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Soils and Sustainability

Soils fulfil a number of ecological and other functions more directly related to human activity most soils support more than one function at a time. These functions can be grouped into 6 categories:

Carbon Store Example Soil Carbon Store
Some soils are used primarily for biomass, for example, food and timber production. Soils interact with air and water for example acting as a store of carbon and are key to determining concentrations of greenhouse gases. Some soils support, and are part of, important terrestrial ecosystems such as native pinewoods.
Carbon Store Carbon Store
Other soils are part of our cultural heritage, for example the man-made lazy beds in crofting areas. Some soils provide raw materials such as sand and gravel deposits. Soils also provide the foundation for the built environment. Soil is a non-renewable resource within human lifetime. Urban encroachment is one of the biggest pressures on our soil resource.

In this sense soils are central to the issue of environmental sustainability. An illustration of some selected issues relating to environmental pressures, soils and land use management can inform policy through consideration of soils and indicators of sustainability.

Learning & Resources


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.