Multiple dimensions of soil food-web research: History and prospects

Potapov, Anton; Lindo, Zoë; Buchkowski, Robert; Geisen, Stefan


Soil food webs are at the nexus of soil biodiversity, functioning, and stability. With a research history of over 35 years, soil food-web research remains a challenging and relatively specialised field. Initially receiving wide attention after the general model of William H. Hunt and colleagues in 1987, the field diversified over the last two decades across ecosystem and community ecology, empirical and theoretical approaches, network and energy flux analyses. Here we reflect on the history, status, and trends in soil food-web research and identify major perspectives and synthesis directions. After briefly reviewing modelling approaches, structure, and quantification of functioning, we distinguish modern trends in tools that can streamline food-web research, a need for proper empirical validation, collaborative approaches to push the field forward, and conclude with application perspectives. In the light of increasing data availability and public awareness about soil biodiversity, we call for synthesis across multiple dimensions of soil food-web research (e.g. different methodologies and disciplines, various spatiotemporal scales, multiple trophic levels and phyla of life), integrating the soil food-web approach to biodiversity and environmental studies, and making it more accessible to a wider community of scientists.