By Kayley Tezbir
Have you ever walked across the pavement toward the athletic fields on campus on a hot afternoon? When you pass by a plot of trees, have you noticed the temperature drop? What causes this and how may this be tied to a solution to stop global warming?
The main reason for the temperature drop is that plants lose water through the process of transpiration. Water lost in the form of water vapor combined with the shade produced by the trees equals the ability to pleasantly cool down anyone walking in the shade of the trees.
Now, think further about this concept and consider what is ‘home’ to trees. The answer? Its soil.
While living soil may be able to cool temperatures at the surface, it could also be the solution to global warming that we have been looking for all along. With proper treatment, healthy soil has the ability to serve as a much needed ‘carbon sink’– a natural environment capable of absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide contributes to rising global temperatures and needs to be removed along with making many adjustments to living more sustainably if we want to save the planet from irreparable devastation.
Think about all the other carbon sinks in the world. The ones that claim the most focus include the ocean, old-growth forests and the carbon sequestering ability of wetlands. Did you know that soil is a carbon sink? More and more experts suggest embracing this natural resource.
Allison Janson, a Rider University senior biology major with a minor in chemistry said, “With an overall increase in global temperatures and unsustainable agricultural practices, there is an immediate need to repair our soils. I think one of the simplest ways for the general population to assist in soil repair is composting. Whether it be creating a home compost from leaves and kitchen scraps or creating a compost from animal feces, the need is evident and even the smallest steps now can help create a better future for humanity.”
When asked about the importance of soil, Rider University Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Hongbing Sun said the following, “Why the soil is important… [has a] five point answer: soil is a medium for plant growth and is an essential part of [the] ecosystem. Soil influences the hydrological and hydrochemical cycles (by filtering the water). [Soil] regulates air [and] recycles organic matter (serving as a carbon trap). [The soil serves as a] habitat for organisms (such as homes for insects and animals). Lastly, soil [is] a natural resource for human society (agriculture, farming, engineering; its clay makes bricks, etc).”
According to Colombia Climate School, “soils remove about 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions each year [and contain] more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in all living plants and animals.”
Evidence shows that soils around the world are an extremely important carbon sink. One of the reasons for this is that plants and microbes in the soil have a symbiotic interaction. As plants perform the process of photosynthesis, they sequester carbon and pass this along the root system where it meets microbes in the soil. These microorganisms bring the carbon deeper into the soil, storing it more efficiently. There is only one problem– human activities across the globe are killing microbes in the ground, essentially killing the living soil.
Poor agricultural practices across the world are responsible for microbe loss and topsoil loss. Certain farming practices such as using fertilizer, pesticides, tilling, and growing crop monocultures with a lack of crop rotation destroys the soil and turns it back into (less useful) dirt. In these grounds, water loss is extreme, and mineral and microbe loss is prominent. Thankfully there are ample practices available to farmers for producing healthy soil which has the ability to soak up carbon while supplying a bountiful harvest.
The Office of Sustainability hosts a wide variety of film screenings during the school year as part of the annual Green Film Series, which allows anyone from any major or background to learn about evolving environmental issues. Join us on October 12th or 13th at 7:00 p.m. in Sweigart Rue Auditorium (Room 115) or on Zoom for viewings of “Kiss the Ground,” with a brief discussion to follow. Narrated by and featuring Woody Harrelson, “Kiss the Ground” is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis.
“Kiss the Ground” reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies. Using compelling graphics and visuals, along with striking NASA and NOAA footage, the film artfully illustrates how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle. RSVP to rider.edu/greenfilms to reserve your seat or to receive the Zoom link. We hope to see you there!
Kayley Tezbir, Rider University Eco-Rep