Soil Management Can Save Earth From the Dangers of Climate Change

First Posted: Apr 19, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

An alteration in the way humans farm and manage soils can save the earth from overheating, according to a new report. As per researchers, soil plays an important role in storing carbon, and improving the management of soil can make it play a bigger role in avoiding drastic climate change.

According to a report in Nature journal, scientists from the U.S. and Scotland have calculated that by making a few changes in the current agricultural practices, there would be extra room for 8 billion tons of gas on our planet's soil. Currently, the soil on earth already holds 2.4 trillion tons of gases in the form of organic carbon.

"In our fight to avoid dangerous climate change in the 21st century, we need heavyweight allies," says Dave Reay, geoscientist at Edinburgh University. "One of the most powerful is right beneath our feet. Soils are already huge stores of carbon, and improved management can make them even bigger.

Scientists have observed that the release of manmade greenhouse gas coincides with the development of global agriculture thousands of years ago. According to the report, the researchers had calculated that land use accounted for approximately a quarter of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions, and around 10 to 14 percent could be attributed to agriculture. Based on their research, the experts said that since soil can hold thrice as much organic carbon as exists in carbon dioxide form in the earth's atmosphere, better management of our planet could help in the reduction of emissions.

The scientists further revealed that the trick lies in not degrading healthy ecosystems because grasslands and unmanaged forests store carbon in a very efficient manner. Furthermore, wetlands that are drained for agriculture yield their soil carbon whereas restored wetlands soak it up. The report also said that sustainable agricultural methods that help in conserving carbon could be practiced, apart from many other viable practices that could improve soil management in the future.  According to the report, in the long run, the soils can retain a number close to four-fifths of the emissions released each year by the combustion of fossil fuels, with good management practices as well as help from government policymakers, science and new models. 

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