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Climate impacts on soil

Themes: Introduction | Soil influences on climate | Climate impacts on soil functions | Quiz

Climate change can have a very big impact on soils and the functions that soil performs. In agriculture, climate change will affect crop production as changes in soil, air temperature and rainfall affect the ability of crops to reach maturity and their potential harvest. As the climate heats up, reductions in the amount of water available may be made up initially by irrigation. However, scarcity of water may prevent water being used for irrigation. Increasing damage to the land, or land degradation, will occur in the form of soil erosion, desertification, salinisation, or loss of peat soils, further impacting on the capability of soils to support the needs of agriculture.

The unique balance between the soils of the world and the climate affects the nature and distribution of the world's natural and semi-natural ecosystems, providing water, nutrients and a growing medium. As climate changes, so too will the soil's ability to support current ecosystems - this will lead to changes in the communities of plants growing in different parts of the world. For example, in certain places plants suited to wetter conditions may lose out to plants able to cope with drier conditions.

There are likely to be major changes in the distribution of water following climate change. Soil is an important part of the water cycle (or hydrological cycle) - the balances of this will also be affected by climate change. We know climate change will affect the lives we lead and the places we live. Current infrastructures, such as buildings and roads, will almost certainly have to change to meet new climatic conditions. Overall climate change will have a huge effect on the functions soil performs, and this therefore have a major influence on the future use of soils, often requiring significant adaptations to meet the changing climate.

Themes: Introduction | Soil influences on climate | Climate impacts on soil functions | Quiz