World Soil Day (WSD), a program of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is held on December 5 every year (since 2014) in order to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources.
Over 95% of our food originates from soil and water, which is vital for nutrient absorption by plants and binds our ecosystems together. However, in the face of climate change and human activity, our soils are being degraded, putting excessive pressure on our water resources. Erosion disrupts the natural balance, reducing water infiltration and availability for all forms of life.
Consider these facts:
- 33% of soils are degraded.
- It can take up to 1 000 years to produce just 2-3 cm of soil.
- Soils supply 15 of the 18 naturally occurring chemical elements essential to plants.
- There are more living organisms in a tablespoon of soil than people on Earth.
- Up to half of our household waste could be composted to nurture our soil.
While geared toward agriculture, many of the key messages of Word Soil Day 2023 will resonant with landscapers. Some of the key messages include:
- Soil and water are interconnected resources that need integrated management.
- Improper soil and water management practices affect soil erosion, soil biodiversity, soil fertility, and water quality and quantity.
- Soil and water conservation contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
- Soil erosion and compaction disrupt the capacity of soil to store, drain and filter water, and exacerbates the risk of flood, landslides, and sand/dust storms.
- Healthy soil plays a crucial role as a natural filter, purifying and storing water as it infiltrates into the ground.
- The health of the soil and the quality and availability of water are interconnected.
- Implementing sustainable soil management practices enhances water availability for agriculture. Healthy soils, enriched with organic matter, play a crucial role in regulating water retention and availability.
- Sustainable soil management is key to improve water productivity in irrigated systems.
- Water scarcity leads to the loss of soil biodiversity, while leaching and eutrophication from agriculture practices lead to the loss of biodiversity in water bodies.
- The mismanagement of pesticides and fertilizers not only threatens soil and water quality but also poses significant risks to human health and ecosystems.
- Poor irrigation and drainage practices are some of the main drivers of soil salinization.
- Rising sea levels contribute to land loss, increasing the risk of soil salinization and sodification.
- Improved soil and water management improves the land’s capacity to withstand extreme climate events such as droughts, floods and sand/dust storms.
- Integrated soil and water management practices provide essential ecosystem services, supporting life on earth and enhancing ecosystem resilience.
- Healthy soils act as a carbon sink, by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, thus contributing to both climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
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