By Kayley Tezbir
Have you ever walked across the sidewalk towards the campus sports fields on a hot afternoon? When you walk past a patch of trees, have you noticed the drop in temperature? What are the causes and how can this be linked to a solution to stop global warming?
The main reason for the drop in temperature is that plants lose water through the process of transpiration. The water lost in the form of water vapor combined with the shade produced by the trees is equivalent to the ability to pleasantly cool anyone walking in the shade of the trees.
Now think more about this concept and think about what is “the house” of the trees. The answer? Its soil.
While living soil may be able to cool surface temperatures, it could also be the solution to global warming that we have always sought. With proper treatment, healthy soil has the capacity to serve as a much-needed “carbon sink” – a natural environment capable of absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is contributing to rising global temperatures and must be eliminated while making many adjustments to live more sustainably if we are to save the planet from irreparable devastation.
Think about all the other carbon sinks in the world. Those that demand the most attention are the ocean, old growth forests and the carbon sequestration capacity of wetlands. Did you know that soil is a carbon sink? More and more experts are suggesting embracing this natural resource.
Allison Janson, a major in biology from Rider University with a minor in chemistry, said: “With global temperatures rising worldwide and unsustainable farming practices, there is an immediate need to repair our soils. I think one of the easiest ways for the general population to help with soil repair is through composting. Whether it’s making home compost from leaves and kitchen scraps or making compost from animal droppings, the need is obvious and even the smallest steps now can help create a better future for mankind.
When asked about the importance of soil, Rider University geological and environmental science professor Dr. Hongbing Sun said, “Why soil matters… [has a] five point answer: Soil is a medium for plant growth and is an essential part of [the] ecosystem. Soil influences hydrological and hydrochemical cycles (by filtering water). [Soil] regulates the air [and] recycles organic matter (serving as a carbon trap). [The soil serves as a] habitat for organisms (such as houses for insects and animals). Finally, the ground [is] a natural resource for human society (agriculture, animal husbandry, engineering; its clay makes bricks, etc.).
According to the Colombia Climate School, “Soils remove about 25 percent of global fossil fuel emissions each year. [and contain] more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in all living plants and animals.
Evidence shows that soils around the world are an extremely important carbon sink. One of the reasons is that plants and microbes in the soil have a symbiotic interaction. When plants go through the process of photosynthesis, they sequester carbon and pass it along the root system where it meets soil microbes. These microorganisms carry carbon deeper into the soil, storing it more efficiently. There’s only one problem: Human activities around the world are killing microbes in the soil, essentially killing living soil.
Poor farming practices around the world are responsible for the loss of microbes and the loss of topsoil. Some agricultural practices such as using fertilizers, pesticides, plowing and monocultures of crops without crop rotation destroy the soil and turn it into (less useful) soil. In these soils, water loss is extreme and the loss of minerals and microbes is significant. Fortunately, there are many practices available to farmers to produce healthy soil that has the capacity to absorb carbon while providing a bountiful harvest.
The Office of Sustainability hosts a wide variety of film screenings during the school year as part of the annual Green Film Series, which allows anyone of any major or background to learn about the evolution of environmental problems. Join us on October 12 or 13 at 7:00 pm in the auditorium on rue Sweigart (room 115) or on Zoom to watch “Kiss the Ground”, with a short discussion to follow. Narrated by and starring Woody Harrelson, “Kiss the Ground” is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis.
“Kiss the Ground” reveals that by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and quickly stabilize the Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food reserves. Using compelling graphics and visuals, as well as striking imagery from NASA and NOAA, the film artfully illustrates how, by attracting atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle. RSVP to rider.edu/greenfilms to reserve your spot or to receive the Zoom link. We hope to see you there!
Kayley Tezbir, Rider University eco-representative