First Soil Health Workshop

6th July 2011 – XVII ESSA Congress, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein

The first Soil Health Workshop was held at the XVII Congress of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa in July 2011. A special symposium session entitled “Soil Invertebrates and Soil Health” was hosted by the Centre for Invasion Biology and SANBI as part of the XVII ESSA Congress in Bloemfontein (Wednesday 6 July 2011). The session features invited contributions from specialists on different invertebrate taxa in South Africa, covering the current state of knowledge for all major groups of soil invertebrates. The aims of the symposium were (1) to bring together work being conducted on different aspects of soil invertebrates and (2) to review the state of knowledge on these taxa. Topics of particular interest were taxonomic challenges and progress, effects of soil invertebrates on ecosystem services, threats to soil invertebrates and the role of soil invertebrates in agroecosystems.

The session was attended by more than twenty specialists on soil invertebrates and an international keynote speaker, Prof. Jeffrey Harvey from the Netherlands Institute of  Ecology, Wageningen, The Netherlands. The workshop participants agreed on the need to integrate existing research initiatives and to form the Soil Ecosystem Research Group (SERG), a soil biodiversity research group that provides a platform for linking and promoting research on soil organisms. One of the first priorities identified by SERG was the need to collate and mobilise data and collections such that we can consolidate and compare the state of knowledge of each group. It was fitting that Bloemfontein, close to the geographic centre of South Africa, should be the origin of SERG.