How Soils help to combat and adapt to Climate Change.

Poorly managed soils:  If soils are managed poorly or cultivated through unsustainable agricultural practices, soil carbon can be released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) which can contribute to climate change.

Climate change represents a serious threat to global food security: 

  • The steady conversion of grassland and grazing lands has resulted in historic losses of soil carbon worldwide.
  • Land-use conversions and drainage of organic soils for cultivation are responsible for about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from Agriculture, Forestry, and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past 50 years.
  • Without greater efforts to reduce them, they could increase an additional 30% by 2050.

Soils and the Carbon Cycle: The carbon cycle is the exchange of carbon (in various forms, eg. carbon dioxide) between the atmosphere-ocean, terrestrial biosphere, and geological deposits.

  • Plants use CO2 from the atmosphere, water from the soil and sunlight to make their own food and grow in a process called photosynthesis. The carbon they absorb from the air becomes part of the plant.
  • Animals that feed on the plants pass the carbon compounds along the food chain.
  • Most of the carbon the animals consume is converted into CO2 as they breathe (respiration), and is released back into the atmosphere.
  • When the animals and plants die, the dead organisms are eaten by decomposers in the soil (bacteria and fungi) and the carbon in their bodies is again returned to the atmosphere as CO2.

Sustainably managed Soils:

  • When managed sustainable soils can play an important role in climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration (C) and by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
  • By restoring degraded soils and adopting soil conservation practices there is major potential to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases from agriculture, enhance carbon sequestration and build resilience to climate change.