CSE Background

The Centre for Soil Ecology (CSE) is a cooperation between the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and Wageningen University and Research centre (WUR). CSE stimulates interactions between scientists of WUR and NIOO-KNAW to bring their soil ecological science to an even higher level, and promote research opportunities for young and talented researchers in soil ecology!

The CSE was initiated in 2010 by Wim van der Putten and Hans van Veen of NIOO-KNAW, and Peter de Ruiter and Lijbert Brussaard of WUR. CSE is not housed in one particular building; researchers are based in two WUR and two NIOO Departments, which promotes their interactions with other fields of research that are relevant for soil ecology.
CSE organizes a number of activities, including annual meetings, seminars, discussion groups, BSc, MSc, PhD, and Post-doctoral courses, dissemination meetings, and members of CSE participate in joined externally funded projects.

Why soil ecology is important

Soil ecology is a research field that currently experiences a fast development. The biodiversity of soil organisms is an important fundament of a sustainable society. Everything we eat, drink, breath, wear as clothes, or use as a resource for feed and bioenergy products originates in some way from the soil. In the soil, many substances are continuously altered or decomposed by soil organisms. Soil organisms are also responsible for soil formation and developing soil structure. Without soils there would be no food, and without food there won’t be people living on earth! In addition, the soil is an important actor in climate change, as it may buffer against rising CO2 levels, provide water holding capacity that can prevent, or delay flooding or erosion, and it contains biota that can control biological invasions of exotic species, human pathogens, or soil-borne crop pests. Bad use of soil may result in outbreaks of pests and pathogens, loss of aboveground biodiversity, and release of greenhouse gasses.

The quality of the soil determines the rate at which land use changes occur. Also, soil organisms play an important role in the development of soil structure, water storage capacity, composition of aboveground biodiversity, and success of pest control in agriculture, forestry and horticulture. Degradation of the soil physic-chemical environment, and loss of soil biodiversity may reduce the production capacity of soil, with possible side effects on atmospheric composition, climate regulation, water storage, food production, and nature conservation.

Currently, many issues of societal concern relate to proper use of soil and its biodiversity: proper distribution of water rights and food are often factors determining whether peace can be maintained, and proper soils determine water and food availability. Decline of soils and soil biodiversity reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide clean water and food, so that improper soil use will weaken fundaments of a sustainable environment and society.

Goals of CSE

  • Create societal awareness of the importance of soil ecology
  • Stimulate career possibilities of young, promising scientists in the field of soil ecology
  • Develop strategic programs for Dutch Government and other funding agencies within the research field of soil ecology
  • Create a platform that enables soil ecologists to develop their national and international ambitions.
  • Promote knowledge dissemination resulting from fundamental research, turn this knowledge into practice, and enhance translation of societal questions into fundamental research
  • Promote scientific relationships among research groups in soil ecology and enable young scientists to meet top-scientists in their research field.

Main activities

Two times per year CSE will organize seminar days during which fundamental scientific knowledge is linked to practical questions and examples. For example, in October CSE will organize a discussion day during which the problems around decreasing soil organic matter content are discussed. During this day scientists, farmers, and policy makers will present their view on this issue. The goal of the day is to stimulate cooperation between different stakeholders and to link scientific knowledge and practical answers, or vice versa to translate practical questions into new research programs.

In addition, CSE tries to stimulate cooperation between different research groups in Wageningen and the rest of the Netherlands.