Soils are the foundation of sustainability
Soils are a secret of life and the foundation of a sustainable future for everything alive: in your home garden, in our urban parks, in a safe and healthy diet, a truly sustainable way of life in all climate zones and cultures of this world. Soils are key to a rich future on our planet and beyond.
In the micro cosmos of soils we find a fascinating principle which is of central importance to us in every aspect: The new from decay. Life from death. Dead organic matter that accumulates in the soil is continuously transformed in biological cycles, reused in new, living structures, or respired into CO₂ and emitted into the atmosphere. An eternal cycle of becoming and passing away.
The essence of fertile soils
Organic matter remains in the soil matrix for up to thousands of years. It forms highly complex molecules and merges with the lithosphere over time to remain there in stable organo-mineral structures. Known as humus, this continuum is at the heart of healthy and productive soils. Figuratively, humus is the love in this system, which provides strength and endurance, and for itself is a cosmos unparalleled in beauty.
A single unit – soil is space of life
Each soil is absolutely unique in its spherical setup and furthermore in its state of development. For instance: A soil formed from sandstone develops and behaves differently than a soil formed from limestone. The presence of more or less water, air, or energy affects the overall system accordingly and directly impacts the biosphere.
The biosphere, the living, takes on a very special, stabilizing and undoubtedly creative role in this habitat. All other pedospheres thereby serve one single purpose – they primarily support and serve life – the biosphere.
Pedosphere plus one
Understanding soils means to recognize their very character. This empowers us to sustainably make use of these marvels and to really understand their value. The pedosphere model is an attempt to define this being. Soil takes place in the center, where all spheres unite.
Air with oxygen, which enables the respiration of carbon in soils. Compared to daylight air, the composition of the pedospheric atmosphere differ significantly. The CO₂ concentration can reach up to 5% (0.04% above ground) and the pitch black pore space is saturated with humidity. If oxygen levels drop below threshold, the hour of anaerobic microorganisms has come, in which they flourish by the use of unique survival strategies in an oxygen-depleted pore space.
All soil-born life, plants, animals and fungi, that grow and thrive on and out of the spherical intersections. In the dark realm of the Lumbricus, no stone is left unturned. In ceaseless activity, life is the most important catalyst of all turnover processes in soils and their pedogenesis. In almost every process happening in soils, life is the direct reason of change or at least involved at some point. Soil life, therefore, occupies a prominent position. This marvel of creation is in no way inferior to the infinite universe. Are you aware of that you are alive because the soil lives?
The presence of water is a basic asset for life. Water is solvent and carrier for all material changes, cycles and interactions inside and between the spheres. The obvious miracle is the fortunate circumstance of two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom at an angle of 104.45° – which has dramendous consequences for the entire universe and the (so far known) living organisms within. Water behaves anomalously in many ways, giving it an almost supernatural nature. The role of water in understanding soils and the biosphere itself has been subject of ongoing research. However, this should not obscure the fact that still our knowledge on this is infinitesimal.
Plain rock, weathered through eons, to become sand, silt, clay and a whole array of clay minerals, to merge with all other spheres evolving into a porous structure – the soil matrix.
The lithosphere sets distinct bounderies in the process of soil development and their individual character. Basaltic or igneous rocks, such as granite, produce mineral-rich soils in the course of soil genesis. In contrast, soils from volcanic ashes (Andosols, WRB 2015) or sedimentary rocks develop different bodies with their very special characteristics. Each soil is unique, while the parent rock sets limits to its development. Climatic and other influences – be it anthropogenic or natural – produce a variety of soil types.
My understanding of soils also holds the Dynamosphere. What is meant is energy in a wider sense, for instance, in the form of heat and movement. Without energy, all other spheres remained rigidly closed in on themselves. Energy is so significant to the understanding of soils that it is considered in every thought I have about a certain soil.
The visible and invisible forces of physics, displayed in the animation clip as moving particles, is comparable to music in the great orchestra of the living ground.
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