Adaptive management for soil ecosystem services

J Environ Manage. 2016 Dec 1;183(Pt 2):371-378. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.06.024. Epub 2016 Jun 22.


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.

Keywords: Multifunctionality; biodiversity; ecological restoration; soil functioning; structured decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Feedback
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Soil*


  • Soil