Protecting Soils: A Small Step toward Protecting the Environment

Protecting Soils: A Small Step toward Protecting the Environment

Today’s blog is brought to you by Jannatul Ferdous.

The more I learn about nature, the more I am humbled by its diversity. Many people may not care about the components of nature like trees, birds, plants, soil, air, and water. But, people are a component of nature and the health of trees, birds, plants, soil, air, and water impact the health of people. Over the last century, there have been sharp declines in global biodiversity. Although several factors contribute to the loss of biodiversity, some of this loss is likely caused by pollution (soil, air, water, and noise). Pollution has made life difficult for plants and animals, but it has also impacted the quality of human life. 

Although most people may not think about soil, healthy soil is a vital component of a healthy environment. As the foundation for life among Earth’s terrestrial habitats, soil must be healthy for plants to grow. Scientists who study soil know the importance of healthy soils. One-quarter of all living things live in the soil for at least some part of their lives. It is important to understand the viability of soil (the soil’s ability to sustain life) by checking the presence and level of certain elements in soil. To conduct a soil analysis, you first need to sample the soil. To take a soil sample, start by cleaning off any grass or leaf litter covering the soil. Then use a sampler to collect the soil and transfer it into a plastic bag or jar to prepare the sample for analysis. There are a number of different analyses that can be conducted on soils. Soils can be tested for heavy metals to understand soil contaminants, or other elemental analyses can be conducted to test the soil’s health.

 With each passing year, scientists become more concerned about environmental issues related to soil erosion and degradation. It is important for K-12 students to learn more about soil sciences and what they can do to help conserve and protect soils and the plants and animals dependent on them. Along with SIUE scientists in the Department of Environmental Sciences and the STEM Center, we are working with youth to help them better understand the importance of healthy soils. This work positions the next generation of citizens and scientists to be advocates for healthy environments starting from the soil up.   

Image of Dr. Ben Greenfield, Co-Investigator on the Y-CITYSCI project, testing soils for heavy metals with students attending the program.