Keynote Address : “The value of dirt: managing soil quality now to secure the future”
Soils provide essential ecosystem services and play a pivotal role in climate change, food and water security. Degraded soils are a result of poor soil quality that is primarily caused by soil erosion associated with losses of soil carbon and land vegetation. Management interventions that slow or reverse land degradation through terrestrial carbon sequestration can simultaneously improve soil quality, enhance food production and preserve water. Properly managing the soil resource is now a global priority particularly because the world population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. It is estimated that 120 million hectares of land will be needed to support growth in food production resulting in socio-economic tension and environmental stress. Agricultural intensification on existing cultivated land is currently practiced but the impact on the environment is unknown and it does not support economic development in poor countries that only have access to poor quality soils that are highly vulnerable to degradation - particularly in the face of climatic uncertainty. The presentation aims to address the importance of soil conservation in securing food and water reserves for the future.