Tuesday, February 7, 2023

How agriculture and livestock affect soil biodiversity

Soils are a great storehouse of biodiversity: they are home to between a quarter and a third of all living organisms on the planet. However, we still know very little about them. Although about 80% of plants are known, only about 1% of soil-dwelling microorganisms have been identified.

From a taxonomic point of view, we distinguish between bacteria, fungi, protozoa, very small invertebrates (rotifers, tardigrades, nematodes), small non-insect invertebrates (especially mites and springtails) and insects (especially larvae), and earthworms. Can

Soil grows most plants, provides nutrients and determines the water available to them, along with climate and topography. Depending on their conditions (presence of water, aeration, acidity, presence of heavy metals) they allow their growth or not.

Soils and their inhabitants influence each other and form a trophic pyramid that decomposes organic matter.

Why are soil and its biodiversity important?

Soil is to a large extent the great support of terrestrial life. Its role is essential in relation to the nutrient cycle and also as part of the water cycle. It can vary greatly in composition, for example in the amount of organic matter it contains, but also in its depth.

On the other hand, biodiversity is an essential attribute of natural ecosystems. Depending on their condition, these ecosystems “work” or not. In the face of a decrease or change in soil biodiversity (in quantity and diversity), there will be a change in the work related to it. Some of these functions (ecosystem services) are vital to their survival.

Among other reasons, this diversity is important because it contributes to the decomposition of organic matter, it is necessary to maintain the nutrient cycle of the ecosystem, it is necessary for the proper nutrition of plants, it helps in the infiltration and storage of water. Makes improvements Clay resists erosion because it helps structure the soil, keeps pests, parasites, and diseases under control, helps with carbon sequestration, and is important in the cycling of other gases.

Soil biodiversity critically affects agriculture, as it can improve its sustainability.

What can change biodiversity?

When a natural soil is converted into an industrial agricultural soil, there is a huge loss of biodiversity. The main reasons are:

  • Mechanization led to change. Twisting results in loss of its natural structure and texture, and changes its dynamics with respect to water retention. It also changes the microscopic structure, which is very important for the locomotion of some animals.

  • Progressive loss of organic matter. In most crops, the plant material is almost completely removed from the field.

  • progressive change of its chemical characteristicsDue to the last two points, and also to the chemical products used: fertilizers and phytosanitary products (herbicides and insecticides).

When the crop is a monoculture, all of these effects are amplified by the absence of other plant species that were providing a diversity of organic matter when they shed their leaves or die.

The described changes cause soil erosion due to impact compaction, loss of soil due to erosion, loss of structure, leaching of nutrients due to acidification or alkalization. And degradation is exacerbated by residue burning, over-fertilization, salinity by irrigation in soils with the presence of salts, irrigation with wastewater, and invasion by alien species.

However, agriculture is not the only cause of soil erosion or loss. Livestock can cause compaction or initiate severe erosion events. Permanent covering with impermeable materials, such as roads, buildings, sidewalks or squares, causes soil compaction and the death of organisms, making it impossible for them to access water, air and nutrients.

In other cases, the decline in soil biodiversity can be linked to the factors mentioned above, including erosion, loss of organic matter, salinization, pollution, and compaction.

Soil biota have a great capacity to resist disturbance or change (resilience), and a variable capacity to recover from these disturbances. But this recovery capacity has limits, and if the balance is not recovered after a critical change, we can assume that ground has been lost.

Maintenance of Soil Biodiversity

In general, soils offer greater biodiversity in non-agricultural natural ecosystems, in crops that receive little or no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and in grazing systems that are provided by roots and plant life. Increase in the availability of food resources promotes plant diversity.

Crop management techniques that promote the maintenance or increase of soil organic matter also maintain soil stability and biodiversity. This can be achieved by adding organic matter or maintaining the stubble, something that is facilitated by the presence of greater populations of animals including microbiota and earthworms.

Management techniques such as crop rotation and reduced tillage increase the quantity and quality of organic matter available to soil organisms and develop a healthy environment to maintain biodiversity.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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