The foundation of life

Countless cycles of birth, death, fertility and decay have transformed soil into the matrix of life on Earth: just a handful of terrestrial soil contains more organisms than there are people on the planet. These microorganisms work endlessly to provide a range of ecosystem services that are vital for the functioning and resilience of the environment. The Earth’s soils function as its largest water filter and storage tank, filtering and cleaning tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of water that pass through them each year. Soils store more carbon than is contained in all above ground vegetation, while regulating emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Soils also consume, digest, cycle and store nutrients that serve as the molecular building blocks for plants, animals and all forms of life.

Recognising the fundamental value of soil, a handful of forward-looking countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, established national legislation decades ago, to protect this natural resource. However, according to senior soil expert Dr. Luca Montanarella, the world’s soils have largely been considered a second-tier priority. As a result, the state of global soils has rapidly deteriorated, with human pressures on soil resources reaching critical limits.

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