Healthy Soil Is Essential To Ecosystems And The Climate
Ecosystems help regulate climate. A thriving ecosystem is dependent on healthy soil, which supports and maintains diversity of life on earth. Today, because our soils are being damaged by human activities, we are dangerously close to disrupting the delicate balance that sustains life. Healthy soil performs many essential ecosystem functions like : provides a medium for plants to grow, absorbs and slowly releases rain water, recycles nutrients and organic wastes, supports biodiversity, stores twice the carbon found in all vegetation and the atmosphere combined, stores CO2, filters out drinking water contaminants, provides a home for oxygen producing trees, supports ecosystems that grow our food.
The health of the Earth and all its life forms depends on changing the way we care for soil. It takes Nature an average of 500 years to form an inch of topsoil. We can’t wait five lifetimes for lost soil to be replaced. We need to care for and enrich the soil we have now.
Land pollution is a heavy topic and it has a direct impact on the environment and on the health of humans, animals, and plants. Soil pollution is a real problem that requires immediate attention from both political powers and citizens. Soil is not a renewable resource. It can takes several thousands of years to form and regenerate while soil degradation can be rapid (a few years or decades).
Land pollution refers to all forms of pollution affecting any type of soil: agricultural, forestry, urban, etc. Soil pollution is a disruptive element for many biological resources and ecosystems. Soil is polluted when it contains an abnormal concentration of chemical compounds potentially dangerous to human health, plants, animals and other organisms.
There are different types of land pollution: Agricultural land pollution, Chemicals and Solid Waste. Human activities are the main causes of land pollution and these include : Agriculture, Deforestation, Urbanization, Mining, Industrial waste and Waste disposal
Big industries as well as us in our homes produce large quantities of household waste every year, many of which could and should be recycled or degrade naturally however much of our waste is either incinerated, causing potential air pollution issues or buried in landfills, causing soil pollution problems and all of the above mentioned causing water pollution.
Agricultural activities are one of the major sources of land pollution. The spreading of plant protection products such as pesticides and herbicides, as well as the emissions of livestock buildings and farms are at the origin of soil pollution, in particular by nitrogen and phosphates.
Because of deforestation and forest fires, soils lose their vegetation cover. The erosion process is thus accelerated, creating soil degradation as well as water pollution. Deforestation leads to the loss of the land’s value as, once converted into a dry or barren land, it can never be made fertile again. Cattle ranching is an issue. Many rainforests in Central and South America have been burnt down to make way for cattle farming, which supplies beef to the rest of the world. It is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feet of rainforest are destroyed. The cleared land cannot be used for long without the forests' nourishment. The soil soon becomes dry and the cattle farmers then have to move on to create new cattle pastures leaving a trail of destruction.
Beef production is the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests. The forest conversion it generates more than doubles that generated by the production of soy, palm oil, and wood products (the second, third, and fourth biggest drivers) combined. Beef also drives conversion of non-forest landscapes, from grasslands to savannas.
The second biggest driver of tropical deforestation is soybean production. Global soybean production has increased more than fifteenfold since the 1950s. Between 1990 and 2010 in South America, the land used for soy production swelled from 42 million acres (roughly the size of Washington State) to 114 million acres (bigger than the state of California) to feed live stock. Demand for soy is closely connected to demand for beef and other animal proteins. Between 70% and 75% of all soy becomes livestock feed—for chickens, pigs, and farmed fish, as well as for cows.
Urbanization is another source of land degradation. The artificialization of soils can cause a rapid and consequent carbon depletion, which contributes to climate change. Besides, it fragments natural habitats, ecosystems and landscapes, affecting biodiversity.
Mining waste is usually left behind in the form of spoil tips. These pit heaps can contain a wide variety of toxic substances that then seep into the ground as a result of rain. This can have a big impact on the regeneration of the vegetation. It also pollutes water and the air.
Heavy industry often produces quantities of undesirable chemicals. When cleaning agents such as detergents are released irresponsibly, they cause significant pollution on the ground. Storage tanks can also be a major source of land pollution in case of leakage.
Humans produce large quantities of household waste every year, many of which could and should be recycled or degrade naturally. Much the waste is either incinerated - causing potential air pollution issues - or buried in landfills, causing soil pollution problems.
Natural disasters, such as drought, floods and volcanic eruptions, or technological events - like radioactive fallout following a nuclear test also produce soil degradation.
All soils, whether polluted or unpolluted, contain a variety of compounds (contaminants) which are naturally present. Such contaminants include metals, inorganic ions and salts (e.g. phosphates, carbonates, sulfates, nitrates), and many organic compounds (such as lipids, proteins, DNA, fatty acids, hydrocarbons, PAHs, alcohols, etc.). These compounds are mainly formed through soil microbial activity and decomposition of organisms (e.g., plants and animals). Additionally, various compounds get into the soil from the atmosphere, for instance with precipitation water, as well as by wind activity or other types of soil disturbances, and from surface water bodies and shallow groundwater flowing through the soil. When the amounts of soil contaminants exceed natural levels (what is naturally present in various soils), pollution is generated. There are two main causes through which soil pollution is generated: anthropogenic (man-made) causes and natural causes.
We really do need to clean up our act.
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