Soil and Climate affect Civilizations

(Kendra) There’s lots of examples of past civilizations that were losing their soil through tillage practices, basically through agricultural practices that were gradually removing a little bit of soil every year. And because that pace is so slow sometimes, people don’t notice it until it’s too late. So, these examples of past civilizations that did not quite take care of their soil resource adequately, several in the Middle East and several in northern Africa where warming climate played a role in this as well. The carbon cycle is hugely important to the earth’s climate. The main way that we’ve heard about recently is in the form of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. So this little molecule has an amazing ability through its molecular structure to retain solar radiation and emit it back to the atmosphere. Carbon is found in a lot of different places on earth in various forms. So, it’s found in oceans as carbonic acid. It’s found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it’s in wood as cellulose and it’s in the soil in the form of soil organic matter. Soil is a very large portion of the carbon on earth. So it contains more carbon than all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and all the forests on earth combined. Because there’s so much carbon in the soil and it’s in such stable forms, it’s a great idea to keep as much carbon in the soil as possible. And at this point there’s lots of conservation tillage measurements and lots of activities that land managers can do to keep carbon in the soil. In general, retaining carbon involves both adding it through biomass measurements, so riparian buffers and cover crops and any kind of time we can get plants growing in the soil and adding their carbon from the atmosphere to the soil, that will increase soil organic matter stocks. Additionally people can avoid lost pathways such as erosion by being careful about tillage practices, tilling at the right time, using contour tillage or other agricultural practices that avoid erosion as much as possible.

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