Ecological restoration has primarily been an aboveground pursuit, with a focus on restoring diverse plant communities and with plant establishment as a measure of success. However, because plants require soil to grow, and because processes that influence plant establishment and community assembly such as competition, mutualism, and disease infection can be mediated in the soil, there has been a growing appreciation for soil ecological knowledge in the wider discipline of restoration ecology. To date, exploration and application of soil ecological knowledge to restoration questions has been dominated by soil microbial ecology, with many recent interesting developments, but there has been relatively little work evaluating soil animals. When soil animals are considered in the restoration context, one major theme is that soil fauna can be used as indicators of soil quality or soil health. Another area of research is evaluating the problems presented by exotic invasive soil invertebrate species, with much work describing their negative impacts, and a few studies aimed at discovering methods for controlling their populations. Perhaps the least well-known are the potential applications involving soil invertebrates for achieving restoration objectives. This has been the case in spite of their long recognized importance in terms of soil physical and chemical attributes (ecosystem engineering) and their interactions with soil microbial communities. This presentation will survey pertinent research, give examples, and identify areas where soil invertebrates might be incorporated into restoration planning, and to improve outcomes.
Callaham, M.A., Jr. (2016): Soil invertebrates in ecosystem restoration: Indicators, exotic species, and engineers on the slow train to recovery. Soil Science Society of America Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, 6-9 November 2016.