Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earth's Soils Bear Unmistakable Footprints Of Humans

Date:
January 28, 2008
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
The dirt under our feet is being so changed by humans that it is now appropriate to call this the "Anthropocene (or man-made) Age," says a new worldwide overview by a soil scientist.

Farm worker spraying insecticide on strawberry crop. The dirt under our feet is being so changed by humans that it is now appropriate to call this the "Anthropocene (or man-made) Age."
Credit: iStockphoto/David T Gomez

The dirt under our feet is being so changed by humans that it is now appropriate to call this the "Anthropocene (or man-made) Age," says a new worldwide overview by Duke University soil scientist Daniel Richter.

"With more than half of all soils on Earth now being cultivated for food crops, grazed, or periodically logged for wood, how to sustain Earth's soils is becoming a major scientific and policy issue," Richter said. His paper appears in the December issue of the research journal Soil Science.

"Society's most important scientific questions include the future of Earth's soil," Richter added. "Can soils double food production in the next few decades? Is soil exacerbating the global carbon cycle and climatic warming? How can land management improve soil's processing of carbon, nutrients, wastes, toxics and water, all to minimize adverse effects on the environment?"

"Each of these questions require long-term observation and analysis, and we know far too little about how to answer them in much detail," he said. "We need to work to sustain soils with a greater sense of urgency."

As an example of the challenges, Richter said leading scientists are concerned that agriculture in Africa has so degraded regional soil fertility that the economic development of whole nations will be diminished without drastic improvements of soil management.

"This is an old story writ large of widespread cropping without nutrient recycling, with the result being soil infertility," he said. "And agriculture is only part of the reason why soils are so rapidly changing. Expanding cities, industries, mining and transportation systems all impact soil in ways that are far more permanent than cultivation."

"If humanity is to succeed in the coming decades, we must interact much more positively with the great diversity of Earth's soils," his Soil Science report said. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Duke's Center on Global Change.

A professor of soils and ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Richter and his international colleagues have recently established what is described as the first global network of long-term soil experiments, a network with an extensive web site <http://ltse.env.duke.edu>.

The network has two objectives, he said. "The first is to bring more attention to how fundamental soil is to environmental quality, the global carbon cycle, and climate change, all in addition to soil being the basis for food and fiber production."

The second objective, emphasized in the Soil Science report, "is to strengthen and renew the world's long-term soils research sites, because those provide our best direct observations of how soils are changing on time scales of decades," he said.

"One problem is that such studies have not worked together in the past. Study sites have never been comprehensively inventoried, and many operate without stable institutional support. Several highly productive long-term experiments have even been abandoned in recent years, including important studies in Africa and South America."

Despite those problems, "long-term soil studies are clearly demonstrating the susceptibility of soils to change in response to land management," Richter said. "They also provide important data to model climate warming and the global carbon cycle."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Earth's Soils Bear Unmistakable Footprints Of Humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080125154634.htm>.
Duke University. (2008, January 28). Earth's Soils Bear Unmistakable Footprints Of Humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080125154634.htm
Duke University. "Earth's Soils Bear Unmistakable Footprints Of Humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080125154634.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins