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Endangered Soils

May 14, 2015

Much more than just dirt, soils are complex ecosystems we can’t afford to lose.



Soil sampling in Minnesota US Department of Agriculture CC BY 2.0 via flickr

Soil sampling in Minnesota. (US Department of Agriculture/Creative Commons License BY 2.0, via flickr)

A call to save our soils. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

While you hear a lot about saving whales and polar bears, you rarely hear pleas to save our soils. But in the journal Science, UC Berkeley soil scientist Ronald Amundson and his colleagues say there are thousands of distinct types of soil, each with its own unique community of microbes.

RONALD AMUNDSON (University of California, Berkeley):

Some people call soil a poor man’s rainforest because really one of the great last frontiers of diversity of life on earth in terms of discovery.


Soil microbes produce many of the world’s antibiotics and other drugs. But Amundson says the wild, undisturbed soils that harbor them are disappearing rapidly. He and his colleagues argue that while soil conservation isn’t a high profile topic, it’s of paramount importance for the world’s food, climate and medical security. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.