Soil Health: the biggest challenge facing Europe?

September 4, 2020 12:00 - 1:30

Location: Room 27B

About

In an increasingly urbanised society, most people never think about soil! Sometimes, we complain of being dirty or muddy yet soil is rarely thought of as something that can provide freedom. But in reality, healthy soils are the backbone of society and civilisation. Fertile soils are the basis of agriculture, which has allowed societies to develop and flourish as they freed people from hunger, from diseases and from the need to migrate. Without soil, the Earth (and there’s no coincidence in the name) would be a very different place. Just try growing food in concrete or a pile of rocks!
Yet, soil itself is trapped in a vicious circle of competing demands for land that lead to a loss of this precious commodity through erosion, contamination and pollution. These processes lower its capacity to provide the basic services that we depend on, from producing food to regulating climate, cleaning our drinking water and stopping our homes from flooding). Science can help set soil free from the pressures that are destroying it. Techniques exist to protect and restore soil quality.
In this session, we will present and discuss techniques that can be used to free soils from the pressures that threaten to destroy them. Through the use of striking images and surprising facts, we will highlight the broad range of services that soils provide society and how our actions are leading to soil degradation and a loss of functions. We will describe the breadth of soil biodiversity and how this relates to many of the ecosystem services that we depend on which are controlled by organisms that live in the soil. We will explain how recent advancement in DNA analysis is helping us to better understand how our use of land is affecting soil organisms. Finally, we highlight the need for improved communication in order to inform society of the value of soils, and how they hold the key to increased resilience to several of the major societal challenges facing Europe and many parts of the world.

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