Soils help in the struggle against climate change

Dec 17, 2015 Posted by:  

Climate change is increasingly becoming a serious threat to the global food security. Since agriculture and food production are especially prone to the consequences of the changing climatic conditions and growingly unpredictable weather, the state of soils should be an essential part of the debate on combating climate change.

Healthy soils can play an important role in climate change mitigation through storing carbon, the so-called carbon sequestration, as well as by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. However, when soils are managed poorly or cultivated using unsustainable agricultural practices, carbon stored in soil can be exceedingly released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), which together with other greenhouse gases can have negative impact on climate.

In the last 50 years greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have almost doubled. It is estimated that without more decided actions aimed at reducing these emissions they could increase until 2050 by another 30%.

The state of our soils and their impact on climate is greatly influenced by the continuous intensification of agricultural production. The steady conversion of grasslands and forestlands to croplands and pastures has been causing the release of the significant amounts of soil carbon worldwide. It is estimated that land-use changes and drainage of soils for cultivation are responsible for up to 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks to appropriate management, soil can, however, significantly help in dealing with the problems related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. By restoring degraded soils and implementing sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, zero tillage cultivation, organic farming, agroforestry and others, we have a possibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, increase natural carbon sequestration and build resilience of agriculture and food systems to climate change.

You can learn more about the importance of soils in dealing with climate change from the infographic presented below (click to enlarge):

Infographic

Source: FAO

Last Modified: Apr 18, 2016