Land Management Practices for Soil Conservation in Climate Change Scenarios

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Prof. Juan Albaladejo

Centro de Edafologia y Biologia Aplicada del Segura (CEBAS), Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Campus Universitariode Espinardo, Murcia 30100, Spain

Email: jalba@cebas.csic.es


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In past centuries, man has been the biggest predator of soil. In the next decades, faced with the threat of climate change, man has to be the great friend of the conservation of the soil, if we want to maintain the survival of the planet and achieve the food security for a growing population.

Globally, the biggest environmental challenges for a sustainable development in this century are: i) to ensure food security fora growing population, ii) biodiversity conservation, and iii) climate change mitigation and adaptation. Conservation and improvement of soil quality are crucial to meet these challenges.

There is a large number of scientific publications that report on the effects of climate change on soil properties. Many studies predict negative effects of climate change on soil quality and performance of soil functions. Most predictions and empirical data point to a decrease in soil organic matter, caused by an increase in the mineralization rate with global warming. Likewise, the increase of temperature leads to higher evapotranspiration and a reduction of available soil water for plants. All this, in addition to the reduction in soil productivity, leads to a further increase of CO2 emissions from the soil, and less uptake of atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis, causing the acceleration of climate change in a negative feedback loop. This impact will be specially serious in arid and semiarid areas, and when global warming is accompanied by a decrease in precipitation. On the other hand, the change in precipitation regimes, towards an increase in the frequency of extreme events leads to an increase in soil erosion and longer more extreme droughts. Therefore, it is assumed that the impact of climate change on soil will affect to food security, water supply, biogeochemical cycles, environmental soil functions and climate change acceleration.

In consequence, a new approach of soil management and conservation practices is required that accounts for soil-climate interactions. Although more research is needed, we assume that the present scientific knowledge could be sufficient to address the adaptation of land use and management to the changing climate scenarios, slowing down the current dynamic of soil degradation in agricultural and natural ecosystems. The present state of knowledge suggests that without the application of the best soil conservation practices, it will not be possible to maintain the productivity levels that are needed to feed the world population in the next decades. Faced with the need to increase soil productivity over the next years to feed the growing human population, it is essential to act immediately, through the implementation of soil conservation practices able to maintain sustainable and productive agricultural and forest systems for stable food security and to ensure environmental soil functions and crucial ecosystems services.

In this special edition of AIMS Agriculture and Food, we invite you to present the latest achievements in research, management approaches and developing systems focused on conservation, restoration and improvement of soil quality, in agricultural and forest ecosystems, under the different scenarios of climate change. Some suggested topics are: effects of climate change on soil quality and health (processes and mechanism); developing and testing of integrated interdisciplinary scientific approaches and concepts combining insights in agronomy, soil science and carbon sequestration; economic evaluation of soil conservation cost and benefits; new pathways of knowledge transfer; study cases of successful implementation of conservation approaches.

Submission due date: February 28, 2016

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