Conservation Matters January 2015

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

International Year of Soils promotes the role of soil in meeting global challenges

By Sara Carney

When it comes to natural resource conservation, water, air and wildlife are often discussed, but there is another equally vital resource that experts say needs protection — soil. 2015 was declared the International Year of Soils (IYS) by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Soil Partnership. The designation celebrates the importance of soil as a nonrenewable resource.

“I think it is a significant time, because we’re seeing the effects of degradation of our environment in general,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University. “There is more awareness about the role that soils have in global challenges, such as water and food security as well as biodiversity and human health.”

The International Union of Soil Scientists (IUSS) will sponsor a number of international events to celebrate IYS. IUSS, along with the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), Texas A&M and others, will sponsor the Global Soil Security Symposium May 19-21 at Texas A&M.

At the symposium, attendees will address the five dimensions of soil security, which the conference defines as:

  • Capability - The intrinsic capacity of a soil to produce products and ecosystem services
  • Condition - The current state of the soil, including modification by human activities
  • Capital - The economics of soil services to health, environment and food production
  • Connectivity - The social connection of soil managers, custodians and users of soil products and services to the soil and to each other
  • Codification - Policy frameworks: identification of policies that degrade soil security and those that secure soil

Symposium organizers said that the event is open to those interested in soil security, including economists, scientists, politicians and nonprofit organizations.

Details about registration and abstract submission for the symposium are on SSSA’s website.

At the national level, SSSA is using this opportunity to raise awareness about soil conservation. Each month, SSSA will celebrate a different benefit of soil, including “Soils support recreation,” “Soils clean and capture water” and “Soils support heath.”

SSSA also provides educational materials, including presentations, lab experiments and a video series, for various audiences, according to SSA Communications Director Susan Fisk

“People are just becoming more aware of our Earth and our need to take care of it, and the soil is definitely a very important factor in that,” Fisk said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is also doing its part to bring attention to soils. NRCS provides educational resources about soil, including videos, an interactive map of soil health around the nation, fact sheets and infographics.

For more information, visit the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s IYS website. To learn more about how the SSSA is celebrating IYS, see this news release.

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