. Energy News .

Planet's soils are under threat warns University academic
by Staff Writers
Sheffield, UK (SPX) Jun 13, 2011

File image.

The planet's soils are under greater threat than ever before, at a time when we need to draw on their vital role to support life more than ever, warns an expert from the University of Sheffield in the journal Nature.

Professor Steve Banwart from the University's Kroto Research Institute, will be helping to tackle this challenge as part of a new programme of international research, called Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs), funded initially by the USA National Science Foundation and the European Commission.

In some parts of the world, losses due to erosion are greatly outstripping the natural rate of soil formation; and the intensity of human activity is impacting the ability of soil to produce food, store carbon from the atmosphere, filter contamination from water supplies and maintain necessary biodiversity. Because of growing demand for food, intensification of agriculture alone will put a huge strain on soils over the next few decades, and climate change adds to the challenge.

Soils are at the heart of the earth's 'critical zone', the life-supporting veneer of the planet from the top of tree canopies to the bottom of drinking water aquifers that support much of humankind. CZOs are international magnets that draw together multidisciplinary experts from around the world, to focus their combined efforts to solve this soils challenge.

There are now over 30 CZOs in many different countries and they are starting to work together. One goal of this international effort is to develop mathematical models to predict how soil and the services it provides will change as humans intensify the use of soil. The aim is to pro-actively design solutions, for example to increase crop yields without compromising the other roles of soil.

This could be done by laying out alternative ways to raise crops and calculate the effects, to find the best solutions before soils deteriorate, and then implement these to maintain soil quality and potentially improve it.

CZOs are developing this predictive capability from fundamental scientific principles and combining data from the sites to test the models.

Key requirements that are identified to accelerate this research effort are greater international collaboration between national research programmes, and getting companies involved in research planning to help move from research to practical solutions. Given the possible doubling in food demand by 2050, critical zone scientists are arguing that we need to have this capability operational within a decade.

Professor Banwart argues: "The challenge is clear. We need rigorous forecasting methods to quantify and best utilise soil's natural capital, to assess options for maintaining or extending it, and to determine how declines can be reversed. And we need these things well within a decade."

The news follows significant research already being carried out at the University of Sheffield in the areas of global change and food security as part of Project Sunshine.

Led by the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield, Project Sunshine aims to unite scientists across the traditional boundaries in both the pure and applied sciences to harness the power of the Sun and tackle the biggest challenge facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world's population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change.

It is hoped that Project Sunshine will change the way scientists think and work and become the inspiration for a new generation of scientists focused on solving the world's problems.

Related Links
University of Sheffield
NSF National Critical Zone Observatory Program (CZO)
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Russia likely to end ban on EU vegetables
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia (UPI) Jun 10, 2011
Russia agreed to end its ban on vegetable imports from EU farmers after a high-powered EU intervention during annual talks, called to explore ways of integrating Moscow into the European mainstream. There was evidence of much horse-trading as Russia, true to analysts' expectations, proceeded to turn its blanket ban on EU vegetables to its political advantage and extract concessions on o ... read more

NASA launches ocean-watch satellite

Satellite and Radar Data Reveal Damage Track of Alabama Tornadic Thunderstorms

New NASA Map Reveals Tropical Forest Carbon Storage

NASA ocean-watch satellite set for Friday launch

Russia plans to launch six Glonass satellites in 2011

India plans to make GPS more accurate with GAGAN

EU to launch Galileo satellites this fall

Galileo: Europe prepares for October launch

Integrating agriculture and forestry in the landscape is key to REDD

Bacteria living on old-growth trees may help forests grow

Malaysia probes state head on timber graft claims

Paper firm welcomes Mattel deforestation inquiry

First wood-digesting enzyme found in bacteria could boost biofuel production

Viable Pathway to Develop Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Industry

Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle Premiered at NCKU

Shell and Cosan fuelling a lower-carbon future with biofuels

Solar-powered plane set for Brussels takeoff

Solar Solution for Fast Growing Commercial Metal Roof Market

Efficiency record for flexible CdTe solar cell due to novel polyimide film

Chemistry with sunlight

German port's future blowing in the wind

Siemens unveils wind turbine prototype

China wind energy firms back subsidy move: report

US claims victory in China wind energy spat

21 dead in China mine floods: state media

19 trapped in flooded China coal mines: Xinhua

13 dead in China mine accidents: state media

Massey Energy blamed for mine disaster

Tibet again closed to foreigners: travel agents

Protesters clash with police in China

Man gets death in China case sparking Mongol unrest

Kazakhstan deports Uighur back to China: official

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement