Saturday, April 5, 2014

Soil change really does matter!

Does change to soil matter? That is what over 200 soil scientists, land managers and policy makers from around the world discussed in a conference and workshop in Bendigo, Australia from 24-27th March 2014.

All around the world, soil is changing with ongoing human use and environmental change. This affects our food supply and security, water quality, livelihoods and health. The Soil Change Matters (SCM) event was started to open the discussion about soil change, what it is and what we can do about it, and we can ensure we look after it for our future.

 Some of the workshop outcomes at SCM (via @cwrice)

Soil Change Matters was the first event I have been too that was designed to really get people talking about soil. It featured congress style talks, as well as workshops where facilitation of attendees allowed for discussion about future direction of soil change and research. On the opening night there was even a public event that featured songs of soil, soil art, cricket pitches, sandcastles, soil facts and a ukelele band!

There were so many highlights that is hard to narrow them down! Pierre Roudier did a fantastic talk on soil data, the need to effectively store it, make it available and accessible and to use appropriate visualisations of the data.  I also learnt all about the Soil Archives in Canberra, how to add to it and access it. Did you know the Police use it for Forensics training?!?! Cool! And Queensland has open data for soils in one convenient place - you should check it out! Neil Mackenzie talked about the Top 10 most important soil problems of our time, to be featured in the updated version of 'Ten Commitments' by Lindemayer et al. He was one of the first high profile scientists that discussed the issue of career paths and progression for early career soil scientists. And the soil-bottom-line was discussed; no soil biology = no soil, said Helaina Black.

Pierre Roudier talking IT, soil and data at SCM (via Jess Drake)

There were a range of great technical talks, with lots on changes to soil carbon and productivity. Sam Grover talked about carbon and nitrogen in Northern Territory Savanna country. It was some of the first research I have heard about in that area of Australia. Marianne Hoogmoed and Daniela Carnovale discussed carbon and microbiology under shelter-belts and tree plantings. And Brian Murphy gave a great talk on his recent work on soil organic matter, and the tension between storing it and using its nutrients in agriculture. David MacKenzie discussed the updated visual guide to assessing soils, and the new rules for assessing soil on proposed mine sites. Oh, and how could I forget about DustWatch! Probably one of the most amazing soil-related citizen science projects I have seen.

Soil Tweeters: @bootstrapES, @soilduck, @cazdrop and 
@pierreroudier at SCM 2014 (photo via @cazdrop)

I also met a range of Soil Tweeters including @cwrice (Chuck Rice) and @bootstrapES (Adrianna Marchand).

What a great few days! Thank you to Richard MacEwan for an excellent event. I would love to attend more of these facilitated events in the future.

For further information on Soil Change Matters you can find details on their website, interviews with soil scientists and other commentary online.

Did you go to Soil Change Matters? What were your highlights? 

Why do you think soil change matters?