If you read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Soil Series, you understand what we mean when we talk about healthy soils and why we believe it’s so important to sustain them, especially for food production! But as we look to the future, did you know that healthy soils can help reduce the impacts of climate change?
It’s all about CARBON! Soils store 75% of land-based carbon - three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals.
What is Carbon?
Carbon is a building block for life, and is found in different forms all over Earth. Its gaseous form, carbon dioxide, exists in the atmosphere. It is produced naturally through decomposing plants, forest fires, and volcanoes, as well as through other natural processes. Human activities such as burning fossil fuels (transportation, energy production) and deforestation can lead to heavy concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Because CO2 is a heat-trapping gas (greenhouse gas), heavy concentrations contribute to rising global temperatures.
Carbon exists in more places than just the atmosphere. Carbon is stored in oceans, soils, plants (especially forests) and rocks. The long-term storage of carbon in these places is known as carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration keeps carbon out of the atmosphere, and can help lower our carbon footprint, or the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
Let’s think about this again: Although oceans store much of the world’s carbon, SOILS store 75% of land-based carbon - three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals! Therefore, soils play a major role in maintaining a balanced global carbon cycle.
There are some agricultural practices that release carbon into the atmosphere, such as heavy tilling (churning up the soil), use of chemical fertilizers, concentrated animal waste, and monocropping. However, regenerative practices can actually work to increase the carbon storage capacity of soils, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since soil stores most of the carbon that exists on land, soil conservation is key in reducing the impact of climate change.
Sustainable soil use, like the practices mentioned in Part 2 (cover cropping, smart tilling) increase soil health and allow soil to absorb and store more atmospheric carbon dioxide. Check out this video from Kiss the Ground to learn more about soil's place in the carbon cycle.
So, why is all of this important? So many of our vital resources rely on healthy soil; like food, water, and air. If soil health is neglected, global temperatures may continue to rise, ecosystems could be at stake, not to mention the countless implications on our food system. Fertile soils give us food security, clean water and air, and have the potential to slow the effects of climate change. By supporting soil conservation practices, we can look forward to a strong food system and healthy planet for generations to come.