Soils are vital for producing nutritious crops and they filter tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of water each year.

Soils are vital for producing nutritious crops and they filter tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of water each year.
Photo: © USDA (flickr)

The Status of the World's Soil Resources

The world's soils are rapidly deteriorating due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil sealing and other threats, but this trend can be reversed, states the UN report “The Status of the World's Soil Resources”, published at the end of the Year of Soils 2015.

To mark the end of The Year of Soils 2015 which is now drawing to a close, the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO published the report: The Status of the World's Soil Resources in December 2015. The report was produced by FAO's Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils and brings together the work of some 200 soil scientists from 60 countries.

The conclusion of the report is that the majority of the world's soil resources are in only fair, poor or very poor condition and that conditions are getting worse in far more cases than they are improving. In particular, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils.

Changes to the condition of soils are primarily driven by population growth and economic growth, urbanisation and climate change. The report focuses on the ten main threats to soil functions: soil erosion, soil organic carbon loss, nutrient imbalance, soil acidification, soil contamination, waterlogging, soil compaction, soil sealing, salinization and loss of soil biodiversity.

A broad level of stakeholders is needed for a successful soil-related strategy

The report notes how there is a general consensus on soil-related strategies that can, on the one hand, increase the supply of food, while on the other, minimize harmful environmental impacts. The solution proposed is one that centres on sustainable soil management and which requires the participation of a broad level of stakeholders ranging from governments to small-holder farmers.

The report identifies four priorities for action:

  • Minimize further degradation of soils and restore the productivity of soils that are already degraded in regions where people are most vulnerable;
  • Stabilize global stores of soil organic matter, including both soil organic carbon and soil organisms;
  • Stabilize or reduce global use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser, while increasing fertiliser use in regions of nutrient deficiency; and,
  • Improve our knowledge about the state and trend of soil conditions.

Such actions need to be supported by targeted policies, including:

  • support for the development of soil information systems to monitor and forecast soil change;
  • increasing education and awareness on soil issues by integrating this into formal education and across the curriculum - from geology to geography, from biology to economics;
  • investing in research development and extension, to develop test and disseminate sustainable soil management technologies and practices;
  • introducing appropriate and effective regulation and incentives;
  • supporting achievement of local, regional and international food security by considering countries' soil resources and their capacities to manage them sustainably.

Download the publication: The Status of the World's Soil Resources

Download the summery of The Status of the World's Soil Resources

More information:Year of Soils Website


(FAO/ile)

 

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