"Soil is critical for delivering the ecosystem services on which we all rely... We must be proactive, the alternative is too grim to contemplate," King Charles III.
The World Congress of Soil Science took place at Glasgow's SEC in August 2022, hosting more than 3,000 global soil scientists under the theme of 'Soil Science - crossing boundaries, changing society'. The 5th of December marks the United Nations World Soil Day, a day to reflect and appreciate the importance of the soil beneath our feet, and its vital importance in sustaining all life on Earth. Often soil is simply the ground on which to build houses, to grow crops and food; yet its importance - and its properties - are widely misunderstood.
World Congress of Soil Science Glasgow 2022 at SEC. © British Society of Soil Science
Globally, burning fossil fuels accounts for 70 per cent of harmful emissions, with changes in land use (e.g. construction) accounting for 30 per cent according to NatureScot, Scotland's nature agency. Scotland's soils are one of the country's greatest assets and more organic and acidic than the rest of the UK - acidity and organic make up are vital to capture nutrients and support plant and crop growth. Soil stores in Scotland contain more than 3,000 megatonnes of carbon; 60 times the amount held in plants and trees.
Therefore, any attempt to achieve Net Zero targets cannot ignore the importance of soil management and since it plays a significant role in growing produce, providing shelter to wildlife and even forming some of the country's famous landscapes, the congress facilitated an ideal opportunity to bring a global issue into local focus.
The congress theme, 'soil science - crossing boundaries, changing society,' focused on the link between soil and society, with sessions covering soil systems, processes, management and how we interact with, and use, soils around the world. Specialist workshops and discussion sessions across a wide range of soil disciplines were arranged, and delegates were also able to explore Scotland's diverse environment and culture.
A specific policymakers' programme, the first of its kind at the World Congress of Soil Science, bought together an expert group of speakers to discuss the complexities, challenges and opportunities of soil policy and governance.
In an address recorded specially for the World Congress of Soil Science, screened at the closing ceremony, in his former role as Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness King Charles III delivered a closing speech to delegates highlighting the importance of healthy soil and the role of science in understanding its function and in supporting industry and policy towards effective management practices.
"In sharing your knowledge of this remarkable international congress and connecting with each other to advance the solutions to critical global issues, I know that you will have made a real difference to the future sustainability of our soils to overall human health, and thus to the future of our planet," he said.
Sarah Garry, Executive Officer at the British Society of Soil Science, noted the support of VisitScotland in helping bring the event to Glasgow. "On this World Soil Day, we are delighted to work with VisitScotland and continue our collaboration following on from our recent World Congress of Soil Science, held in Glasgow," she said.
"Our soils are an important natural resource, playing an essential part in all our lives from growing food, filtering water, reducing flood risk, and storing carbon. We were delighted that we were able to raise awareness of the theme of this year's World Soil Day, 'Soils: Where food begins,' during our congress and the outreach activities we delivered at the Centre for Contemporary Arts and Glasgow Science Centre.
"Healthy soil is essential for healthy food, and we hope that our work in Scotland has helped the Glasgow community to connect more closely with the importance of soil."
To learn more about World Soil Day visit - www.un.org/en/observances/world-soil-day