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Summary

Land degradation is of concern in many countries. In order for timely and effective interventions to be made to reverse this degradation it is necessary to have objective measurements of ecosystem status. By measuring characteristics of the soil microbial community we can assess the status of the microbial ecosystem and in that sense the quality of the soil, and the potential for, and progress of, restoration after degradation.

Recent research has shown quantitatively how by measuring the soil microbial community we can assess degradation and the effects of management designed to reverse it. The size, composition and activity of the soil microbial community convincingly distinguish between systems, and between the impact of management strategies upon them. Measurements of these characteristics of the microbial community provide invaluable information for restoring degraded land and are ready for routine use. Specifically, profiles of phospholipid fatty acid contents, and substrate induced respiratory responses to different carbon substrates, will yield significant data upon which management decisions may be based.