Terry Woodford-Thomas

2015 is the International Year of Soils

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015 has been designated the International Year of Soils (IYS) by the UN General Assembly (A/RES/68/232).  The IYS aims to be a platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential eco-system functions. 

The UN has declared 5 pillars of action:

  1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity

  2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil

  3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions

  4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines

  5. Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources   

You can contribute to the International Year of Soils

The Missouri Transect education and outreach participants have developed a “citizen science” project called Missourians Doing Impact Research Together (MO DIRT).  MO DIRT will address the interplay between climate and soil that has an impact on global carbon cycling.  Citizen scientist volunteers will collect and analyze soil samples and record meteorological information in their communities.  The results will be sent to Missouri Transect climate, soil, plant and environmental scientists to enhance real-time data from around the state.

To get involved with MO DIRT or for more information, contact Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas, tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org" rel="noreferrer">tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org.

World Soil Day Events

To celebrate World Soil Day on December 5 and to launch the International Year of Soils 2015, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an event at their headquarters in Rome with invited guests — from scientists to diplomats — from around the world.

World Soil Day was celebrated worldwide this year as seen in the map below:

FAO summarized the significance of soil for human and environmental health:

Soil is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fibre production and for services to ecosystems and human well-being. It is the reservoir for at least a quarter of global biodiversity, and therefore requires the same attention as above-ground biodiversity. Soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. The largest store of terrestrial carbon is in the soil so that its preservation may contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water, and energy security is to be met.

Plant and Education Teams: Learning Modules with High School Students in Native Prairies and Woodlands

As a part of the Missouri Transect project, MU biologist Ricardo Holdo is studying how drought impacts tallgrass prairie community dynamics. He has partnered with Troy Sadler and Patricia Friedrichsen, MU science education researchers, to integrate aspects of his studies at Tucker Prairie into teaching and learning materials appropriate for high school students. Sadler and Friedrichsen are working with biology teachers and students from Rock Bridge High School to develop and pilot these materials.  The learning module features climate change as a central issue for the students to explore as they develop an understanding of ecosystem dynamics and ecological relationships.


175 high school students along with their honors biology teachers and a team of 18 scientists and science educators—including faculty and graduate students—from the University of Missouri explored Tucker Prairie, one of the last remaining tall grass prairie ecosystems in Missouri.  The students engaged in five activities designed to explore different dimensions of the prairie ecosystem. In the field, students 1) explored the role of fire in maintaining prairie ecosystems, 2) documented encroachment of woody plants into the tall grass community, 3) compared the current landscape with historic records, 4) surveyed insect diversity, and 5) examined soil profiles.

Similar student learning projects will be implemented around the state by Missouri Transect researchers and educators.

Tags: ecology, learning modules, high school education, outreach, Tucker Prairie, Rico Holdo, Troy Sadler, Terry Woodford-Thomas