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Soil carbon is the active agent in the process that made human life possible, according to the Soils For Life Report: Innovations for Regenerative Landscape Management: Case studies of regenerative land management in practice. Over the past 420 million years bare rock was turned into healthy soils that underpin our biosystems, hydrology, climate, water, food security and survival. “Microbial ecologies governed these processes through the bio-sequestration of carbon to build soil structures, water holding capacities, nutrient availabilities, bio-productivity and resilience to stress,” says the report.
The dramatic loss of carbon from soils has been declared a major crisis by the UNEP Year Book 2012. Soil carbon has a critical role to play in climate change, food security and the health of ecosystems.
The soil crisis is a major theme of this year’s Carbon Farming Conference.
“Around 60% of the carbon in the world’s soils and vegetation has been lost as a result of land uses since the 19th century. As a result of soil carbon losses, one- quarter of the global land area has suffered a reduction in productivity during the past 25 years.” SOC stocks are low in many Australian agricultural systems. “On average, Australia’s current SOC content is around 1%.”
“Current landscape management practices are contributing to poor health of our soils through the loss of carbon and topsoil, acidification, erosion, mineral deficiencies and chemical dependencies. Nutrients are being chemically locked-up and made unavailable to plants, or being lost through waste in urban areas which is not returned to the soils for use by plants and animals.”
“Carbon is a master variable within soil that controls many processes, such as development of soil structure, water storage and nutrient cycling. Every extra gram of carbon in soil can retain and make available up to eight extra grams of water. Without carbon in the soil, the resilience of the landscape is weakened, water losses to the effects of wind and extreme temperatures continue and the capacity to respond and adapt to a changing climate declines.”
“Soil health must be built; depletion cannot be rectified by adding chemical elements to address identified symptoms. It is vital that carbon is returned to Australian soils…”