversity

Globular springtail Sminthuridae sp. on leaf litter.

Human destruction of natural habitats and climate change are probably reducing invertebrate populations in many regions. We still don’t have much information about threats to flying invertebrates, but we have even less information for those that live in the soil. This is despite the fact that soils are teeming with life. Did you know that they are home to over over 7 million invertebrate species – around one third of all invertebrates in the world?

A new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, aimed to tackle this lack of information, by looking at how changes in rainfall caused by climate change affect soil invertebrates in forests. The study, which is the largest of its kind, compiled data from 46 forests around the world, finding that droughts reduce the number of soil invertebrates by around 35%, while increases in rainfall lead to increases of a similar magnitude.

Importantly, the international team from six different countries, led by researchers from the Basque Centre for Climate Change in Spain, found that the effect of rainfall changes depend on an animal’s size: groups like springtails and mites were more severely affected than smaller animals like nematodes or larger animals such as beetles.

Before this study, scientists had not made the link between the size of soil animals and the potential effects of environmental threats. These new findings have far-reaching implications for our ability to predict future responses of soil invertebrates to climate change as well as their potential impacts on soil functioning and health.

The variation in impacts between different groups is important because the species that are most affected by changes in rainfall include many detritivore species. These species help to improve soil health by breaking down the dead leaves that blanket forest floors. In the long term, reductions in their abundance might threaten ecosystem services like nutrient cycling that help to support tree growth in forests on which we depend for carbon storage and provision of wood for timber.

Another implication is that soil invertebrates in different regions will be affected differently. For example, forests in regions where climate change is causing an increase in droughts, like southern Europe and central America, will see decreases in the abundance of soil invertebrates. On the other hand, in regions where rainfall will increase, like northern Europe and North America, forest soil invertebrates can be expected to increase.

So what can we do to tackle the threat of changes in rainfall to soil invertebrates? First and foremost we should focus on combating the climate crisis by reducing our carbon footprints by flying less, eating less meat, and making our homes more energy efficient.

However, even if we manage to reduce carbon emissions, we still face dangerous climate change and so we need to change how we manage ecosystems. One promising way to reduce the impacts of droughts on soil invertebrates is by spreading mulch on forest soils, which acts like a sunshade to protect against hot and dry conditions.

To tackle the impacts of the climate crisis on soils we urge decision-makers to take the threats to forest soils seriously and to fund and promote adaptations to current management.

This article was written by Phil Martin (BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change).

EGU24: HoliSoils invites you to discover the role of soil fauna in terrestrial ecosystems

Members of the HoliSoils consortium will organise a session at the General Assembly 2024 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU 2024) to discuss invertebrate biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and climate change. EGU’s primary goal is to provide a platform for scientists to showcase their work and engage in discussions with experts across various geoscience fields. The 2024 edition will take place in Vienna, Austria, from 14-19 April and can also be followed online.

Submit your abstract and participate in HoliSoils EGU’s 2024 session!

HoliSoils extends an invitation to submit your abstracts to session titled ‘The role of soil fauna in terrestrial Ecosystems on a changing world’, convened by WP5 leader Jorge Curiel Yuste (BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change) and other HoliSoils project partners.

This session aims to improve our understanding of soils and how they harbour a large proportion of terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity (e.g. myriapods, insects, arachnids and oligochaetes), as well as to deepen their functional role in terrestrial ecosystems, systematically underestimated partly because the inventory of soil invertebrate biodiversity is methodologically difficult.

Therefore, the organising members of HoliSoils invite abstracts of studies (e.g. experimental, methodological, field monitoring or modelling) that attempt to fill this knowledge gap by focusing on improving our understanding of the role of soil fauna in the functioning of soils and terrestrial ecosystems.

The Call for Abstracts for EGU24 is now open and you can submit your abstract to the session of your choice by 13:00 CET, 10 January 2024!

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The Secrets of Soil – an interactive journey in the world beneath our feet

Are you looking for an innovative way to explore soil? Secrets of Soil offers an interactive experience to learn more about soil and climate change.

This interactive journey delves into the hidden world beneath our feet, exploring the many forms of life that inhabit soil and showcasing the role that it can play in tackling climate change. Secret of Soils offers an artistic experience through amazing visuals developed by Henry Driver.

Learn more about the Secrets of Soil!

Join this new European Commission open course on soil biodiversity!


Soils host much of the biodiversity of our planet, but often the life beneath our feet is overlooked. The European Commission is now offering a free online course on soil biodiversity to raise awareness on the importance of these resources and the EU initiatives to protect our soil.

The course Soil, a burst of life: the hidden world beneath our feet is designed to offer an overview of the topic of soil biodiversity to science teachers, high school students and the general public.

What are you waiting for? Enroll now!

Discover soil biodiversity listening to the Life in the Soil podcast

Life in the Soil

The podcast Life in the Soil brings you the insights and voices of some of the world’s best soil scientists. The six available episodes explore soil biodiversity, why it matters, and how we can protect it. The podcast was produced by the Rillig Lab (Freie Universität Berlin – Institut für Biologie) in collaboration with podcaster Anja Krieger, and it was funded through the BiodivERsA project Digging Deeper.

The first episode, with the contribution of soil scientist Johannes Lehmann, focuses on the role of soil in hosting biodiversity below the ground: this natural habitat is crucial to support many different ecosystems. In the second episode, insights from Katie FieldToby KiersBala Chaudhary, shed light on the fascinating word of mushrooms and fungi, and their close relations with plants. The third and fourth installments of the podcast explore the many components and organisms that constitute soil and which technological innovations can help us to understand soil better. The many threats posed to soil by human activities are investigated in the fifth episode, while the last conversation focuses on how to ensure a sustainable future for soils ecosystems, from rural areas to cities.

Listen to the full episodes on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify!


Matthias Rillig and Anja Krieger, Life in the Soil Audio Podcast, Rillig Lab, https://rilliglab.org/podcast/

New funding opportunities for the EU Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’

Mushroom in a forest soil

After an amendment to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022, new opportunities for funding have been published on the Commission’s funding and tender opportunities portal to contribute to the A Soil Deal for Europe Mission.

The goals of this mission include but are not limited to reducing desertification, conserving soil organic carbon stocks, enhancing soil biodiversity, and improving soil literacy in society.

Apply by 27 September 2022.

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