Adaptive management for soil ecosystem services

Hannah E. Birgé, Rebecca A. Bevans, Craig R. Allen, David G. Angeler, Sara G. Baer, Diana H. Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Ecosystem services provided by soil include regulation of the atmosphere and climate, primary (including agricultural) production, waste processing, decomposition, nutrient conservation, water purification, erosion control, medical resources, pest control, and disease mitigation. The simultaneous production of these multiple services arises from complex interactions among diverse aboveground and belowground communities across multiple scales. When a system is mismanaged, non-linear and persistent losses in ecosystem services can arise. Adaptive management is an approach to management designed to reduce uncertainty as management proceeds. By developing alternative hypotheses, testing these hypotheses and adjusting management in response to outcomes, managers can probe dynamic mechanistic relationships among aboveground and belowground soil system components. In doing so, soil ecosystem services can be preserved and critical ecological thresholds avoided. Here, we present an adaptive management framework designed to reduce uncertainty surrounding the soil system, even when soil ecosystem services production is not the explicit management objective, so that managers can reach their management goals without undermining soil multifunctionality or contributing to an irreversible loss of soil ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-378
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Multifunctionality
  • biodiversity
  • ecological restoration
  • ecological restoration
  • soil functioning
  • structured decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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