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30 July 2020

Researchers studying the impact of tree planting on climate mitigation have expanded on their findings in a blog for the Woodland Trust. Where the media reported that tree planting is not the answer, the scientists clarify the issue isn’t with tree planting overall, but with planting on carbon-rich soil: “The study shows that when deciding where to plant, it’s important to first consider the soil’s existing carbon levels.”

The National Food Strategy Pt 1 has been published: Henry Dimbley addresses the most urgent topical questions following the pandemic and Brexit, and focuses on intensive farming as the biggest food system issue: “The impact on soil health, air quality, river freshness, biodiversity and climate change has raised urgent questions about how we can make food production genuinely sustainable.”

Tony Juniper, Natural England Chair (and former Friends of the Earth Director), has urged the government to put nature at the heart of new developments and infrastructure plans. He advises that if the government wish to pursue a ‘build, build, build’ approach they must first ensure environmental impact considerations are contained within all planning systems and policy.

Cranfield University have an exciting vacancy for a qualified postgraduate. They are looking for a Research Fellow or Assistant in Agricultural Nutrient Management, to join the School of Water, Energy & Environment. Ideal for students of agronomy, soil science, geography and crop science.

Kelloggs has collaborated with the Nature Conservancy in supporting Michigan farmers to adopt regenerative practices, preventing almost 3,900 tons of soil runoff from entering Saginaw Bay – the region’s largest watershed, a valuable ecosystem and drinking water source for 1 million residents. The project successfully highlights the link between farming methods and the health of soil, people and biodiversity.

The biomass of soil animals is decreasing as a result of both climate change and over-intensive cultivation. Scientists have found that climate change reduces body size, whilst cultivation reduces frequency. Results indicate that even adopting organic farming practices cannot counteract the negative impact of a changing climate on these soil-processing creatures.

A pioneering study published in Nature Communications has found that the diversity of soil microbial communities can alter the soil’s ability to store carbon. More diverse systems work more efficiently and have a higher stress tolerance. Apart from climate change implications, soil carbon is beneficial as it improves plant growth and water storage capabilities.

Scientists have suggested a need to create soil carbon-persistence models through the lens of functional complexity – the interplay between time and space in soil carbon’s changing molecular structure – which drives carbon sequestration in soils. New models that more accurately reflect the carbon storage processes will enable more effect atmospheric carbon draw-down.

Soil compaction is an under-reported problem in the UK, particularly in the South West, and appears to have become a significant issue in Northern Ireland as well, where the wet climate combines with heavy machinery use to destroy healthy soil structure. This piece explains the problem and discusses possible solutions.

Bees pollinate around 3/4 of crops, and their decline is a critical threat to global agriculture and food security. A team in Oregon are investigating the impact of agriculture on ground-nesting bees, particularly their interactions with the soils they inhabit. Above-ground nesting bees are 9x more impacted by agricultural intensification than those that live in the soil, and the study explores what types of soil the bees prefer in order to support their colonising of farmland.

Finally, the scientist James Lovelock, most famous for the Gaia Theory – the idea of Earth as a self-regulating community of organisms interacting with each other and their surroundings – has turned 101 this month, and his latest book Novacene was published yesterday. Read a fascinating interview with him here.