Soil is the skin of the Earth. It covers the crust of the planet and is a mixture of weathered rock and decayed remains of plants and animals. It forms the Lithosphere, the outer shell of the Earth, which consists of tectonic plates, mountains, plains, forests, and deserts.
Soil is alive, containing hundreds of earthworms, mites, bacteria, and other organisms. They enable the circulation of nutrients through the soil layers. An important component of the ecosystem, it forms the primary support for all terrestrial organisms. The plethora of microorganisms in the soil function as the starters of food webs that give our ecosystems life.
It serves as a growth medium for all flora and habitat for billions of creatures. It is the foundation of all life on Earth.
Soil and environment seem intimately entwined, but what is the connection between soil and environment?
Being such a critical component of the ecosystem, soil plays a defining role in the environment.
- Water Filtration
Soil acts as a natural water filter and increases water retention capacity. This helps replenish the groundwater table supply, which acts as the reservoir for lakes, rivers, and ponds. It performs ecosystem services such as water regulation, flood mitigation, and coastal repair and protection.
- Crop growth
Soil provides essential nutrients to plants and our crops, which form the basis of food for animals. Moreover, different soil types perform various ecosystem services such as temperature regulation, climate control, and decomposition.
- Source of life
All plant life originates in soil. Plants require soil to germinate and grow and take nutrition from it. Agriculture would not have been possible without soil. Plants form the crux of the various biomes of the world. The organisms in soil decompose dead plants and animals, converting them into raw nutrients easily absorbed by plants as nutrients.
- Climate regulation
Wetland soil retains carbon dioxide released by anthropogenic and other activities. Major processes in the various biogeochemical cycles such as carbon cycle, phosphorous cycle, and nitrogen cycle occur in soil.
Soil performs a major function in the environment. It is a life-supporting system, teeming with life and diversity. There are more organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on Earth. It is non-renewable and a powerful source of natural capital- one that has made an incredible impact on human life. Managing our soil efficiently is vital to humanity’s survival. Soil functions must be studied closely and attentively to use it for our own needs and leave it healthy for our future generations.
Ecologically fragile ecosystems such as wetlands perform the unique functions for the environment; their cycle must be closely observed so that we can implement ecologically justified methods elsewhere. Farmers, gardeners, agriculturalists, policymakers, and others need to come together to help protect and save our planet. Sustainable soil and agricultural practices must be embraced and propagated. Saving Earth will begin from the bottom, our soil.