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World's soils are under greater threat than ever before, warns scientist

June 9, 2011 - London

At a time when we are the most dependent on them to support life, a new research has warned that the planet's soils are under a greater threat than ever before.

Professor Steve Banwart from the University's Kroto Research Institute says that in some parts of the world, losses due to erosion are greatly outstripping the natural rate of soil formation; and the intensity of human activity is impacting the ability of soil to produce food, store carbon from the atmosphere, filter contamination from water supplies and maintain necessary biodiversity.

Because of growing demand for food, intensification of agriculture alone will put a huge strain on soils over the next few decades, and climate change adds to the challenge, Steve said.

Soils are at the heart of the earth's 'critical zone', the life-supporting veneer of the planet from the top of tree canopies to the bottom of drinking water aquifers that support much of humankind, the Sheffield release said.

CZOs are international magnets that draw together multidisciplinary experts from around the world, to focus their combined efforts to solve this soils challenge.

"The challenge is clear," Banwart said. "We need rigorous forecasting methods to quantify and best utilize soil's natural capital, to assess options for maintaining or extending it, and to determine how declines can be reversed.

"And we need these things well within a decade," he added.

The study has been published in the journal Nature.


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