We walk over a unique world of biodiversity. We construct our houses, villages, towns, cities, roads, rails, airports, over an ‘invisible’ and amazing world which is far more diverse, healthier, vibrant, active, and more sustainable than what we make above it. Our visible world is rooted in this invisible world. Our own existence, dreams,happiness, and sustainability are all rooted beneath our feet. The largest stream of living light flows through the biodiversity we tend to trample upon.
Blossoming with wonderful biodiversity, the vibrant world is the soil mantle of the earth. Soil is not just a substratum on which everything above-ground is established. Soil is an ecosystem – the largest ecosystem of the earth. Take a pinch of fertile soil and you will find in it millions of living organisms. For example, a teaspoon of native grassland soil contains between 600 million and 800 million individual bacteria that are members of perhaps 10,000 species. Several miles of fungi are in that teaspoon of soil, as well as 10,000 individual protozoa. There are 20 to 30 beneficial nematodes from as many as 100 species.
Most of the organisms belonging to monera, protista, and fungi kingdoms of living organisms inhabit soil, including bacteria of all shapes and sizes. A large number of plants, such as algae, also inhabit soil. Several animals, ranging from small ones like larvae of numerous insects and earthworms to large ones like reptiles and mammals dwell in the soil ecosystem. Soil is vibrant with life, and, in fact, the above-ground life is rooted into below-ground life. Health and wellbeing of the above-ground life depends on the health and wellbeing of the below-ground life.
Soil in Hindu philosophy has been regarded as sacred. Traditional Indian farmers have an old adage: Feed not the plants; feed the soil, so that soil itself feeds the plants. They regarded soil as a living system – an ecosystem. To feed the soil, they say, is their moral obligation.
What is productivity? Productivity is not something soil automatically expresses or results in. Productivity is an ecosystem function. What is soil fertility, which is considered vital for productivity? It is a condition of a soil ecosystem created by decomposition processes enacted by microorganisms in the soil. Thus, larger the population and higher the diversity of the microorganisms in the soil, higher will be the fertility of the soil ecosystem, and, consequently, higher the productivity of the ecosystem. Thus, soil biodiversity, fertility, productivity, and sustainability are all interrelated.
Fertility of the soil is an attribute of biodiversity. Above-ground biodiversity is also an attribute of soil biodiversity. Since biodiversity, owing to carbon sequestration through photosynthesis, is vital for proper climate pattern, biodiversity of the soil (and therefore of above-ground ecosystems) is an imperative for enhanced carbon sequestration, and consequent global warming reduction and subsequent climate change mitigation.
Soil biodiversity is so vital that when we look at its contribution in carbon sequestration, we cannot help appreciating the fact that soils of the world store twice as much carbon as the plant biomass of the whole world. This capture of carbon by the soil is vital for environmental balance and climate order of our planet. Contrary to the popular saying that soil is the cheapest resource, it, in reality, is the most precious one serving as a sacred base for the wellbeing and sustainability of life on earth.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>