In case you missed it, the United Nations declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. That ended on December 5th, but the importance of soil and soil conservation didn’t.
Soil isn’t something that a lot of people give much thought, but soil health is important to human health, and understanding the best ways to conserve it is a necessary part of modern science.
Obviously, plants grow in soil, like the crops we eat or feed to livestock, or the trees that help produce oxygen and store carbon dioxide. As it turns out, soil also helps store carbon, and of course properly maintained soil is more resistant to being washed away or otherwise eroded as climate change impacts the world.
There are a lot of concerns scientists have about the state of the world’s soil, things like desertification, biodiversity loss, erosion, contamination, and a host of other issues, which can impact the world in a variety of ways. Luckily, there are researchers around the world who are investigating these issues, such as RECARE, a European Union funded project that is continuing its work well past the International Year of Soils.
RECARE, headed in part by Professor Coen Ritsema of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and including a team of Norwegian scientists, is working on projects around Europe to develop soil solutions and figure out how to put them into practice. They are currently running 17 case studies in which they are working with locals to develop simple yet scientifically informed practices to address soil issues.
The goal is to find efficient, simple, and relatively cheap ways to address problems that farmers and other people face around the world. Things like mulching or terracing to prevent erosion, or using plants, which can pull contaminants out of the soil around them.