Jörg Römbke, ECT Oekotoxikologie, and Kees van Gestel, Vrije Universiteit (symposium chairs); Liesje Mommer, Netherlands Institute of Ecology and Wageningen University; Silvia Pieper, Federal Environment Agency; and Mike Coulson, Exponent International Ltd. (SETAC Special Science Symposium Steering Committee)

The SETAC Europe 14th Special Science Symposium (SESSS) titled “Soil Biodiversity” will be held 19–20 November 2019 at the Marivaux Hotel in Brussels, Belgium.

Represented within the framework of current regulations on chemicals in soil, protection of the structure and functioning of soil ecosystems is one of the central goals, as evidenced by the emphasis on protection of key drivers and ecosystem services as proposed protection goal options by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Key to protecting ecosystem services is safeguarding soil biodiversity. To meet EFSA’s protection goals, it is necessary to have insight into soil biodiversity, its role in the functioning of ecosystems and the responses to associated stresses.

During the last decade, substantial information has been developed within the research and regulatory community on soil biodiversity, such as the composition of soil ecosystems, the interactions between above- and below-ground parts of the soil ecosystem, the interactions between different organisms in the soil food web and their role in different ecological processes. Moreover, novel approaches have recently been developed by researchers focusing on how soil ecosystems respond to chemical and non-chemical stressors. It has been noted within the research and regulatory communities that not until recently the measurement and the assessment of soil invertebrate biodiversity and the environmental impacts of stress has been hampered by the lack of experienced taxonomists. New DNA-based species determination (barcoding, eDNA, metagenomics etc.) has improved the ability to address these issues. The detailed and comprehensive information on soil biodiversity facilitates the use of modeling approaches (e.g., population modeling, recovery).

The central aim of this SETAC Europe 14th Special Science Symposium is to help consolidate recent advancements and inform participants on soil biodiversity and soil functions (i.e., protection goal options) as well as the effects of chemicals and other stressors. The symposium will also present how these issues are addressed in respective regulations.

As part of this symposium, a comprehensive state-of-the-art overview of the current scientific knowledge on soil biodiversity will be shared by invited speakers, followed by the discussion of novel methods for assessing biodiversity in soils at different spatial scales. Attention will be given to regional difference in soil biodiversity, its relationships to soil properties and land use activities. Soil biodiversity will also be discussed in relation to different stressors, and available modeling approaches for predicting consequences of effects on soil biodiversity for ecosystem services will be introduced. Two case studies will describe the effects of chemical stress on soil biodiversity, using examples from pesticide regulation and contaminated land assessment. The role and position of soil biodiversity in regulatory frameworks, like pesticide and biocide regulation, will be discussed, and representatives from government and industry will give their views on the effective assessment and management of soil biodiversity.

The symposium will consist of presentations by experts on recent scientific developments, on experimental and modeling approaches, as well as case studies, with the aim to discuss how these approaches could further inform future risk assessment of chemicals and other stressors in the regulatory context of protecting soil ecosystems. The symposium will also include a poster session and discussion forums. A full program can be obtained from the website.

Authors’ contact information: j-roembke@ect.de and kees.van.gestel@vu.nl

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