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In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains why protecting soil and soil quality is such an important part of safeguarding biodiversity and tackling climate change.
Soil is not just a bit of dirt, there is a lot that goes on below the surface, and the health and quality of soil impacts us all. The Earth’s soil can play a major part in our efforts against climate change, but we have not been taking great care of it.
Currently, a third of the land on Earth is highly degraded. The soil system is not functioning the way it used to, and a rough calculation tells us that we only have about 60 years of topsoil left. This is a scary thought, as we depend on topsoil to grow our food as well.
There are numerous man-made reasons for soil degradation, for example poor land management, specifically in farming due to heavy machinery, mono-cropping, bare soil, overgrazing and the high use of chemicals, but also things like deforestation, where plants and trees are removed and soil becomes bare. This leads to soil erosion because of wind blowing away the top levels of the soil. This has been happening on a global scale ever since the Industrial Revolution.
Of course, soil degradation reduces biodiversity as it is unable to continue to support animals and plants, however, degraded soil impacts us as well as it increases carbon emissions, threatens global food supplies and can lead to desertification with which comes the likelihood of mass migration.
In addition to this, degraded soil directly increases risk of flooding, drought and fire, natural events that are happening with increasing intensity due to climate change. Haga clic aquí to learn more about how biodiversity can help protect us from severe weather and rising sea levels. Here is a quick summary about how soil specifically protects us.
Degraded and bare soil does not hold water when it rains, and the majority of that water runs off or evaporates quickly, which causes floods.
It’s not drought that causes bare ground, it’s bare ground that causes droughts. Bare and unhealthy soil is unable to absorb and retain water, resulting shortages of the underground water supply, causing droughts.
A drier environment leads to an increased number of fires.
Healthy soil stores water, but it also stores carbon. Carbon is often seen as something bad, but it is actually not at all. It is the building block of life, we, and everything around us, are all made of it. So how does soil store carbon?
Plants pull carbon from the air through photosynthesis and create sugars (carbohydrates) that are pumped into the soil by the plant’s roots. They are used to feed microorganisms living in the soil, who use it to create minerals and nutrients to build healthy soil and to protect plants from pests and diseases. Microorganisms form an essential part of healthy soil. Plants can’t access the minerals themselves; they need the soil biology to help them share these between them. More nutrients in the soil also means that we can grow more and healthier food.
Water holding capacity: Healthy soil can store tremendous amounts of (rain)water that can protect the land during dry periods. A 1% increase in soil organic matter allows 17–25.000 more gallons of water held per acre.
Water purification: Healthy soil filters and cleans water when it passes through. This water then flows into wells and/or rivers where it turns into water suitable for drinking.
Nutrient-rich food: The more water is stored in the soil, the moister the soil remains under the surface, which aids in preventing the loss of nutrients. Healthy soil increases the quantity and quality of crops, which then increases the quality of our food.
Healthier plants: Nutrient-rich soil helps plants grow bigger and faster.
Adopting sustainable farming will increase crop yield and quality, save money on expensive machinery and chemicals, and provide us with nutrient-rich food. Here are some of the more important practices:
Usar regenerative farming practices instead of industrial farming. Heavy machinery for ploughing and tilling are extremely damaging to soil health as they destroy soil structure and kill micro-organisms.
Limiting the use of chemicals against pests and diseases; healthy plants and good soil structure are capable of pests and disease prevention.
Planting a wide range of crops and implementing crop rotation, rather than mono-cropping
Cover cropping methods so the soil is never bare.
Implement planned grazing instead of continuous overgrazing. Overgrazing in time leads to land degradation, and ultimately, desertification.
We can all help to encourage good soil health and here are a number of things that can be done. Some of them your business can get directly involved with such as planting more vegetation or implementing better soil practices in your own grounds. Others you can support indirectly by only purchasing from suppliers that use sustainable production methods or supporting a rewilding initiative.
Without trees and other vegetation, erosion happens much quicker. Moreover, more trees means more carbon sequestration. So, whether you decide to grow something in your own grounds or neighbourhood, or support a bigger initiative elsewhere, this is a great place to start.
Ensure soil is covered at times; for example, by using cover crops and plants, or manure. Covering our planet with plants has a cooling effect on our climate and can help in the battle against climate change.
Regenerative and rewilding practices will allow for soil to grow back strong and healthy. Let nature take its own course and give soil the chance to regenerate. A strong and healthy soil ecosystem helps to reduce carbon emissions, increase biodiversity and provide us with ecosystem services at the same time.
Like many things, the problem and solution are about balance. We need to regenerate the world’s soils to restore the balance and to pull carbon from the atmosphere. Nature already designed soil to work the way it does within the ecosystem and it’s time to work with nature to restore our soils and ecosystems, reverse climate change and heal our planet, while at the same time securing the future of our food.