18 Oct Soil – A Geological Resource, Economic Driver and Ecosystem Service Provider: recommendations for pooling scientific expertise in soil and land management
National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) 2014
Soil is fundamental to human existence. It forms the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust, supporting life and comprising a base of mineral and organic materials together with water, air and living organisms. The soil is where the lithosphere (our planet’s crust and upper mantle) meets the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water) and biosphere (flora and fauna). Its position at the interface between these four environmental compartments makes soil a highly sensitive and complex system. The rate at which new soil can be created is limited, meaning that soil loss is often irreversible. Even in the best-case scenario, when land is misused or degraded it can take decades or even centuries to restore soil to a state where it performs its full range of functions. Because the amount of land is finite it is no longer sustainable to consider that new soil may be brought into cultivation, e.g. by clearing forested lands. Arable land is, thus, a finite resource that should be used responsibly.