To survive, humans require four basic needs. They are air (oxygen), water, food and shelter. Good, healthy soil is instrumental in supplying all of these needs. As the human population grows and the trend from rural to urban continues, it is important that we take steps to preserve and protect our healthy soils to support our increasing population.
Let’s start with the air we breathe. The human body requires oxygen to survive. As we take in air, our bodies use the oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Why don’t we run out of air? The trees and plants use the carbon dioxide we expel in a process called photosynthesis. They take in or “breathe” the carbon dioxide and expel oxygen. This sharing by humans and plant life is pretty important for our survival.
Fresh water is the next need that is important to us. All water is not necessarily “clean” or “useable” water. Salt water comprises about 97.5 percent of all our water. That leaves 2.5 percent as fresh water. Healthy soil acts as a filter to extract all the contaminants that can be found in water. As water seeps through the soil, it will cleanse the water as it heads for an aquifer. This clean groundwater then can be tapped for our wells.
Obviously, healthy soil is needed to grow food. Farmers need healthy soil with its many nutrients to grow crops to feed all of us. The combination of sun and water with the soil and seeds will produce the food that we need. It also will help forests and wetlands grow that help us sustain wildlife.
Shelter is one need we may not think about as critical. We use a lot of wood products to build homes and businesses. That is one reason to plant at least two trees for every one tree we cut down. Trees and wetland areas also provide a cooling effect for our earth. They hold the soil together so it is not eroded away creating gullies and barren land.
So what is the composition of healthy soil? It is made up of air, water or moisture, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living and dead animals, and mineral matter like sand, silt, clay, and rocks. Every time we build a house or a strip mall or a school or a business, we need to be good stewards in how we protect the soil we disturb and move to erect these buildings. As we clear land for growth, we must also protect and nurture other areas for crops and forests and wetlands to sustain life.
Depending on conditions, it will take 100 to 500 years to form one inch of healthy topsoil. Yes, that is correct. One hundred to 500 YEARS. We as human beings need to be aware of this fact. We need to be less a destroyer and more a protector of our natural resources. For most of us, I think we know we need to be more actively involved in preserving our natural resources. We just need to BE more active in preserving our parks and wildlife areas for our children and grandchildren.