World Soil Day highlights the value of healthy soil and promotes the sustainable management of soil resources. The day urges individuals to consider sustainably managing soil resources and increases public awareness of the significant environmental and economic issues that soil degradation can lead to.
World Soil Day was first suggested in 2002 by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), and after being officially adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, it took place officially for the first time in 2014.
The day looks to address the rising issues with soil management and raise awareness of the value of preserving healthy ecosystems for people, business, and planet.
Why is soil so important?
The importance of global soil quality is typically overlooked, but it plays a critical role in supporting life on our planet in several ways.
First and foremost, soil provides essential nutrients to trees, crops, flowers, and all other plants which could not exist without it. For perspective, soil-based plants serve as the foundation of almost all human food systems, with 95% of our food coming from soils.
It is also home to a large, diversified community of creatures that enhance the soil’s structure, recycle vital nutrients, and aid in the management of weeds, plant pests, and diseases.
Another crucial factor is that good soil reduces climate change by preserving or even increasing soil organic carbon storage. Furthermore, it filters and cleans our water and helps prevent natural hazards such as flooding.
What is the economic impact of soil degradation?
Although the effects of soil degradation are not immediately apparent, the agricultural and economic impacts should not be underestimated and could have serious consequences for people and the planet alike.
A study from 2019 highlighted that increased soil erosion could result in significantly lower crop yields and increased water usage, costing around $8 billion in losses.
Furthermore, as soil forms a significant part of the global carbon sink, reductions in soil quality would lead to a considerable increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exacerbating the impacts of climate change, linking it to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Even industries seemingly unconnected to agriculture would be negatively affected by the decrease in soil quality.
What causes the problem?
Soil degradation is an entirely natural process that is cyclical in nature. However, this process has been sped up by increased human activities.
Activities such as intensive farming practices, deforestation, overgrazing, intensive cultivation, forest fires, and construction all disturb soil and leave it vulnerable to wind and water erosion.
What happened today?
As part of World Soil Day, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) launched its first global report on black soils which highlights how black soils are at greater risk of degradation due to biodiversity loss, increased land use and extreme weather events, such as droughts.
Black soils are dark in colour and rich in organic matter, they are found in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Argentina, Mongolia, Ukraine, the US, Colombia, Canada, and Mexico.
Black soil is considered essential to the global food chain and – critically – has a key role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation as it contains 8.2% of the world’s soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and can provide 10% of the global SOC sequestration potential. SOC sequestration is not only cost-effective, but can help mitigate climate change by decreasing carbon from the atmosphere.
Additionally, the FAO provided a list of resources to support in sharing the message around soil health and vitality.
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