Soil: Earth’s skin is the environment cleaner

N Munal Meitei
While many people recognize that clean water and air are signs of a healthy ecosystem, most of us do not realize that a critical part of the environment is right beneath our feet. The ground plays an important role in maintaining a clean environment by serving as a natural filtration and purification system.
We look at nature and see all the beauty and the prosperity around us. Earth’s outer layer - from the top vegetation canopy to the strata of soils and layers of underground material - helps soak up and purify water by extracting excess nutrients, heavy metals and other impurities. About 60% of the world’s annual precipitation ends up in this zone and there is more water, under the ground than there is in the so-called ‘blue waters,’ such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Without water, there is no life. Without groundwater, there is no clean water. Thus, beneath the surface lies the foundation of our sustainability.
Soil is a vital source of our food and medicine, home to a vast reservoir of biodiversity and is an important storehouse of carbon. Soil is one of the Earth’s most valuable natural resources, yet 30% of our soils are degraded. Soil is one of the most ubiquitous - and underappreciated - substances on Earth.
Despite being everywhere around us - in fields and gardens and beneath our feet - soil is often taken for granted. Yet in several fascinating ways, this miraculous substance holds the key to life on Earth. It helps produce our food, filters and purifies our air, water, reduces flooding, regulates the atmosphere and plays a crucial role in driving the carbon and nitrogen cycles. It is also one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth.
Soil is Earth’s living skin : Thin and delicate but also playing an irreplaceable role in preserving the health of Eco-system and the global biosphere as a whole, Soil is one of the most underrated and little understood wonders on our fragile planet.
Soil plays a vital role in either limiting or exacerbating climate change. Most people are already aware of the importance of forests and trees in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. But/ soil stores an extraordinary quantity of carbon: three times the amount in the atmosphere and twice the amount contained in all plants and trees.
Plants not only extract CO2 from the atmosphere but store in the soil in the form of plant residues and humus. These organic compounds which locks carbon in a stable and eco-friendly way are basis of our foods. However, when soil becomes damaged or degraded, it again release CO2 or methane back into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating - rather than decelerating - the climate change.
Switching of farming methods can dramatically change the emissions profile of the land. If managed in the right way, soils will be healthier and more fertile - and also store more carbon. Soil is a vital stock cupboard - not just for carbon, but for life.(To be contd)