Monday, 02. November 2015, 18:30

Kerner-von-Marilaun-Lecture 2015 – THE SOLUTIONS UNDERFOOT – THE POWER OF SOIL

2015 wurde von der UN-Generalversammlung zum internationalen Jahr des Bodens erklärt. Dabei soll das Bewusstsein geschaffen werden, dass Böden die Grundlage für unsere Ernährung und des Lebensraumes Erde insgesamt sind. Gemeinsam mit dem International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) und dem Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam (GFZ Potsdam) ist es uns gelungen, einen der weltweit führenden Bodenwissenschaftler einzuladen. Der Vortrag findet in den Räumlichkeiten der IIASA (Schloß Laxenburg) statt, für einen kostenfreien Bus-Transfer von/nach Wien ist gesorgt.

Lecture background

Among the global issues of the 21st Century, and those driven by the growing and increasingly affluent population (7.3 billion in 2015 and projected to be 9.7 billion by 2050) are: increasing atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and the attendant change in global climate, growing energy demand, excessive water withdrawal and pollution of water resources, tropical deforestation and conversion of natural to agro and urban ecosystems, soil degradation and desertification, food and nutritional insecurity, and growing civil strife and political instability. The solution to these and other issues lies in soils, their sustainable management, and restoration of degraded and depleted soils. Indeed, soil matters, and must never be taken for granted. Soil functionality and the ecosystem services provisioned by it also impact water security, energy security, climate security, food/nutritional security, health security, environmental security, political security, and national/international security. The health of soil, plants, animals and humans is interconnected and indivisible. Elimination of hunger and hidden hunger (i.e., deficiency of some essential micronutrients) can be achieved by restoring the quality of soils. Thus, agriculture must be nutrition-sensitive. Soil is also a large reservoir of biodiversity, and microorganisms in soil are the source of most antibiotics. Being the largest repository of C among the terrestrial pools, prudently managed and judiciously restored soils are a sink of atmospheric CO2 and critical to any strategy of adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The technical potential of sequestration of soil organic carbon in the top 30 cm depth is about 2.8 Gt/yr. In addition, there also exists potential of sequestration of soil inorganic carbon as secondary carbonates, and of leaching of bicarbonates in lands irrigated with good quality water. Recarbonization of the terrestrial biosphere, soil, and vegetation can offset some anthropogenic emissions. Rather than bringing new land under cultivation or expanding irrigation, the strategy is to enhance agronomic production from existing lands by adopting sustainable intensification of agroecosystems; enhancing rhizospheric processes; creating disease-suppressive soils; following the nexus approach to harness synergistic effects; and managing phytobiomes. Urban agriculture must include roof gardens, space/sky farming, and soilless culture using aquaculture, hydroponics, aeroponics etc. Natural/undisturbed soils must be protected for nature conservancy and other non-agricultural uses for generations to come. Thus, development of synthetic or artificial soils may be important to management of urban landscapes and adopting soilless culture. The terrestrial soil resources must be used, improved and restored. Thus, soil stewardship and care must be embedded in every fruit and vegetable eaten, in each grain ground into bread consumed, in every sip of water engulfed, in every breath of air inhaled, and in every scenic landscape cherished. Soil is the essence of all terrestrial life. It can convert death into life. 

Thus, soil is life and life is soil.