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Lecture | Studium Generale

The soil resource

Wednesday 4 December 2019
Anna van Buerenplein
Anna van Buerenplein 301
2595 DG The Hague

The nexus of climate, rocks, life, food, and water

The special report on “Climate change and land” by the IPCC (2019) reports on how the use of land surface for agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, and settlements drives climate change. Also, the report sketches avenues for a globally planful land management that, e.g., helps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, to keep high levels of food security, and to prevent freshwater shortages. Eventually, this will all rely on the functions of healthy soils.
Still, while everyone seems to have some concept of what the atmosphere is, or at least of what weather is, what is it the soil sphere does? How can dirt be so fundamental to any of the issues addressed in the report?
The nature of soil  and its integration into Earth cycles such as life, climate, water, rocks, and nutrients, literally appears to be a black box model to many of us. In his lecture, Peter Houben  will shed light on life in the dark, the actually most fascinating, biggest and most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth, continuous transformations of dead into living matter and vice versa, and the usefulness of death. Furthermore, the appreciation of the working of soils in the Earth system will be placed against the backdrop of current trends in losing the soil resource, as well as the challenges to carefully use soils to manage the risks of population growth and climate change.

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