Healthy soils are the foundation for our food, fuel, fibre, and even medicines. That’s why the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation earmarked 2015 as International Year of Soils.
The launch was worldwide and celebrates the value of soil for the environment and society. Did you know that 95% of the world’s food comes from soil, or that up to half of household waste could be composted to nurture our soil?
Our soils and their sustainable management are fundamental to improving and protecting our food production and the ecosystems that rely on soil.
It is easy to take soil for granted but it is a natural resource that is increasingly under pressure from our expanding cities, unsustainable land use and, of course, climate change. Soil can easily be eroded, compacted, depleted of nutrients, and polluted. The best way to tackle these issues is for us to be more aware of the consequences of our use and management of land.
Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing the human race today, and soil’s ability to capture and hold organic carbon will be crucial in that battle.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in our vast peatlands which store 25 times more carbon than the rest of Scotland’s vegetation. If all the carbon stored in the soils of Scotland was released at once this would be equivalent to over 180 times Scotland’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Nutrients, biodiversity and carbon
Increasingly viewed as ‘the silent ally’ soils also mitigate against the impact of climate change by helping to store and filter our water and provide a natural defence against flooding.
Those who manage the land understand the importance of ‘knowing your soils’ and how care of land is our legacy for future generations. Soils also provide sources of water, nutrients, and the physical support for crops and trees.
And there is a greater diversity and number of living organisms in a spoonful of soil than there is in our species-rich woodland. Soil microorganisms and other larger soil dwellers are busy transforming the complex components that form our soil (dead organic matter, pollutants, minerals) into elemental forms more accessible for other plants and organisms to use.
In Scotland the International Year of Soils will see a range of events. Why not follow our Facebook page to receive regular updates on what’s happening throughout the year.
Further reading at http://www.fao.org/soils-2015/en
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