What do Soils do for us?

The former President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself”.

There are a wide variety of different soils across the world providing a range of environmental, economic and social benefits to the local human population. Soils are largely hidden from sight and as such can be taken for granted by large sectors of society.

Did you know?

  • Soils provide not only the surface on which we live but also a building material

Across the world soil has been and is still used as a primary building material from cob. Houses on the west coast of England, adobe built Pueble homes in the south western United States of America to rammed earth huts in Africa. One half of the world population (~ 3 billion people) live or work in buildings constructed of soil.

  • Soils provide the basis of the agricultural and forestry industries

The world’s population is expected to expand by 50% to more than 9 billion within the lifespan of today’s children – feeding all these people will rely on good soil management and care of our soil resources.

  • Soils can act as a giant sponge storing water and preventing flooding

Some soils can store in excess of 400 mm of rainfall in the 1st m of soil this information helps engineers control and assess flooding risk, however poor management resulting in compaction can lead to unexpected flooding.

  • Soils are efficient ‘cleansing agents’ and help protect water and air from the worst effects of many pollutants

All the water we drink will have passed through soil, however, we need to take care that we are not exceeding the capacity of some soils to absorb and “lock away” harmful pollutants and thereby become damaged themselves.

  • Some soils store huge amounts of carbon

It is estimated that there are 15 gigatonnes (15 thousand million) of carbon in the world’s soils – three times more than in all vegetation and forests. Current climate warming may accelerate the release of soil carbon into the atmosphere therefore speeding up the climate warming process.

  • Soils make a substantial contribution to biodiversity

Soil provides a vital habitat for many forms of life ranging from microbes to earthworms and moles. It also provides an interface for all other forms of life.

  • Soil is essentially a non renewable resource!

​But what does a Soil Scientist do?