Healthysoils.org launches on 5th December to mark 2011 World Soil Day – an annual event set up to advocate the use and need of soils for human survival and the importance of its sustainable management.
Healthysoils.org sets out the importance of soils to key aspects of human life including climate change, food, water, biodiversity and health. Soil produces food, provides nutrients, cleans our water, and stores carbon dioxide. It provides a home to over a quarter of all living species and is the basis of almost all food chains.
Despite its crucial role, the health of our soils is being destroyed and not enough is being done to protect it. EU efforts to introduce a Soil Framework Directive to protect European soils have been blocked in the policy making process since 2006.
Soil can be damaged in many ways, for example:
- Some farming techniques such as excessive use of fertiliser or deep ploughing can damage soil fertility.
- Urbanisation leads to soil being covered up or sealed with materials such as tarmac for roads and concrete for house building. This suffocates the soil and prevents it from storing carbon, water and nitrogen.
- Bare soil can be vulnerable to erosion and can be blown or washed away into watercourses where it can negatively affect the water quality.
- Soil can become contaminated by improperly managed industrial activities.
- Soil health can also be damaged through changes to land use. For example, changing from forest land to biocrops lowers the soil's organic matter content, releasing stored carbon and reducing soil fertility.