Topsoil utilisation following the cessation of quarrying activities requires careful management to maintain its functional capacity to support ecosystem services. Poorly managed soil that has become compacted in storage will have a degraded physical structure, and thus reduced biological function through reduced microbial biomass, diversity and altered community composition. Such soils may no longer be appropriate for re-instatement into their intended end-use within a reasonable time-frame, so alternative restoration strategies may be better employed. Intervention strategies may improve the potential to achieve the targeted use.
This research will be the basis of an MSc thesis which aims to assess the health of soils that are currently in storage and compare these to restored soils, and to various local soils that have not been affected by quarrying activities (analogy reference soils). The project will investigate potential barriers to effective soil restoration, and provide guidance on mechanisms that may overcome the identified barriers. Advice will include strategies that are likely to improve nutrient cycling through shifting the microbial community composition towards a target community, with the intention of increasing the ability of the soil to deliver wider ecosystem services. Future research will be identified to investigate proposed interventions to improve biodiversity and ecosystem development.