News / Science & Technology

Soil Degradation Poses Risk to Earth's Future

A geologist inspects the ground at a prospective Atlas Iron Limited iron ore mine site near Port Hedland, Australia (May 26, 2008 file photo).A geologist inspects the ground at a prospective Atlas Iron Limited iron ore mine site near Port Hedland, Australia (May 26, 2008 file photo).
x
A geologist inspects the ground at a prospective Atlas Iron Limited iron ore mine site near Port Hedland, Australia (May 26, 2008 file photo).
A geologist inspects the ground at a prospective Atlas Iron Limited iron ore mine site near Port Hedland, Australia (May 26, 2008 file photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Phil Mercer
SYDNEY – Scientists at an international symposium in Australia say soil degradation is posing significant challenges for the future of humanity and the planet.  The conference is examining the importance of soil security in fighting the effects of climate change and protecting food supplies in poorer countries.  

 
Conference organizers say soil degradation is a more serious threat to human health than climate change, yet it is rarely discussed in the media or by governments.

Experts from around the world have gathered at the University of Sydney to discuss improving the way soil absorbs and retains carbon, which provides energy to plants and other biological processes. 
 
“We realize that soil carbon itself is a lynchpin in securing soil for the world, so basically by increasing our carbon we can contribute to lots of global problems like food security, water security, energy security, climate change mitigation [and] biodiversity protection,” said Soil Science Professor Alex McBratney, who teaches at the University of Sydney.
 
The degradation of soil is caused by a combination of climate change, intensive farming and other factors.  Once it loses its quality, producing more abundant harvests becomes much harder because of the lack of nutrients.
 
Iowa State University Sociology, Agriculture and Life Science Professor Cornelia Flora says it is a worldwide problem.
 
“Sub-Saharan Africa has huge problems of highly degraded soils.  Australia has some real problems as well," Flora said.  "Australia has the scientific capability and the local involvement, I believe, to address it relatively quickly.  I think China is going to have real problems in terms of soil degradation and soil quality, and their very fast and unplanned urbanization will make it even harder for them in the future.”  
 
The Sydney conference has called for global action to produce a coherent soil security strategy to ensure the supply of food, and to enhance the sequestration of carbon into the ground, which it is argued would reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid