Handful of soil

December fifth is World Soil Day … and a time to celebrate the ground beneath your feet.

Delonge: “There actually is more carbon stored in soils than there is carbon stored in plants or carbon stored in the atmosphere.”

That’s Marcia Delonge of the Union of Concerned Scientists. As plants grow, they convert carbon from the atmosphere into sugars and starches. The sugars feed soil microbes. Then when the plants die …

Delonge: “… they become part of the soil, and then so does their carbon.”

As plants and microbes die and decompose, some of the carbon gets locked in the soil for decades, and some carbon gets released back to the atmosphere more quickly.

For more fertile land and a healthy climate, it’s critical to have more carbon entering the soil than leaving it.

Delonge: “People can actually change the amount of carbon in soils through decisions that affect how much land is used for things like grasses and crops and trees versus other uses, like buildings and parking lots.”

Strategies like growing cover crops and using no-till farming methods can also increase carbon in the soil.

Delonge: “I think we can all just take a moment to think about all the choices that we can make to help build healthier soils and start to get ourselves out of this climate change mess.”

Reporting credit: Rachel Gulbraa/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...