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Bath Science Cafe: The unseen majority: the vital importance of biological diversity beneath our feet

Mon 11 Jan 2016 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Richard Bardgett Professor of Ecology, The University of Manchester

One of the most striking things about soil is that it harbours a remarkable diversity of life. Beneath every footstep, whether in a garden, forest, or meadow, the soil is teeming with life. A handful of soil from any well-kept garden, forest, or agricultural field, will contain literally billions of individual organisms and thousands of species. In some cases, as much as 10% of the soil’s total weight could be alive. Most of these organisms are microbes: bacteria, fungi and algae. But soil is also home to many animals, some of which are visible to the naked eye, such as earthworms and woodlice, but most are not, such as nematodes, springtails and protozoa. The diversity of all these organisms vastly outnumbers those that live aboveground, with some estimates suggesting that soils contain around one quarter of living diversity on Earth.

As scientists look more deeply into this soil life, they are discovering that it performs vital roles that maintain the fertility of soil and the health of terrestrial ecosystems. This talk will consider some new insights into the ecological roles of this vast unseen biodiversity, and consider some of consequences of changing soil biodiversity for soil and human health.

Richard Bardgett is Professor of Ecology at The University of Manchester. He is author of many highly cited papers on aspects of soil biodiversity, and has written several books, including The Biology of Soil (2005), which won the 2006 Marsh Ecology Book of the Year Award, and his recent book Earth Matters: How Soil Underlies Civilization (2006), published by Oxford University Press. Richard was a founding member of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and was, until recently, Vice President of the British Ecological Society.

More information here.


Mon 11 Jan 2016
7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
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Raven Pub (upstairs)
Queen Street, Bath, BA1 1HE United Kingdom
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