2015 has been named the “International Year of Soil” (IYS) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) has developed activities to support educational outreach, assigning a theme for each month of the year. February’s theme is “Soils Support Urban Life”. Over 80% of the population in the U.S. resides in urban areas, while there are still lawns, parks and gardens, much of the space is covered in impermeable materials; concrete and asphalt. Even under all of these city spaces, asphalt included, soil remains. This complex mixture of minerals, rock, water, air and organic material continues to perform critical functions even in an urban environment.
To assist with soil conservation SSSA recommends that urban inhabitants construct rain gardens and compost appropriate food waste where and when possible. Their goal for this year is to help the public to understand soil as a critical natural resource, rather than take it for granted, as David Lindbo, SSSA’s IYS task force leader says; “Soil provides for us and regulates our world. We need to take care of it in return…because soils sustain life.” As a part of this educational effort the SSSA has produced 2 minute videos illustrating each month’s theme:
As explained in the film, the escalation of infrastructure and impervious surfaces due to the construction of cities has resulted in diminishing the abilities of soil to perform its natural, beneficial functions. Soil and plants were the original stormwater system, before the advent of pipes and drains this natural system slowed and filtered water and allowed it to infiltrate into groundwater or discharge joining the watershed. Soil is less apparent in cities and so requires awareness of what humans can do to help it to help us. Rain gardens, mentioned above, help to reduce flooding, provide aesthetic appeal and allow soil to slow and filter stormwater. There may even be an incentive or assistance for construction of a neighborhood-wide, shared rain garden or mini-constructed wetland to act as a stormwater sink. And composting not only reduces the amount of garbage going into landfills, but adds organic matter to soil which can improve nutrient cycling enriching soil.
Continue following the SSSA throughout the year for more educational videos and information on how you can help conserve and improve soils: https://www.soils.org/iys.