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Club Meeting: Soil, where oribatid mites live and where our food begins…

Dr. Valerie Behan-Pelletier, an Honorary Research Associate (an Emeritus position) with the Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, will present: Have you eaten any soil lately? Soil, where oribatid mites live and where our food begins…

We live on the rooftops of a hidden world. In one handful of rich organic soil lives a greater diversity than in a coral reef – soil is the “poor man’s tropical rainforest”. It is the luxuriant tapestry that ensures life on earth; it is where most of our food begins. Yet, soils are possibly the least understood of the planet’s ecosystems, and the most fragile, and are increasingly among the most degraded ecosystems in many parts of the world.

Dr. Behan-Pelletier will use oribatid mites, one of the most diverse groups of mites in soil, to show the interactions of animals in this ecosystem. 2015 is the International Year of Soil; she will illustrate how soil is the critical transition between the Earth’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and how a biodiverse soil provides the essential ecosystem services, including carbon and nutrient cycling, decomposition of dead organic matter; biocontrol and development of soil structure to ensure plant growth. Oribatid mites are a key component of this soil biodiversity, and among the most beautiful.

This talk will illustrate the latest knowledge on the biological complexity of oribatid mites. It will focus on their ecology, their defense mechanisms, and their diversity in the dynamic interplay that is the soil ecosystem. It will show how they and other charismatic microfauna are contributing to our quality of life.