By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern
For millions of years, soils have provided the necessary foundation for trees and entire woodland ecosystems. It helps to regulate important ecosystem processes such as nutrient uptake, decomposition and water availability. The characteristics of different soils help determine the nature of the flora and fauna that sustain the world’s biodiversity.
The relationship between soil and forests is not one-sided though; trees and other plants play a vital role in the creation of new soil as leaves and other vegetation rot and decompose on the forest floor. The earth and forests have always been intrinsically linked. The interaction between forests and soil help to ensure that the soil is fertile enough for plant life to continue to grow and flourish and makes agricultural production possible.
As the human population grows, and food demand continues to rise, we must look for more and more agricultural land to meet that demand. Some of the most viable land has already been depleted by overuse, or has fallen victim to soil acidification or desertification. As more land continues to be deforested to make room for more agricultural production, more soil is drying out and eroding. Long-term forest management practices, including measures to introduce or maintain forest cover on erosion-prone soils, will help control or reduce the risk of soil erosion and the depletion of nutrients from healthy soil.
The management and restoration of forests is necessary not only for fertile soil, but also to prevent and control erosion. Forests aid in the problem of erosion in a multitude of ways. By intercepting rain, a forest canopy reduces the impact of heavy rainfall on the forest floor, reducing soil disturbance and slowing the rate of water runoff into nearby water systems or fields.
Coastal forests protect coastlines by absorbing the energy and impact of storm surges, which reduces erosion and in-shore impacts. Tree roots also stabilize ridges, hills and mountain slopes as well as provide soil with the necessary structural support to prevent shallow movements of land mass. It’s been shown that landslides rarely ever occur in areas with a high forest cover.
To learn more about the relationship between forests and earth, and to join in our Earth Month conversation, visit our Elements of Forests Earth Month homepage and use the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!