Washington, Jan 28 : A new study by a scientist has said that human activities have caused Earth's soils to change so much that it is now important to formulate policies for their sustainability in the future.
According to Daniel Richter, a soil scientist from Duke University, who carried out the research, "With more than half of all soils on Earth now being cultivated for food crops, grazed, or periodically logged for wood, how to sustain Earth's soils is becoming a major scientific and policy issue."
In his study, Richter has taken the agricultural situation in Africa as an example of the challenges that our planet faces in regards to soil fertility.
Richter said that leading scientists are concerned that agriculture in Africa has so degraded regional soil fertility that the economic development of whole nations will be diminished without drastic improvements of soil management.
"This is an old story writ large of widespread cropping without nutrient recycling, with the result being soil infertility," he said.
"And agriculture is only part of the reason why soils are so rapidly changing. Expanding cities, industries, mining and transportation systems all impact soil in ways that are far more permanent than cultivation," Richter added.
According to his study, "If humanity is to succeed in the coming decades, we must interact much more positively with the great diversity of Earth's soils."
As part of the research regarding the global problem of soil fertility, Richter and his international colleagues have recently established what is described as the first global network of long-term soil experiments, a network with an extensive web site.
The network has two objectives.
"The first is to bring more attention to how fundamental soil is to environmental quality, the global carbon cycle, and climate change, all in addition to soil being the basis for food and fiber production," said Richter.
According to him, "The second objective is to strengthen and renew the world's long-term soils research sites, because those provide our best direct observations of how soils are changing on time scales of decades."
These facts make long-term soil studies quite important because they clearly demonstrate the susceptibility of soils to change in response to land management.
"They also provide important data to model climate warming and the global carbon cycle," said Richter.