A critical review on soil quality

Soil quality is a difficult theme to fully embrace. Nevertheless, a few scientist from Switzerland and Wageningen wrote a critical review on soil quality. They found that total carbon content (soil organic matter), pH, available phosphorous, water storage are used most often as indicators for soil quality, but that various biological and biochemical indicators are underrepresented despite their great potential. Their review will be published in the May issue of the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry but is already online.

In their paper, they explain that an explicit evaluation of soil quality with respect to specific soil threats, soil functions, and ecosystem services has rarely been implemented. They also provide information on various soil assessment methods used in a wide range of studies, as well as pros and cons of various soil quality indicators.

The use of PLFA, for instance, turns out to be a good indicator of active microbial biomass while it gives integrated information on the microbial community. However, it is also time-consuming and it does not provide any link with the function of the soil. Soil respiration does provide information on the soil function, but is highly variable and fluctuating. The authors argue that more indicators should be used to better describe soil quality. To do so, also more collaboration is needed.

The paper is the result of various workshops. It is open access, so it can be downloaded for free from the journal website.