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Skin care for Mother Earth | Plantenna Blog #11

Monday, 5 December 2022

Author: Prof. dr. ir. Martine van der Ploeg, Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University & Research.

Soil, the skin of the Earth, is of great importance. It includes a mixture of minerals, organic matter, air, water and living creatures, and is the foundation for terrestrial life. Humanity depends on soil for many things, including food production and climate regulation. Impacts of global environmental change and associated soil ecosystem degradation need to be understood and reversed.

The purpose of my research is to unravel biophysical landscape processes and connect these with landscape ecosystem functions for a better use and protection of soil and water resources. 

Together with soil biologists, I started looking at whether we could use micro-organisms to restore highly degraded soils. The idea behind it is that if soils are degraded and almost dead, other regeneration solutions such as replanting vegetation will not work sufficiently. The reason for this is that these solutions do not consider the whole soil ecosystem.

Real recovery only takes place if positive feedbacks are created between the biological and physical interactions in the soil and the system can kickstart itself again. Micro-organisms such as bacteria, as the first form of life to exist on earth, can offer possible solutions to restore the functions of the degraded soil, making sure other measures, such as new planting of vegetation, will hopefully also catch on more quickly.

Despite our investigation is still ongoing it already shows that not only for us but also for our vegetation, thorough skin care is better than some superficial skin foundation!

Source: Coban O, De Deyn GB, van der Ploeg M. Soil microbiota as game-changers in restoration of degraded lands. Science. 2022 Mar 4;375(6584):abe0725. doi: 10.1126/science.abe0725. Epub 2022 Mar 4. PMID: 35239372.