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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Human relations with soil are changing rapidly: SSSA's new Work Group on Soil Change

item DE B Richter, Daniel -
item Andrews, Susan -
item Billings, Sharon -
item Cambardella, Cynthia
item Cavallaro, Nancy -
item DE Meester, Julie -
item Franzluebbers, Alan
item Glasener, Karl -
item Grandy, Stuart -
item Grunwald, Sabine -
item Gruver, Joel -
item Hartshorn, Anthony -
item Janzen, Henry -
item Kramer, Marc -
item Ladha, Jagdish -
item Lajtha, Kate -
item Liles, Garrett -
item Markewitz, Daniel -
item Megonigal, Patrick -
item Mermut, Ahmet -
item Palm, Cheryl -
item Rasmussen, Craig -
item Richardson, Curtis -
item Robinson, David -
item Smith, Pete -
item Stiles, Cindy -
item Tate, Robert -
item Thompson, Aaron -
item Tugel, Arlene -
item Van Es, Harold -
item West, Larry -
item Wills, Skye -
item Yaalon, Dan -
item Zobeck, Teddy

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 24, 2011
Publication Date: December 1, 2011
Citation: De B Richter, D., Andrews, S.S., Billings, S., Cambardella, C.A., Cavallaro, N., De Meester, J., Franzluebbers, A.J., Glasener, K., Grandy, S., Grunwald, S., Gruver, J., Hartshorn, A.S., Janzen, H., Kramer, M., Ladha, J.K., Lajtha, K., Liles, G., Markewitz, D., Megonigal, P.J., Mermut, A., Palm, C., Rasmussen, C., Richardson, C.J., Robinson, D.A., Smith, P., Stiles, C., Tate, R.L., Thompson, A., Tugel, A.J., Van Es, H., West, L., Wills, S., Yaalon, D., Zobeck, T.M. 2011. Human relations with soil are changing rapidly: SSSA's new Work Group on Soil Change. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 75:2079-2084.

Interpretive Summary: The Earth and its soils are changing in response to human activities all around the world. A working group of scientists associated through the Soil Science Society of America, including several with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, has proposed a set of coordinated activities to better understand, predict, and manage humanity’s negative and positive influences on soils. This report outlines (1) what is meant by soil change, (2) why soil change is important to society, and (3) a proposed structure for soil scientists to address this global issue. The impact of this work is the survival of the Earth’s ability to provide ecosystem services and ultimately the survival of humanity. Time is ticking, while changes keep occurring. The unknown is when critical thresholds may be reached; will this be in millennia, centuries, or decades…

Technical Abstract: Humanity has rapidly become Earth’s chief agent of soil change, and geologists have named the epoch in which we live the Anthropocene, due to the global scale of human impact on the environment, including soil. In response to the increasing influence of humans on soil processes, the disciplines of pedology and soil science at large must grow and adapt to better understand, predict, and affect humanity’s use and forcings of Earth’s soils. Many of society’s most important scientific questions therefore concern the immediate future of Earth’s changing soils and these need very much to be articulated more clearly by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). In 2009, an all-division Work Group on Soil Change was formally organized within the SSSA to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration on issues related to soil change on the human time scale, i.e., what can be called anthro-pedology. The Work Group will initiate three main activities that promote soil science in the coming half-century: (1) anthro-pedology, (2) networking science, and (3) communication. First, the Work Group will draw on expertise from across all SSSA divisions to help frame and advance anthro-pedology, the new basic and applied science of how humans influence changes in soils and soil’s relations with the environment. Second, the Work Group will help build a community that uses and expands networks of research and management projects. Third, the Work Group will articulate, through new education and communications tools, how critical contemporary soils are to the well being of human life and that of the environment in the coming decades. The stakes are high, for SSSA, for Earth’s soil, and for humanity. For if managed well, soil offers humanity bountiful and renewing economic, environmental, and cultural values; if managed poorly, it is hard to imagine an optimistic future.

Last Modified: 8/28/2016
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