While December may be a month which is primarily known for its time of celebration for many of the world’s major religions, here at Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District, none are more important than World Soil Day. Celebrated annually on December 5, World Soil Day was instituted by the United Nations through a process which unofficially began at the turn of the century. An international day which honors and celebrates soil was first recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences in 2002. The Kingdom of Thailand was one of the biggest proponents of World Soil Day and through working with the Global Soil Partnership and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the 2013 FAO Conference unanimously voted to establish World Soil Day. The United Nations General Assembly heard the requests from the FAO and officalled designated December 5, 2014 as the official first World Soil Day.
Many of you may be asking why the United Nations felt as though it was necessary to enact a global day of celebration for something as ubiquitous as soil. Although soil is literally almost everywhere, is it undeniably important to the health of human beings as well as the natural world. Regarded as a “living resource”, more than a quarter of the earth’s biodiversity is found in the soil under our feet. Given this, soil has the greatest concentration of biomass. While there is such a huge amount of life within the soil, scientists have estimated that we have only discovered approximately 1% of the microorganisms that live in soil. In comparison, we have discovered an estimated 80% of the plant species. Of all the living organisms on the planet, nearly 90% either live or spend some amount of time during their lifecycle in the soil.
Without soil to host such biodiversity, it is likely that our species would have not made the important discovery of many antibiotics and other medicinal tools. Further, the existence of many of these microorganisms contribute to the overall environmental health because these extremely small creatures are able to break down some of the toxic contaminants which find their way into the earth’s soil.
The FAO of the United Nations also outlines 6 different actions which can be taken to protect and work to prevent the loss of biodiversity in soil which is happening right now.
The World Soil Day 2021 campaign “Halt soil salinization, boost soil productivity” looks to raise awareness of the problem of soil salinization. Soil salinization is the process where different salts start to accumulate in soil. This excess of water-soluble salt in the soil hinders the growth of crops because the salt limits the plants ability to take up water. There are a number of natural and anthropogenic reasons why the soil may have an overabundance of salt, including low annual rainfall, high rates of evaporation and mismanagement of the agricultural production process. For more information on salinization, visit this USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service information sheet or NRCS’ soils page.
Make sure to celebrate World Soil Day by taking a few seconds to learn more about the biodiversity, microbiology and overall importance of the soil we are all dependent on. Whether it is through the adjustment of personal actions or widespread agricultural decisions, there is a way everybody can get involved in the promotion of the globe’s largest living resource.
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