World Soil Day and the Special Interest Group Plants, Soils, Ecosystems

Tuesday 5th December is World Soil Day 2017 and Ellen Fry, Secretary of the Special Interest Group Plant, Soils, Ecosystems (SIG PSE) of the British Ecological Society, has kindly agreed to share some thoughts about soil. She also gives some information about where to meet the PSE group at next week’s Ecology Across Borders meeting (Follow the meeting on twitter #EAB2017). 

PSE is a BES Special Interest Group which focuses on plant-soil interactions, biogeochemical cycling, community dynamics, and ecosystem functioning. The group aims to connect researchers working in plant-soil interactions research and serve as a platform to discuss and share techniques, expertise, and data.

If you are interested, you can sign up for their email list by sending an email to using the subject: BLANK Message: SUBSCRIBE PLANT-SOIL-ECO Firstname Lastname. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook


This year sees the fifth World Soil Day on the 5th of December, and the theme for 2017 is “Care for the planet starts from the ground”. The political events of the last year may make it seem that we have moved backward on this goal, but there is definitely some cause for hope. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), who came up with the idea of World Soil Day, have overseen educational and scientific initiatives based around soil all over the world. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but soils have become increasingly important in the media, and positive steps are being taken to preserve this most precious of resources.

Increasing numbers of interested stakeholders have meant that there will be events this 5th December all over the world. For some close to home events, please check the website of the British Society of Soil Science for updates on their recent meeting on Soils Organic Matter at Rothamsted Research, and their upcoming debate in London on the 5th December which centers around the controversial idea that increasing global soil organic matter stocks by 4 per mil per year could substantially slow increases in global atmospheric CO2. See more here.

Additionally, researchers efforts to ‘open the black box’ of soils have continued rapidly, with some very interesting and high profile papers appearing in the last 12 months. We’d like to shamelessly plug the paper that just came out in Nature Microbiology entitled ‘Detecting macroecological patterns in bacterial communities across independent studies of global soils‘, which is the product of a soil metagenomics workshop held by Kelly Ramirez of the NIOO, Netherlands and Franciska De Vries (An Associate Editor of Journal of Ecology) of the University of Manchester, and sponsored by BES Plants, Soils, Ecosystems. 

Ecosystems are under increasing pressures from change, and those occurring during the winter have generally taken a backseat to the growing-season focus of terrestrial ecology. Rapidly diminishing snow cover, earlier and warmer springs, and increasing winter storms will all play a role, but the response is still up for discussion. To gather together and focus the community on the challenges of winter ecology in the face of change, Rob Mills, Bjorn Robroek and Liliane Rueß will chair a thematic session at the Ecology Across Border meeting on Thursday 14th, 09:45 in Casinozaal 2. Leading experts from across soil, microbial, plant and invertebrate ecology will give us insight into the state of research in the field, and the meeting will draw together with a discussion on the major challenges and ways forward. Join us for an ecological winter treat!

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Out with the old, in with the new- where next for Plants, Soils, Ecosystems?

On another note, the Secretary for our Special Interest Group, Plants, Soils, Ecosystems, Ellen Fry, has decided it’s time to pass the torch after two years in the role. She hands over to Mike Whitfield, based at New Phytologist, and we are sure that Mike’s accession to power will pave the way for a new and exciting era in the Special Interest Group! Watch this space!

On the 12th December at the Ecology Across Borders meeting, join Plants, Soils, Ecosystems for festive drinks and soily conversations! From 7pm we’d love to welcome you to the oldest bar in Ghent “Café van Gent” on Botermarkt, and reconnect with the community. Follow us @besplantsoileco for details!

Ellen Fry, Secretary of the SIG Plants, Soils, Ecosystems, UK

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