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Taking the next step to track changing soils and protect soils important to our survival

Given the long history of protecting the various parts of nature that we have perceived to be endangered by our development activities, it is certainly reasonable to propose a formal process for recognizing natural (non-anthropogenically made) soils that are either rare or threatened.

Soils, after all, are often described as the foundation of all life, and the unique structures and characteristics of various soils make them key support systems to the diversity of life on earth.

Just as we lose animal and plant species to extinction, so to are we seeing soils damaged or destroyed due to pressures from multiple anthropogenic practices; destruction which can put life at risk. Worldwide, the effects of global warming are predicted to lead to the disappearance of permafrost within 1,000 years, which would result in the extinction of a whole order of soils--gelisols, in the U.S. system of soil taxonomy, which cover approximately 8.6% of earth’s ice-free land area. Many examples throughout history also exist of civilizations rising and falling in part due to their management of soil. The best soils for food production are often ideal for building sites, and their favorable characteristics attract intensive development, often resulting in their degradation and significant economic loss.

Could soil go extinct? In the November-December 2007 (pg 4-5) CSA News Dr. Drohan and co-author, Timothy Farnham, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, make a case for protections for soil similar to what one might more commonly associate with endangered species. Read the CSA News article here (pg 4-5).

The detailed plan for the proposal can be found in The Soil Science Society of America Journal at: Drohan, P.J., and T.J. Farnham. 2006. Protecting life’s foundation: A proposal for recognizing rare and threatened soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 70: 2086-2096. Please contact the author for a reprint.