Evaluating Ecological Impacts of Soil Compaction using a Multidisciplinary Approach

Manoj Menon –  Project Lead (Sheffield
Andreas Heinemeyer (York)
Xiadong Jia (Leeds)

Soils provide a range of ecosystem services including food and fibre production, maintenance of biodiversity, storage of carbon, mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, attenuation of contaminants and provision of clean drinking water. Soil compaction has been identified as one of the three key threats to the agricultural and environmental productivity of soils in the UK by DEFRA. It has been identified as one of the causal agents of soil erosion, nutrient depletion and pollution migration by the UN, the EU and other international organizations. Soils in the UK are particularly vulnerable to compaction as they remain wet during substantial periods of the year.Soil

Soil compaction affects almost all soil physical, chemical and biological processes. Researchers have demonstrated that compaction leads to alterations in the intra- and inter-aggregate pore volume distribution, affecting water and air flow. It also affects the distribution and activities of soil flora and fauna. This has a potential knock-on effect on C and N microbial transformations and the production and emission of GHGs. We aim to develop a consortium to identify and formulate a quantitative framework to evaluate the broad ecological impacts of soil compaction.

Specific objectives:
• Organise a multidisciplinary workshop on soil compaction
• Collect baseline data on compaction from various land use types at U. Leeds Spen Farm and assess effects on soil properties and key biota and GHG emissions
• Develop a conceptual model for compaction occurrence and impacts, and its mathematical formulation, which can be incorporated into a computation model of soil ecosystem services.
• Conduct regular meetings to develop research proposals based on observations
• Develop project web pages showing our expertise, activities and findings.
• Publish the data, concepts and urging research questions in an international soil journal

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