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18 September 2020

David Attenborough’s long-awaited new BBC documentary ‘Extinction: The Facts’ aired on Sunday and included soil systems in its discussion on the loss of our planet's biodiversity. Prof. Richard Bardgett, a soil ecologist at the University of Manchester, featured to highlight how soil organisms are a critical element to global food security.

WWF’s new Living Planet Report 2020 dedicates a section to the importance of saving soil biodiversity. Soil’s crucial role in maintaining the Earth’s biodiversity is highlighted as not only does it support our food system but also provides a vast range of ecosystem functions including nutrient cycling and the retention and purification of water.

English rivers have failed their pollution tests. Data published by the Environmental Agency this week reveals that only 14% of English rivers are close to their natural state, the rest are heavily polluted by sewage discharge and chemicals from agricultural production.

A new pilot scheme aimed at reducing nitrogen pollution and aid wildlife recovery was launched by Defra at the beginning of the week with the expert advice of Natural England. £3.9m is being spent on setting up an online ‘nitrate-trading’ platform to offset the pollution caused by housebuilding in Solent.

The first global insights into how soil erosion impacts our soil’s lifespan has been published in a study led by Lancaster University. The research analyses soil erosion data from 38 countries and concludes that over 90% of conventionally farmed soils in the study were thinning. However, soils managed with conservation strategies had longer lifespans, nearly half of these exceeding 5,000 years.

Upcoming virtual experience hosted by the Food Forever Initiative hopes to raise awareness on the importance of crop diversity and its connection to soil health and sustainable agriculture. The online event will be happening on the ‘Global Day of Action’ for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on 25th September.

Scientists have revealed that the degradation of soil properties are still detectable decades after deforestation. Soils used to grow crops more than 25 years after continue to lose carbon in the form of CO2, with upper layers losing more than half of their originally stored carbon, and the deeper layer losing a third.

The worldwide loss of phosphorus due to soil erosion has been quantified for the first time by an international research team at the University of Basel. Phosphorus is an important plant nutrient essential to food production. Erosion also flushes phosphorus out of soils into water bodies, where excess nutrients harm aquatic ecosystems.

A study published this week investigates on the poorly understood effects of different soil properties on protein mineralisation and the interactions between different soil properties. Protein is a major input of organic matter to the soil and is a key source of carbon and nitrogen for microorganisms.

Research conducted at the Beijing Forestry University advances our understanding of plant-soil interactions and how these impact processes of ecological restoration and desertification reversion. How soil microbes drive plant interspecific interactions remains a largely unexplored topic, particularly in harsh desert ecosystem.