Dirt Doesn't Get the Respect It Deserves
“From now until 2060, we’re going to have to produce as much food as we have in the last 500 years.”
Soil and the carbon cycle...
“This work indicates that soils have a weaker capacity to soak up carbon than we have been assuming over the past few decades,” said UCI Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science James Randerson, senior author of a new study on the subject to be published Friday in the journal Science. “It means we have to be even more proactive in finding ways to cut emissions of fossil fuels to limit the magnitude and impacts of climate warming.”
“A substantial amount of the greenhouse gas that we thought was being taken up and stored in the soil is actually going to stay in the atmosphere,” said study co-author Steven Allison, UCI associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and Earth system science.
"Dirt", the soil biology that makes agriculture possible
Don't Forget the Earthworms
Earthworms work as biological "pistons" forcing air through the tunnels as they move. Thus earthworm activity aerates and mixes the soil, and is conducive to mineralization of nutrients and their uptake by vegetation. Certain species of earthworm come to the surface and graze on the higher concentrations of organic matter present there, mixing it with the mineral soil. Because a high level of organic matter mixing is associated with soil fertility, an abundance of earthworms is generally considered beneficial by farmers and gardeners.
In fact, as long ago as 1881 Charles Darwin wrote: "It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."
Soil biology is the study of microbial and faunal activity and ecology in soil. Soil life, soil biota, soil fauna, or edaphon is a collective term that encompasses all the organisms that spend a significant portion of their life cycle within a soil profile, or at the soil-litter interface. These organisms include earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, fungi, bacteria and different arthropods. Soil biology plays a vital role in determining many soil characteristics. The decomposition of organic matter by soil organisms has an immense influence on soil fertility, plant growth, soil structure, and carbon storage. As a relatively new science, much remains unknown about soil biology and their effects on soil ecosystems.
The soil is home to a large proportion of the world's biodiversity. The links between soil organisms and soil functions are observed to be incredibly complex. The interconnectedness and complexity of this soil ‘food web’ means any appraisal of soil function must necessarily take into account interactions with the living communities that exist within the soil. We know that soil organisms break down organic matter, making nutrients available for uptake by plants and other organisms. The nutrients stored in the bodies of soil organisms prevent nutrient loss by leaching. Microbial exudates act to maintain soil structure, and earthworms are important in bioturbation. However, we find that we don't understand critical aspects about how these populations function and interact. The discovery of glomalin in 1995 indicates that we lack the knowledge to correctly answer some of the most basic questions about the biogeochemical cycle in soils. We have much work ahead to gain a better understanding of how soil biological components affect us and the biosphere...
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Meet Dr. Elaine Ingham -- Rodale
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The practice of seeding fields between harvests not only keeps topsoil in place, it also adds carbon to the soil and helps the beneficial microbes, fungus, bacteria and worms in it thrive...
Cover cropping is used only by a small minority of farmers. When the U.S. Agriculture Department asked for the first time about cover cropping for its 2012 Census of Agriculture report, just 10.3 million acres — out of about 390 million total acres of farmland sown in crops — on 133,124 farms were planted with cover crops. The next census won’t be done until 2017, but experts say that the practice has spread...
“We’ve never seen anything taken up as rapidly as using cover crops,” said Barry Fisher, a soil health specialist at the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the Agriculture Department.
Modern farming practices like applying fertilizer and herbicides and not tilling their fields, or “no till,” have helped farmers increase yields and reduced labor, but they have also unintentionally interfered with root systems, increased erosion and disrupted underground microbial activity and insect life that are vital to plant and soil health.
The belowground compartment of ecosystems harbours a tremendous amount of global biodiversity.
Extinction models for belowground organisms are currently unavailable; thus, soil ecologists at the moment have no choice but to generalize the predictions for aboveground biota to their system. Yet, the ecology of belowground biota differs considerably from that of the aboveground organisms that have so far been considered in extinction models — at least with regard to their niche structure which we consider in the following. The most conspicuous difference relates to body size variability which, even without considering belowground microbes, is several orders of magnitude larger in soils. Unlike their aboveground relatives, microbial organisms in soil also represent the base trophic level of their food webs and are responsible for overall ecosystem functioning....
Habitat loss and global change
The extinction ecology for the majority of belowground organisms is thus likely to be quite different from that of the macroorganisms that have been considered so far in the literature. To gain informative insights on extinction susceptibility it is important to first compare the drivers of prospective extinctions belowground with those that have been studied so far in extinction ecology... documented drivers of extinctions are habitat loss and fragmentation.
[S]oil biota play a large role in sustainable ecosystem management.... [We need to] communicate the importance of belowground biota for ecosystem-services sustainability to aboveground extinction ecologists.
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Soil Science Resources
The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service has compiled detailed soils data for approximately 95 percent of the counties in the United States. The soils data contains information such as the texture, drainage, depth, and chemical characteristics of the soil. This data can be accessed by reviewing hard copy Soil Surveys (which can typically be found at the local library or local NRCS office), or online from the NRCS Web Soil Survey.
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The 12 soil orders are listed below in the sequence in which they key out in Soil Taxonomy / see international location mapping for each
- Gelisols - soils with permafrost within 2 m of the surface
- Histosols - organic soils
- Spodosols - acid forest soils with a subsurface accumulation of metal-humus complexes
- Andisols - soils formed in volcanic ash
- Oxisols - intensely weathered soils of tropical and subtropical environments
- Vertisols - clayey soils with high shrink/swell capacity
- Aridisols - CaCO3-containing soils of arid environments with subsurface horizon development
- Ultisols - strongly leached soils with a subsurface zone of clay accumulation and <35% base saturation
- Mollisols - grassland soils with high base status
- Alfisols - moderately leached soils with a subsurface zone of clay accumulation and >35% base saturation
- Inceptisols - soils with weakly developed subsurface horizons
- Entisols - soils with little or no morphological development
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Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
The World Hydro Reference Overlay Map service is designed to be used as a base map by scientists, professionals, and researchers in the fields of Hydrology, Geography, Climate, Soils, and other natural sciences. The map features a hydro-centric design based on the amount of water flowing within the drainage network such that symbols of the same size and color represent roughly the same amount of water.
This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.
Pages in category "Soil"
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Media in category "Soil"
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