Soil is a fundamental and essentially non-renewable natural resource, providing the essential link between the components that make up our environment. Soils vary hugely from region to region and even from field to field. They all perform a number of valuable functions or ecosystem services for society including:
- nutrient cycling
- water regulation
- carbon storage
- support for biodiversity and wildlife
- providing a platform for food and fibre production and infrastructure
Soils in England continue to be degraded by human actions including intensive agriculture, historic levels of industrial pollution and urban development. This makes them vulnerable to erosion (by wind and water), compaction and loss of organic matter. As the climate (including temperature and rainfall patterns) changes in the future, it is likely soils have the potential to be further degraded. This will happen both as a result of the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, for example as land managers adapt their practices and the crops they grow.
Current policies focus on protecting English soils and the important ecosystem services they provide. Research is focused on addressing evidence gaps to adapt and refine these policies in order to strengthen protection and their resilience as the climate changes. A Soil Strategy for England was published by the previous government in September 2009, but sets out the current policy context on soils and a number of core objectives for policy and research.