Topsoil's limited turnover: A crisis in time

Oct 02, 2008

Topsoil does not last forever. Records show that topsoil erosion, accelerated by human civilization and conventional agricultural practices, has outpaced long-term soil production. Earth's continents are losing prime agricultural soils even as population growth and increased demand for biofuels claim more from this basic resource.

Top geomorphologist David R. Montgomery of the University of Washington says that "ongoing soil degradation and loss present a global economic crisis that, although less dramatic than climate change or a comet impact, could prove catastrophic nonetheless, given time."

Montgomery is an invited speaker in the Pardee Keynote Symposia, "Human Influences on the Stratigraphic Record," on 9 October at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America-American Society of Agronomy-Crop Science Society of America, and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies in Houston, Texas, USA.

In his talk on Montgomery will present the record of erosion, both in historic civilizations and today, and address the long-term implications for agricultural sustainability, including the possibility that unchecked anthropogenic erosion will in time undermine the foundation of civilization itself.

Montgomery is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which recognizes individuals who have shown extraordinary originality, creativity, and dedication, a marked capacity for self-direction, and promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment.

Source: Geological Society of America

Explore further: Sea-level surge at Antarctica linked to icesheet loss

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Less shake from artificial quakes, study says

Aug 19, 2014

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new U.S. study found.

Early dino was turkey-sized, social plant-eater

Aug 06, 2014

The forerunner of dinosaurs like three-horned Triceratops was a bird-hipped creature the size of a turkey that lived in herds in South America and liked to munch on ferns, scientists said Wednesday.

Researcher seeks upgrades for cleaner oilsands

Jul 16, 2014

We live in a province rich in fossil fuel resources, and great profits can be made from them. However, the use of these fossil fuels comes at a significant environmental cost. The greenhouse gas emissions ...

Recommended for you

Aging Africa

Aug 29, 2014

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

NASA animation shows Hurricane Marie winding down

Aug 29, 2014

NOAA's GOES-West satellite keeps a continuous eye on the Eastern Pacific and has been covering Hurricane Marie since birth. NASA's GOES Project uses NOAA data and creates animations and did so to show the end of Hurricane ...

EU project sails off to study Arctic sea ice

Aug 29, 2014

A one-of-a-kind scientific expedition is currently heading to the Arctic, aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon. This joint initiative of the US and Korea will measure atmospheric, sea ice and ocean properties with technology ...

User comments : 0