How do forests recover from fires?

Forest fires can be devastating events. We hear in the news about many forest fires, the homes destroyed, and the lives lost1. Fires also have effects on the forest itself, and soil plays an important role in bringing the forest back to life. Jack pine tree seeds need the heat of a fire in order … Continue reading How do forests recover from fires?

I’ve heard that soil microbes are living in Antarctica. How can that be?

The polar regions of the globe are often very cold for the most of the year. In the dead of winter, these environments can experience air temperatures well below -50° F! The coldest temperature on record (-128° F) was measured in Antarctica in 1983. Soil with a permafrost layer beginning at 60 cm near the … Continue reading I’ve heard that soil microbes are living in Antarctica. How can that be?

What happens to soil in winter? Does everything die?

Soil is essential to life. One reason is that soil protects plant roots, animals, and microbes from freezing in the winter. As air temperatures drop below 320F (00C), water within the top layers of the soil will eventually freeze. This is commonly known as the frost layer. So, while you think that once the ground … Continue reading What happens to soil in winter? Does everything die?

How can soils help with climate change?

Soil can help with climate change by storing carbon through a process called “carbon sequestration.” However, the amount of carbon soil can store depends on choices made by farmers and other landowners. The choices farmers make—the crops they grow, whether or not they plow (till or no-till), and the amount of fertilizer they use—can influence … Continue reading How can soils help with climate change?

What is desertification and what can be done to prevent it?

When productive land quickly loses topsoil and plant life, scientists call this desertification. It can happen in arid (dry) and semi-arid regions of the world. One-third of Earth’s land area in more than 100 countries (including the United States) is at risk of desertification. Desertification is a natural process that is associated with global climate … Continue reading What is desertification and what can be done to prevent it?

How does soil differ across Earth’s biomes? Part 2

To see Part 1 of this answer, visit http://wp.me/p3Rg6r-8p Ecologists group large geographic regions with similar environments and distinctive plant and animal communities into biomes. The environmental factors influencing biomes include latitude, the general climate and topography of the region, and soil. Soil is the foundation of every terrestrial ecosystem. Each biome has soils with … Continue reading How does soil differ across Earth’s biomes? Part 2

How does soil differ across Earth’s biomes? Part 1

Ecologists group large geographic regions with similar environments and distinctive plant and animal communities into biomes. The environmental factors influencing biomes include latitude, the general climate and topography of the region, and soil. Soil is the foundation of every terrestrial ecosystem. Each biome has soils with characteristics unique to it. Forests Forests occupy nearly a … Continue reading How does soil differ across Earth’s biomes? Part 1

Why do mudslides occur and how do they relate to soil?

Question: Why do mudslides occur and how do they relate to soil? Answer: As explained in the last Soils Matter post, in order to have a strong foundation for a house or a building, the soil must also be stable and strong. A mudslide (or landslide) consists of mud and other earth materials that fall … Continue reading Why do mudslides occur and how do they relate to soil?

What are scientists doing to help us grow crops as the climate changes?

Question: What are scientists doing to help us grow crops as the climate changes? Answer: There are several factors to address with your question. The first is that we are expecting to continue to feed the world on less land each year. As we continue to build towns and cities on former farm land, we … Continue reading What are scientists doing to help us grow crops as the climate changes?