Surveying Unexplored Soil Biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa to Enhance Agricultural Productivity

This program is supported by the Winslow Foundation

The Project

This collaboration aims to provide the first-ever continental-scale assessment of soil biodiversity, utilizing newly-developed methods to survey the enormous diversity of soil organisms (both microbes and animals) in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project represents a bold attempt to survey this diversity, which for the large part is unknown to science, yielding results that will be directly relevant to people living in the region. More specifically, we anticipate that the results of this survey, in conjunction with the accompanying soil characterization and mapping projects being carried out by our colleagues, will contribute to the emergence of a new Green Revolution that uses knowledge of below-ground biological diversity to enhance agricultural productivity by improving the management of soil fertility and crop pathogens. Additionally, this study will provide critical data at the continental-scale on the distribution of soil-borne pathogens of humans and other animals that live in the soil. All results generated by this project are freely available to researchers and agricultural experts throughout Africa to ensure that this study directly benefits those individuals living in the region.

The project is currently funded by the Winslow Foundation and represents a collaborative effort between Colorado State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Global Soil Map and African Soil Information Service projects, as well as researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture – Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute and the World Agro-Forestry Centre.


Investigators and Collaborators

Principal Investigator

Dr. Diana H. Wall
Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability          
Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning Lab
Soil Sustainability Working Group

Dr. Diana H. Wall is a University Distinguished Professor, a Professor of Biology, and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. As a soil ecologist and environmental scientist she is actively engaged in research on sustaining soils and has spent 20 seasons in the Antarctic McMurdo Dry Valleys examining how global changes impact soil biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ecosystem services. Dr. Wall chaired the DIVERSITAS-International Biodiversity Observation Year-2001- 2002, the Global Litter Invertebrate Decomposition Experiment; and co-chaired the Millennium Development Goals Committee of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. She is a member of the UNESCO International Hydrological Program US National Committee, and is a Board Member of the World Resources Institute and Island Press She has served as President of the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and other scientific societies. Dr. Wall holds an Honorary Doctorate from Utrecht University, The Netherlands and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received a B.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.


Dr. Noah Fierer
Fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Fierer Lab Group

Dr. Noah Fierer is an Assistant Professor of Microbial Ecology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. His research focuses on understanding the structure of soil microbial communities and the relevance of changes in soil microbial communities to ecosystem processes. He has conducted a number of comprehensive, cross-site studies examining the biogeographical patterns in soil microbial and fa

unal communities that has led to new insights into the distribution and diversity of soil organisms at local, regional, and continental scales. Since arriving at the Univ. of Colorado in 2006, Fierer has authored or co-authored more than 55 peer-reviewed publications and has trained 17 undergraduate and graduate students. He received his B.A from Oberlin College, Ohio and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Investigation Team Members



Project Data

ACCESS DATA: Click on the following links to access AfSIS data for the Kiberashi sentinel site: Prokaryote top- and sub-soil OTUs, Prokaryote top-soil OTUs, Prokaryote sub-soil OTUs, Eukaryote top-soil OTUsand AfSIS data summary.

The following map contains information on the soil sampling through the key sites in Tanzania. View African Soil Sampling in a larger map