Why Do We Need Soils for Life?
Almost everyone agrees that soils are crucial for life and both our past and our future as a human race is intimately related to the health and to the state of soils on our planet. So, we have this real sense of the importance of soils for life, but why are soils so important for life?
Soil plays many important roles in nature and for our wellbeing
- Soil is the place where plants live
Without soil, most plants wouldn’t be able to grow in nature. Soil provides the physical anchor that plants live in, but it is also where plants obtain important things that they need, such as nutrients and water.
- What we eat is ultimately dependent on the soil in some way
Whether it is plants that grow in the soil, animals that eat the plants that grow in the soil, or mushrooms that break down organic materials like wood that will be tuned into soil. The circle of life on land is largely dependent upon soil.
- Healthy soil contains an entire complex ecosystem that works together with plants
Soil contains organisms of many different shapes and sizes, along with many other elements that work together with plants to help them grow, and to recycle the nutrients and minerals that plants need.
- Healthy soil stores water and carbon
When soil is healthy, it is able to store moisture and carbon very effectively. This moisture and carbon storage occurs much more readily in healthy soils that contain high levels of organic matter that heavily tilled or degraded soil. This plays very important roles in the global carbon and water cycles[sc:1].
Due to the fact that a lot of the land around the world today is heavily degraded and agriculturally cultivated using methods that do not retain the health of the soil, water and carbon is no longer being stored as it should be in the soils, and this is leading to more erosion, floods, and much less carbon being stored as could be. It is increasingly recognized today that restoring healthy soils on our plant is a critical part of the solution to solving our current climate crisis[sc:2].
- Healthy soil contains mycorrhizal fungi that are needed for healthy forests
Healthy soils contain a special type of fungi called mycorrhizal fungi that work symbiotically with the roots of trees that are necessary for the health of the trees. The fungi help the tree roots to absorb minerals and other important nutrients from the soil, and the tree roots provides the fungi with sugars that it needs to live.
- Soils play important roles in ecosystem services, such as waste decomposition, filtering water, and degrading environmental contaminants
For example, soil organisms recycle and compost organic waste, returning important nutrients back to the Earth to be used again by plants and other organisms. Without the decomposition that largely occurs takes place by organisms that live in the soil, we’d all be surrounded by waste that never breaks down!
- Human beings are ultimately only as healthy as our soils
A lack of healthy soils ultimately leads to a lack of healthy plants, which then leads to a lack of healthy people! Even if we eat animals only, the plants that those animals ate must be healthy for the animals to be healthy.
- Soil contains many elements that are important for the Earth’s cycles, such as the nitrogen, phosphorous, oxygen, and carbon cycles
- Healthy soils conduct the Earth’s energy, which is important for life
This is not a fact that is well known among the general public, but the soil carries an electrical current that can actually be measured. The conductivity of the soil is due to the presence of nutrients and ions in the soil. The better the conductivity of the soil, the more optimal growing and living environment that it is for plants and animals[sc:3].
There is also now groundbreaking research that says that even human beings need this energy from the Earth for optimal health and wellness, with a variety of health benefits, including stress reduction, healing from wounds, and a decrease in inflammation[sc:4].
It makes sense that humans have not always worn shoes that insulate our bare feet from the direct contact with the Earth, and that it is a natural environment to get grounded for our overall wellbeing. Some researchers have determined that a separation from direct contact with the Earth is likely playing a role in all kinds of health issues that we have today[sc:4].
For more information on getting grounded to the earth (also known as “earthing”), be sure to check out the book by Clinton Ober, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!