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Perspective: Celebrating Soil


December 5th is World Soil Day. Why does something as ordinary as soil deserve a day of celebration?

Soil grows our food and is a source for medicines and vaccines. Soil filters water, removing pollutants and excess nutrients. Soil recycles air and locks up greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

Credit Dee Hudson

And that’s not all. Soil is home to more than 25% of all living organisms on Earth! These critters range from microscopic bacteria to creepy-crawly worms and centipedes to burrowing badgers and foxes. Not to mention some lesser-known critters like springtails and tardigrades. Life in soil helps us in many ways. Yet, we often overlook these anything but ordinary critters beneath our feet.

How can we show some appreciation? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has virtual events focused on soil biodiversity happening around the world. Closer to home, we can get to know our neighbors underground. Take a magnifying glass outside for a closer look. Check out the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlason-line for photos and information. We can give soil critters space to roam free in flowerpots, yards, fields, parks, and natural areas. We can respect their role as economic engines for agriculture. Leave dead plant material on the ground to feed and protect them this winter. Perhaps we can find ways to celebrate soil, and its extraordinary critters, more than one day a year!

I’m Elizabeth Bach, and that’s my perspective.

Dr. Elizabeth Bach is a scientist with The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, based at Nachusa Grasslands near Franklin Grove.