Interconnectivity Amongst Work Packages (WP)
The MICROSERVICES project is a multidisciplinary project, bringing together various types of expertise and methodological knowledge in order to tackle a global challenge.
Indeed, addressing global sustainability related issues, at the intersection of the economy, society, and the environment, requires refining the institutional research structure and leveraging global expertise and know-how through a transnational approach. Not only does a multidisciplinary approach bring in actors from, in this case, across Europe, but also from across disciplines. The vast majority of global and even regional issues, such as climate threats on soil biodiversity, can only be addressed through a collective approach across disciplines. This allows for more accurate guidance when it comes to shaping climate change adaptation strategies.
Within the MICROSERVICES consortium, consortium members cover a wide range of expertise:
- Earth-observation (EO) -based climate modelling to predict region-specific future climatic conditions across Europe (WP2);
- Various molecular technologies that monitor diversity and functioning of crop-associated microbiome and their interactions under natural and simulated climatic conditions (WP3 and WP4, respectively);
- Machine learning regression models that have the ability to forecast the delivery of ecosystem services by the crop microbiomes within different future climatic conditions (WP5);
- Participatory methods in order to engage with an extensive network of both stakeholders and policymakers across the continent (WP6).
More specifically, the project brings together individuals with a specific set of skills, from environmental sciences (microbial ecology, crop physiology, agronomy, and climatology), computation sciences (bioinformatics, statistics, climate modelling, and artificial intelligence), to social sciences (communication and dissemination).
This way, project results can be translated into information that can help achieving EU-wide goals, such as, but as not limited to, Aichi Biodiversity Target 7, SDG 15, as well as bringing the focus to microbiomes for the post-2020 global biodiversity agenda. This transnational, multidisciplinary aspect brings much added value, which directly fosters contributing to the European territorial strategy and policy, establishing partnerships for future projects, as well as examines the potential of improving Europe’s competitiveness by opening new markets related to biodiversity and computational science. On top of this, the indirect added value of having such a transnational team relies on considering differentiating view points of project partners as a strength and source of additional knowledge, fostering a European identity through research, and acquiring a new set of skills and capacities that can influence decision making processes across scales.
Long-term Societal and Political Implications
Microbial diversity provides a wide range of both direct and indirect services to human activities and livelihoods, including soil formation, nitrogen fixation, bioremediation, biotechnology, and biocontrol. To put into context, these benefits amount to approximately 1.16 trillion US dollars globally, per year, which is equivalent to one third of the estimated contribution of terrestrial ecosystem services per year to the global economy.
However, such benefits are under threat due to climate change and human activities such as intensive use of agrochemicals in agroecosystems as well as ineffective soil management. This situation is putting policymakers as well as scientists into a state of search for more sustainable and environmentally friendly resource management strategies across the European agricultural landscape.
Active and diverse soil microbiomes are crucial for maintaining crop productivity, and quality, as well as maintaining such positive aspects is essential for sustainable farming strategies within the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Down the line, such positive attributes of soil microbiomes contribute to establishing and maintaining a healthy, resilient, and sustainable food production system as well as assist in maintaining (and possible even increasing) agricultural productivity and yields, contributing in the short-term to farmers’ livelihoods as well as in the long-term, contributing to a resilient and prosperous agricultural sector.
One of the goals of the project is to increase the awareness of agricultural stakeholders’ awareness on the importance of maintaining and protecting life below ground, and maintaining its diversity that can have long term positive impacts on environmental, economic, and social dynamics of both rural and urban societies. Combining this aspect with the use of novel technologies such as machine learning to forecast shifts in microbiomes and map potential future scenarios accordingly, can assist agricultural management strategists and make more informed and accurate decisions, which can then later increase the impact of biodiversity research on the relevant policymakers. MICROSERVICES aims to, directly and indirectly, contribute soil microbial diversity to the following policy debates surrounding climate action and aching sustainability goals:
- Paris agreement of 2015;
- National Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) strategies plans;
- Aichi Biodiversity Targets;
- EU Pollinator Initiative;
- Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.