Soil and Food Security
Soils are at the very base of our food production. Today, soils globally provide ample food for 7 billion people, although supplies are unevenly distributed: against 1 billion underfed people there are over 1 billion obese. Since hunger is associated with poor soils, food security is addressed through soil amelioration (next to other plant husbandry measures and an enabling socio-economic setting). To feed 9 billion people by 2050, conventional techniques won't do as we may run out of soils. Additionally, non-food uses within a bio-based economy should be accommodated in decades to come. Against this background degradation of our soil base, climate change and a deteriorating biodiversity need to be addressed. This calls for innovative solutions to sustainably secure food for all.
Soil and Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the short term for 'biological diversity' and it is commonly used to describe the number, variety and variability of living organisms. Essentially, it is synonym of 'Life on Earth'. It may appear surprising, but the biodiversity in the soil below our feet represents around a quarter of all biodiversity on Earth! An incredible diversity of organisms lives in the soil. They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods, to the visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants. These organisms interact in a complex food web. And as they eat, grow, and move through the soil, they make it possible to have clean water, clean air, healthy plants, and moderated water flow. Biological systems, both natural and artificial, depend heavily on healthy soils. It is the maintenance of soil health and fertility in all of its dimensions that sustains life on earth - aboveground and belowground. Next time you hear about biodiversity, think SOIL.
- Threats to soil biodiversity
- Managing soils to protect biodiversity
Soil and landscape
Soils and landscape are intimately related. Topography, or the shape of the land surface, is one of the major factors in soil formation. Topography influences local climate, it influences vegetation (through height and aspect), and the movement of water and materials over the surface. Soil formation, soil processes and ultimately, soil types (groups of soils with similar characteristics) are strongly influenced by their position in the landscape. Knowledge and understanding of the formation of the soils and their properties and their predictable patterns over de landscape, form the basis for grouping soils with similar characteristics (soil classification) and soil mapping. The variation and differences in soils and their properties can be extreme. Not only in different places of the world, but also within landscapes. These differences are also expressed in the functioning of the soil within various themes, such as the possibilities and limitations for food production, water storage and delivery, buffering liquids and (greenhouse) gasses, and biodiversity.
Land Degradation and Conservation
Soils substantially contribute to the provision Ecosystem Services, e.g. by offering a medium for plant (crop) growth, regulating water quantity and quality, sequestering Carbon, maintaining a high biodiversity, buffering contaminating substances and supplying raw materials like sand or clay.
Many techniques exist to prevent or combat land degradation. Commonly termed as Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices, they range from simple, cheap practices to quite sophisticated, expensive measures. However, technical solutions alone are not enough and their successful implementation also implies taking into consideration numerous social, economic, cultural and institutional issues.
Soil and Climate change
Climate change is one of the key challenges of our times. It affects the environment, the economy, and many other facets of life. Shifting weather patterns may increase the risk of catastrophic flooding or drought and threaten food production and livelihood. Possible impacts, such as rising sea levels, are global in scope. Soil use and management have a direct effect on climate change by altering emissions of 'greenhouse gases' to the atmosphere. Judicious land management can reduce these emissions and safeguard ecosystem services. Policy makers and other stakeholders require reliable information to support informed decisions concerning possible actions aimed at mitigation and adaptation.
Soil and water
Soil is our life support system: it filters our water, provides essential nutrients to our forests and crops, and helps regulate the Earth's temperature as well as many of the important greenhouse gases; Soil provides habitat for billions of organisms, contributing to biodiversity; and supplies most of the antibiotics used to fight diseases.
Soil is the basis of our nation's agroecosystems which provide us with feed, fiber, food and fuel. Humans use soil as a holding facility for solid waste and foundation for our cities and towns. Water is an essential component of this system. Globally two-thirds of all fresh water is held in soils as soil moisture, soil 'reservoir', or green water, accessible to plant, only one tenth of fresh water is blue water — stream flow and groundwater that can be abstracted for general use. Functionality and evolution of soil 'reservoir' is a crucial and driving force for the terrestrial ecosystems development — so long as the 'soil reservoir' function is properly maintained, the whole eco-system can be better protected.
- What is Soil Water?
- Why is Soil Water so important?
- What 's the connection between soil and water?
- What are problems about soil and water?
- Soil and water management