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Soils and climate
October 29, 2015 — In celebration of the International Year of Soil 2015 (IYS), the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is coordinating a series of activities throughout the year to educate the public about the importance of soil. November’s theme is “Soils and Climate.”
According to November’s IYS monthly leader, Eric Brevik, “soil is a precious natural resource that has significant interactions with Earth’s climate system. But it can’t do its job if we keep disturbing it.” Brevik is a professor at Dickinson State University, North Dakota.
A good example of soil disturbance is called desertification. Desertification is the rapid loss of topsoil and loss of plant life on productive land in arid (dry) and semi-arid regions of the world. One-third of Earth’s land area in more than 100 countries (including the United States) is at risk of desertification. The historic Dust Bowl of the 1920s and 1930s was a result of desertification caused by overgrazing and excessive tillage of soils in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
“Most desertification can be prevented—by following good farming and property management practices,” says Brevik. “We need to prevent desertification so we continue to have fertile soil to grow food for the worlds’ population, and to prevent disasters like the Dust Bowl from recurring.”
Soils could be important in climate change, too. Recent research has shown that carbon is stored in healthy soils. “Soil organic matter holds large amounts of carbon, which is also an important part of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane,” according to Brevik. “Replanting forests, protecting and restoring wetlands, and good agricultural practices can all help increase the amount of carbon stored in our soils—and keep it out of our atmosphere. Alternatively, deforestation, draining of wetlands, and poor agricultural practices can release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, where it can contribute to global warming.”
As part of their celebration of IYS, SSSA developed a series of twelve 2-minute educational videos. November’s theme, “Soils and the Climate”, can be viewed at www.soils.org/iys/monthly-videos. Educational materials can be viewed at www.soils.org/iys by clicking on the November tab.
Follow SSSA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSA.soils, Twitter at SSSA Soils. SSSA also has a blog, Soils Matter, at http://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/. Additional soils information is on www.soils.org/discover-soils, for teachers at www.soils4teachers.org, and for students through 12th grade, www.soils4kids.org.