We Are A Factor of Soil Development

This past week (or maybe last week, not sure) we reviewed the five soil forming factors. These factors, cleverly known as “CLORPT” describe the five ways that soil is produced from parent material, rock.
CL: Climate: temperature, precipitation
O: Organisms, the biological aspects of the soil, micro and macro organisms such as plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals.
R: Relief, the topography of the area where the soil is formed
P: Parent material: The rock from which the particular soil was formed
T: Time, as we saw in the diagram of how the R and C layers slowly evolve into B, and E layers.

When I read the corresponding passage in our text book for this topic, I found another soil forming factor: humans. It hardly needed saying in class, however, since we spent so much time talking about the impact of humans on the world soil resources in relation to ancient civilizations and farming techniques around the globe.It was very interesting that the book did cite humans as a factor in soil formation.

With our constant building and development, foundations must be built out of transported soil, which is dug and enabling a rapid increase of erosion. I was walking my dog today and saw some exposed soil on a construction site. I went to the site to see what it looked like only to find that the soil was not infact insitu, but was some coarse red sand that had been transported from somewhere else.

Farming, as we have heavily discussed in lecture, has affected the nutrients of the soil. Farming peat extracts the rich organic matter that has been been broken down into the soil. The article we read about farming practices in China even shows us how improper farming practices can erode the soil. The nutrient-poor land in the rainforest is being exposed, drastically changing the soil processes. I have an aquaintance I met last summer who worked in Madagascar teaching the residents there sustainable farming practices. The erosion is so extreme in some places there that it cannot be used for farming any longer.

I worked with a sea turtle research group in Savannah a couple summers ago who told me of the erosion on the coast. The erosion of beaches is, for the most part, a natural process. However, when this happens, sand is pumped in to continue the tourism on beaches. It’s an obvious disruption of the organization of soil, caused by human influence. According to the group I worked with, the insulation of this coarser sand lowered the insulation of the sea turtle nests and affected the hatching rate.

These are just a couple examples of what has happened in urban and acricultural areas. Humans are a major influence and according to our second text, have influenced soil for quite some time.

One of my questions for the sake of argument is: Is this bad? Human influence is obviously plays a major role in soil formation, but what would happen if our soil horizons became mixed? Like the example of the turtles, it will have adverse secondary affects. Erosion does happen natually. What would be the effects if the rate became more extreme? Just food for thought.

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