Ecologist's warning on Earth's imperiled soils

February 1, 2016 by Mike Addelman

Neglect of the soil beneath our feet could have far-reaching consequences for future generations in the UK and the rest of the world, an ecologist from The University of Manchester has warned.

In a new book, Earth Matters, published by Oxford University Press, Professor Richard Bardgett argues it is vital for the future of humanity to protect our soils.

He said: "Neglect of soil is common, and in the same way as humans are causing the extinction of plant and , they also are causing the extinction of soils."

Inappropriate soil management, deforestation, climate change, and pollution, he argues, are all to blame.

The book explores how our past and our future depend on soil, and how in many parts of the world, soils are being neglected and as a result they are in a poor state.

Healthy soils, he argues, are of vital importance for human life, and we are not paying enough attention to their health

The book also describes how soil has played a major and often central role in the lives of humans.

"Clearly, farmers and gardeners nurture their soil to provide their plants with water and nutrients, but there are some more unexpected examples how soil is important", he said.

"Major battles have been aborted or stalled by the condition of soil, new antibiotics are being developed from soil, and murder trials have been solved with evidence from the soil.

"And in our towns and cities, soil helps excess water drain away after heavy storms, and it helps regulate the heat and quality of city air."

He added: "Soil takes thousands of years to form, but rates of loss often exceed the speed it is being formed. This effectively means that it is a non-renewable resource: once it's gone, it's gone.

"Attitudes to soil need to change. It needs to be considered as an investment to be protected and cared for, and as part of the support network for human life.

"All too often, has been ignored, or treated with complacency and little regard for its health. If it is not treated with respect, it will be gone for good."

Explore further: Report dishes the dirt on world soil health

Related Stories

Report dishes the dirt on world soil health

December 10, 2015

Massey University has contributed to a report issued by the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, stating that the world's soils are at best only in fair condition and in some areas are very poor.

Farming on Mars? The Martian raises questions about soil

October 29, 2015

In the recent sci-fi hit, The Martian, the main character, astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), manages to grow potatoes on the planet with a mix of ingenuity, science, and a bit of Hollywood make-believe. Could ...

Soil frost affects greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic

January 14, 2016

Soil frost is a nearly universal process in the Arctic. In a recent dissertation by doctoral student Marina Becher at Umeå University, it is shown that the frequency and extent of soil frost is important for the release ...

Fire damage to soils sets back bushfire recovery

August 25, 2015

Soils in areas hit by bushfires like the Sampson Flat fire may take several years to recover, say University of Adelaide soil scientists starting a new study into the effects of bushfires on soils.

Work on barren soil may bear fruit

August 19, 2015

Australian and Chinese scientists have made significant progress in determining what causes soil acidification - a discovery that could assist in turning back the clock on degraded croplands.

Recommended for you

Supervolcanoes: A key to America's electric future?

August 16, 2017

Most of the lithium used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics comes from Australia and Chile. But Stanford scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

Climate change will cut crop yields: study

August 15, 2017

Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture.

How friction evolves during an earthquake

August 15, 2017

By simulating earthquakes in a lab, engineers at Caltech have documented the evolution of friction during an earthquake—measuring what could once only be inferred, and shedding light on one of the biggest unknowns in earthquake ...

Carbon offsets have wide-ranging environmental benefits

August 15, 2017

You can't grow money on trees, but you can earn money for letting trees grow. Or at least you can through a pioneering California program that allows forest owners around the United States to sell carbon credits to companies ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.