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Volume 2, issue 2 | Copyright

Special issue: Soil science in a changing world: contributions of soil science...

SOIL, 2, 111-128, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2-111-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Forum article 07 Apr 2016

Forum article | 07 Apr 2016

The significance of soils and soil science towards realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Saskia D. Keesstra1, Johan Bouma15,a, Jakob Wallinga2, Pablo Tittonell3, Pete Smith4, Artemi Cerdà5, Luca Montanarella6, John N. Quinton7, Yakov Pachepsky8, Wim H. van der Putten9,10, Richard D. Bardgett11, Simon Moolenaar12, Gerben Mol13, Boris Jansen14, and Louise O. Fresco15 Saskia D. Keesstra et al.
  • 1Soil Physics and Land Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 3Natural Resources and Environment Program, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA), Bariloche, Argentina
  • 4University of Aberdeen, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Aberdeen, UK
  • 5Departament de Geografia, Universitat de València, Blasco Ibàñez, 28, 46010 Valencia, Spain
  • 6European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
  • 7Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster, UK
  • 8USDA-ARS, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD, USA
  • 9Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology NIOO-KNAW, Droevendaalsesteeg 10, 6708 Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 10Department of Nematology, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708 PB, 6708 Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 11Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK
  • 12Commonland, Department of Science & Education, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 13Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 14Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94240, 1090 GE Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 15Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • aformaly at: Soils Department, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Abstract. In this forum paper we discuss how soil scientists can help to reach the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the most effective manner. Soil science, as a land-related discipline, has important links to several of the SDGs, which are demonstrated through the functions of soils and the ecosystem services that are linked to those functions (see graphical abstract in the Supplement). We explore and discuss how soil scientists can rise to the challenge both internally, in terms of our procedures and practices, and externally, in terms of our relations with colleague scientists in other disciplines, diverse groups of stakeholders and the policy arena. To meet these goals we recommend the following steps to be taken by the soil science community as a whole: (i) embrace the UN SDGs, as they provide a platform that allows soil science to demonstrate its relevance for realizing a sustainable society by 2030; (ii) show the specific value of soil science: research should explicitly show how using modern soil information can improve the results of inter- and transdisciplinary studies on SDGs related to food security, water scarcity, climate change, biodiversity loss and health threats; (iii) take leadership in overarching system analysis of ecosystems, as soils and soil scientists have an integrated nature and this places soil scientists in a unique position; (iii) raise awareness of soil organic matter as a key attribute of soils to illustrate its importance for soil functions and ecosystem services; (iv) improve the transfer of knowledge through knowledge brokers with a soil background; (v) start at the basis: educational programmes are needed at all levels, starting in primary schools, and emphasizing practical, down-to-earth examples; (vi) facilitate communication with the policy arena by framing research in terms that resonate with politicians in terms of the policy cycle or by considering drivers, pressures and responses affecting impacts of land use change; and finally (vii) all this is only possible if researchers, with soil scientists in the front lines, look over the hedge towards other disciplines, to the world at large and to the policy arena, reaching over to listen first, as a basis for genuine collaboration.

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Soil science, as a land-related discipline, has links to several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which are demonstrated through the functions of soils and related ecosystem services. We discuss how soil scientists can rise to the challenge both internally and externally in terms of our relations with colleagues in other disciplines, diverse groups of stakeholders and the policy arena. To meet these goals we recommend the set of steps to be taken by the soil science community as a whole.
Soil science, as a land-related discipline, has links to several of the UN Sustainable...
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