At Treedom, we think a lot about growing trees, about protecting the environment and about social justice. We’ve always understood how inextricably linked these issues are. But we don’t always talk about the (literally) underlying element that connects them all – soil.
“Soil is one of the most underrated and little understood wonders on our fragile planet”, Professor Bridget Emmett of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
So the UN’s slogan for World Soil Day this year, ‘Where Food Begins,’ was a reminder that healthy soil is essential not just for growing trees, but for the wellbeing of everything that lives - crops, animals, and of course, humans. With that in mind, here are four facts about one of earth’s most precious substances.
Around 95% of the world’s food is directly or indirectly produced on soil
Soil helps plants grow by providing them with nutrients, but when it degrades, it loses those nutrients, and the result is increasingly less-healthy crops. According to the UN, the amount of vitamins and nutrients in food is rapidly decreasing, meaning an estimated 2 billion people worldwide are malnourished because of a lack of micronutrients. This ‘hidden hunger’ is considered a major threat to global food security.
There are more living organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on the planet
Composed of organisms, minerals, and organic matter, soil can live, die, be healthy or unhealthy. And the bad news is that across the world, soil health is declining in many ways, caused by pollution, deforestation, unsustainable farming practices and the impacts of climate change - namely droughts and floods. In fact, more than one third of the earth’s soil is already severely degraded. As well as the nutrient loss mentioned above, the erosion, salinisation and chemical degradation of soil all have knock-on effects for its fertility, and the wider environment.
Soil can help - or hinder - climate change
Soil stores an incredible amount of carbon – twice the amount of carbon contained in all plants and trees combined, and three times the amount in the atmosphere. In other words, healthy soil is vital in limiting climate change. But when soil is degraded, it is less able to act as a carbon sink and releases CO2 back into the environment.
Agroforestry is good for soil biodiversity
As we often mention, Treedom’s projects are always agroforestry systems, which combine various tree and plant species to support diverse and sustainable ecosystems. Various studies have shown that agroforestry systems can reduce soil erosion, and improve soil fertility.