The soil is responsible for key ecosystem functions such as the production of food and biomass, nutrient recycling, and the sustainability and biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems. The soil also contributes to climate regulation via carbon sequestration in the form of organic matter, and reduces emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and N2O. In addition, soil has a fundamental role in the regulation of the water cycle through water storage and the degradation and immobilization of pollutants, providing clean air, soil and water. Soil also provides a physical support for human activities and structures.
For these reasons, the role of soil in food production and forestry and the regulation of the climate are key research areas within the contexts of human population growth, changing weather patterns, and changes in land use. Soil degradation, as a result of human activities, affects large areas of the world and has a direct impact on its functions, underscoring the need to prevent degradation through the adoption of sustainable management practices and the improvement in soil restoration technologies.

The main lines of work and experience of CREAF in this field include:

  • Soil quality: We analyze the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil.
  • Soil ecology: We evaluate taxonomic and functional diversity of trophic networks composed of plants, fauna, and microorganisms in forests, shrublands, and agricultural ecosystems.
  • Nutrient cycles: We quantify C storage, soil-atmosphere gas exchange, and nutrient cycles, with particular emphasis on N and P. Our studies include natural soils as well as soils affected by anthropic disturbances (e.g. global change or pollution). 
  • Restoration of degraded land: We research the creation of technosols with mineral waste and organic waste substrates.  
  • Soil contaminants and remediation: We carry out evaluations on the necessity and/or required intensity of restoration activities and their effectiveness with time. 
  • Ecotoxicology: We evaluate the ecotoxicology of contaminants and wastes using standardized bioassays (ISO, OECD) based on microorganisms, plants, and invertebrates. 
  • Organic wastes and amendments: We evaluate the use of organic amendments to improve soil fertility or decontamination, as well as post-treatments which improve their efficiency. 
  • Soil genesis and optimal use: We assess the genesis and diversity of soils of a given area, as well as optimal uses and limitations.
  • Impacts on ecosystem services: We evaluate how human activities (land use change, pollution, climate change, extreme climatic events) affect the physicochemical properties of soil and its trophic networks, and how the provision of ecosystem services may be compromised.

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