Global soils underpin life but future looks ‘bleak’, warns UN report

Global soils are the source of all life on land but their future looks “bleak” without action to halt degradation, according to the authors of a UN report.



a truck traveling down a dirt road: Photograph: Zsolt Czeglédi/EPA


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Photograph: Zsolt Czeglédi/EPA

A quarter of all the animal species on Earth live beneath our feet and provide the nutrients for all food. Soils also store as much carbon as all plants above ground and are therefore critical in tackling the climate emergency. But there also are major gaps in knowledge, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report, which is the first on the global state of biodiversity in soils.

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The report was compiled by 300 scientists, who describe the worsening state of soils as at least as important as the climate crisis and destruction of the natural world above ground. Crucially, it takes thousands of years for soils to form, meaning

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Dust travelled thousands of miles to enrich Hawaiian soils

hawaii
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

With its warm weather and sandy beaches, Hawaii is a magnet for tourists every year. This unique ecosystem also attracts soil scientists interested in what surprises may lie beneath their feet.


In a recent paper published in Geoderma, European researchers outline how they used the rich soils of Hawaii to study the critical movement of phosphorous through the environment. By better understanding the amount and type of phosphorus in the soil, they can help crops become more successful and maintain the health of our ecosystems for years to come.

The project was led by Agroscope scientist Dr. Julian Helfenstein, Prof. Emmanuel Frossard with the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich; and Dr. Christian Vogel, a researcher at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin.

The team used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan to help analyze the different types

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