How Soil Protects Nature

(Peter) Having a healthy soil is important to the environment from a number of aspects. The microorganisms, fungi, bacteria to the large organisms, the earthworms that we can see. And that whole ecosystem of the soil organisms work together to transform our plants residues and decompose them in to available nutrients. In most of our prairies the animals that graze that land, the large majority of the nutrients that they’re consuming when they eat the prairie grasses are returned in their manure. And so at the much smaller scale, bacteria and fungi breaking those plant residues down into organic matter. Nutrients are constantly moving through the cycle and so having that healthy soil is really important in breaking down all sorts of compounds, returning them back to useful nutrients for subsequent crops and also reducing environmental risk. (Gary) Soil is the world’s largest filter. Many people are not aware of that, but it purifies water. So in a stormwater management system in a community, you can direct some of that surface runoff to areas where it can interact with soil. A rain garden could be a good example. And here you can actually take pavement, impervious surfaces and you can increase their permeability by allowing water to percolate through and gather that water, run it into an area, perhaps it’s vegetated, might be a temporary wetland. Water is transpired back to the atmosphere by the plants or slowly discharged into subsurface soil layers or perhaps to surface water after a fair amount of cleaning has already occurred of that water. Soils they affect not only the quantity, but the quality of water that leaves the landscape and enters groundwater as well as surface water, and occurs in urban and rural landscapes alike. It’s one of the essential ecosystem services that the soil resource provides for society.

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