Article

Soils, Science, Society, and the Environment

Colin Robins

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science


Published online August 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199389414 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.013.69

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  • Pollution and Threats to the Environment (Social Science)
  • Environmental History
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Soils are the complex, dynamic, spatially diverse, living, and environmentally sensitive foundations of terrestrial ecosystems as well as human civilizations. The modern, environmental study of soil is a truly young scientific discipline that emerged only in the late 19th century from foundations in agricultural chemistry, land resource mapping, and geology. Today, little more than a century later, soil science is a rigorously interdisciplinary field with a wide range of exciting applications in agronomy, ecology, environmental policy, geology, public health, and many other environmentally relevant disciplines. Soils form slowly, in response to five inter-related factors: climate, organisms, topography, parent material, and time. Consequently, many soils are chemically, biologically, and/or geologically unique. The profound importance of soil, combined with the threats of erosion, urban development, pollution, climate change, and other factors, are now prompting soil scientists to consider the application of endangered species concepts to rare or threatened soil around the world.

Keywords: soil science; history; pedology; critical zone; environmental science; agriculture; Anthropocene

Article.  15968 words. 

Subjects: Pollution and Threats to the Environment (Social Science) ; Environmental History ; Agriculture and Farming

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