Dr Gary Pierzynski “I Love Soil”

(Gary) Many people might wonder the connection between soils and life and I would offer a variety of reasons for that. Clearly the most important one is that for the terrestrial food chain soil is one of the four essential components for any life to exist. So those components are soil, water, air and sunlight. Without those there simply would not be any food grown on the land’s surface. And the quality of the soil has a very important influence on the productivity, the amount of life that does exist. So, the fact that we have productive soils allows us to sustain the population that we have, not only of humans, but for all organisms in the environment. Soils also provide a number of ecosystems services and ecosystem services are essential beneficial functions that the soil provide for the environment and for society. There’s four different categories of ecosystem services, provisioning, which we’ve already mentioned as far as food production is concerned, but also provisioning includes things that are provided for society but things like clothing, so cotton and wool production are related to soils, and even structures or shelter. Of course soil provides lumber that we use and soil can be used to make things like bricks. So at a regulating functions that soil provide helps mitigate floods, mitigates carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through carbon sequestration. Provides a lot of support services that are related to to simply basic functions that all life depends on. So, nutrient cycling or even soil formation itself. And then cultural, which is something a lot of people don’t think about. But soil can be used as an art medium, in and of itself. And also provides a lot of the recreational activities that we partake in, everything from outdoor activities on various sports fields, to the National Park System and all the enjoyment that we get out of those. And then finally the authors have documented the rise and fall of civilizations that are related to how soils are managed and the quality of the soils. And probably the best one that’s out there is “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, that documents a number of societies around the world that have risen and fallen because of their degradation of their soil resource. And I would add to that, that countries like the United States were founded on a very healthy and productive soil resource. And when you have that natural resource then a large segment of the population can participate in other activities that advance society.

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