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Comment paper: Planetary limits to soil degradation

08 December 2021

Scientists and policy-makers should take into account the threat of soil degradation when communicating about the state of planet earth and how to protect it, therefore soil degradation must be added to the Planetary Boundaries Framework, argue University of Groningen - Campus Fryslân PhD researcher Clarisse Kraamwinkel, Prof Dr Anne Beaulieu and Dr Ruth Howison in a recently published comment paper in the nature portfolio journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Soil health and planetary resilience

When functioning well, soils are essential to life on earth. Our food production, biodiversity and ecosystem health, nutrient cycling, water storage and purification highly depend on it. Soils can also help battle climate change by storing large amounts of carbon. However, due to unsustainable human activities such as urban expansion, unsustainable agricultural practices, heavy industry and increasing climate change, soils are rapidly degrading worldwide.

In a report on the status of the world’s soil resources, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that there is a high chance that 90% of the soils on earth will be moderately to severely degraded by 2050. Currently around 30% of the soils on earth are degraded.

To enable more sustainable soil stewardship, Kraamwinkel and Beaulieu, together with Dr Teresa Dias and Dr Ruth Howison, argue that soil degradation has to be taken up as one of the Earth System Processes in the Planetary Boundaries Framework. This framework is used by scientists and policy-makers to communicate about what is needed to protect planet earth.

Frisian soils

The authors will in the near future evaluate soil functioning in Friesland to discover how well local soils are doing and how they will be affected by climate change.

Last modified:08 December 2021 12.25 p.m.

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