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Healthy soil is crucial for ensuring the sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems, and therefore of the human species.
Soil is our greatest ally, the guarantee of the future of our planet. However, it is not an inert mass, as is still too often thought. It is sensitive to environmental stress, especially that which is linked to human activities and in regions where conventional agriculture has already taken its toll.
Indeed, soil is not only composed of mineral elements. It is also home to hundreds of plant and animal species that sustain, clean and enrich it. About a quarter of the fauna lives underground, producing all kinds of nutrients essential to the balance of ecosystems. “Healthy soils feed the entire food chain. This concerns the food we eat, the water we drink, but also the air we breathe”, explains Ronald Vargas, a scientific officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), also a member of the board of the World Living Soils Forum. “Defending and restoring the natural balance of soils requires urgent action, in order to ensure the survival of all living organisms.” continues the expert in an article for Euronews.
The fight against climate change is everyone’s mission. But it is sometimes difficult to get involved in such an undertaking, as the stakes seem so high. However, everyone can act effectively at his or her own level, particularly by focusing on soil protection. As such, the FAO insists on the need to introduce and maintain sustainable agricultural practices. Not only will they save soils from the catastrophic effects of chemical inputs, but they will also have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
It should be noted that agriculture is responsible for about a third of these emissions, behind energy, but ahead of manufacturing, construction and transport. But there are many other benefits to keeping soil healthy. Indeed, soil does not only produce food: it purifies runoff water, while storing large quantities of CO2. “Soil can potentially retain 2.04 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent, or 34% of total greenhouse gas emissions” says Ronald Vargas. The soil therefore prevents CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, with the consequences we all know.
But for this to happen, the soil must be healthy and the micro-organisms in the soil must be able to digest all this carbon. Hence the vital need for the human species to preserve one of its greatest riches, as Ronald Vargas summarises very well: “It takes thousands of years for healthy soil to form naturally, which means their protection is paramount to our own survival.”