According to the Soil Science Society of America – soil is the combination of minerals, air, water, plants, and other living organisms that accumulate in layers over time. Soil does a lot more than just provide a home for seeds to sprout and bugs to crawl. It’s an important piece of Earth and aids in things such as carbon reduction, decomposition, and the water cycle. Here are 10 facts about soil’s environmental impact.
1. A handful of soil has more living organisms than there are people on planet Earth. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the millions of species and billions of organisms that reside in the ground represent the greatest concentration of biomass anywhere on the planet. Soil provides warmth, nutrients, water – and a home for seeds, bugs, microorganisms, and more.
2. Soil acts as the medium for decomposition. When a living thing dies, nature essentially recycles it. Decomposers like fungi break down dead parts and turn them into nutrients for the soil – giving back to the creatures living in and around it.
3. It makes our water cleaner. When it rains, healthy soil absorbs lots of water. The water is used by plants, microbes, and other living things, or it moves into lakes, aquifers, and even the ocean. Rainwater may contain harmful pollutants, and soil acts as a filter and the water passed on to bodies of water is cleaner because of it.
4. There are more than 70,000 kinds of soil in the United States. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, soil scientists have identified over 70,000 kinds of soil in the U.S.
5. It promotes biodiversity. For many creatures, soil is either their home or their food’s home. It is home to millions of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. Soil supports the various biomes that create and sustain the incredible biodiversity on Earth.
6. Our ozone layer owes soil some thanks. Soil plays a huge part in the carbon cycle and is an active carbon sink. The fact that carbon can be absorbed by the ground takes the burden off of our atmosphere and offsets some of the damage that occurs when carbon emissions are released into our ozone layer.
7. It’s practically the perfect temperature. Soil temperature is an important factor in many processes, such as germination, supporting life forms that dwell underground, and other chemical reactions and biological processes.
8. Good soil makes our air easier to breathe. In very dry regions, dust storms are common and blow in soils from various areas. The dirt from these storms are easily inhaled and can cause respiratory problems, especially if the soil particles contain fungi or bacteria. A well-covered soil (i.e., using new tilling methods or planting cover crops) helps prevent erosion and can reduce the likelihood of dust storms.
9. It reduces pollution. Healthy soils reduce the flow of sediment into rivers. By filtering water for lakes and other bodies of water, soil plays a huge role in reducing the amount of polluted runoff that enters our waterways.
10. We couldn’t live without it. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that without healthy soils, “life on Earth would be unsustainable.” Most plants need good soil to grow in, and all humans need plants to provide them with sustenance. Thus, soil is necessary to sustain human life on Earth.