Earth Could Lose a Third of Its Topsoil
You might think that soil doesn’t matter that much – after all it seems to be everywhere. However researchers are warning us that the worlds supply of topsoil is being lost quicker than it can be replenished through natural processes. This is a cause for concern, considering that topsoil is a necessity when it comes to growing food crops, absorbing excess carbon and supplying us with new antibiotics.
The UN, which designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils, warns that 33% of the planet’s soil resources are being degraded due to erosion, pollution, acidification and nutrient depletion – destructive processes that are caused by bad land management. We need to adopt new new approaches or the amount of productive farmland per person on Earth will be only a quarter of what it was in 1960.
At the moment, we are losing soil at a rate of 30 football fields per minute, and if we don’t slow down this decline then the planet’s entire supply of topsoil could be gone by 2075. In addition to growing our food, soil is a major factor against climate change. Microbes and fungi in the soil soak up carbon from plants and the decomposing bodies of animals. It is thought that the planet’s topsoil contains up to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere.
One of the main contributors to the degradation of topsoil is the overuse if synthetic fertilisers, which can turn soil acidic and salty, and interfere with the interaction of fungi and plant roots that helps to store carbon. If we were to switch back to traditional crop rotation, then we would allow the topsoil to replenish it’s lost nutrients in the soil.
A surprising fact that we must bare in mind is that topsoil actually takes a long time to form. It can take up to 1000 years to form once centimetre of dirt. Therefore it is paramount that we begin to implement some changes.