The Soil: Nature, Sustainable Use, Management, and Protection - An Overview
Nortcliff, S. (2009) The Soil: Nature, Sustainable Use, Management, and Protection - An Overview. Gaia-Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 18 (1). pp. 58-68. ISSN 0940-5550
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Soil forms the outer skin of the earth's land surface. Often less than a metre in depth, it is essential to sustain natural terrestrial ecosystems and human life. Soils result from the interactions over time between climate, parent material, topography, vegetation, and biota. They vary from place to place. Mineral soils are composed of mineral matter, organic matter, and gas- or liquid-filled pores in varying proportions. Soils perform a wide range of functions and provide many ecosystem or environmental services; with the climate problem, the soil is increasingly being recognised as a potential sink for carbon from the atmosphere. In part because of humankind's (over)use of soils and in part because of natural and human-induced environmental change, there is a widespread decline in soil quality and an increasing number of threats to soil, which jeopardise both the soil's natural functions and its use by humans. As a limited resource, soils must be used sustainably. Soil protection strategies have been indirectly embodied in a number of United Nations conventions, and there are now national and supranational developments towards specific regulations and legislation to protect soils and their functions.