World Soil Day. An exhaustible resource

Thursday, 7 July, 2016
 
We celebrate the International Day of Soil Conservation every 7th of July.
 
The ground you walk upon, the soil on which your home is built, the floor from which food is harvested to eat. So far it has been the great forgotten, however, reality is far from what used to be believed, that this resource is not only inexhaustible but not degrading at an alarming rate. As recorded by the Food and Agriculture Organization, 33% of the world's soil has degraded and degradation is the first step in the disappearance of the surface.
 
The faces of the threat
 
Oasis Park in Fuerteventura protects the land, encourages the cultivation, revegetation of areas and thus contributes to maintaining fertile soils. But what are the main threats for soil today? Experts in soil science (science that studies the composition and nature of the soil in relation to plants and their environment) highlight that erosion is the main mechanism by which soil is disappearing. In the picture you can see the different "horizons" of soil have formed in a matter of many thousands of years. Indeed: a soil takes hundreds of thousands of years to form, but only a few decades to destroy.
But there is more: the population increase does not help with soil conservation; increased demand for food and a competitive and ferocious use of the surface go against any principle of sustainability for our soil. In the Canary Islands, also salinization is another problem. In this sense the soil is irrigated with well water with a high salt content, it does not give a respite to the ground we all share.
 
The Canarian ground. Degradation also affects us
 
The Canary Islands are affected by the problem of the loss of fertile soil, a matter that leads to reflection by our own experts in Oasis Park Fuerteventura. Dr. Stephan Scholz poses the question: what if a strong international crisis comes and we cannot import enough food or oil in sufficient amounts to produce electricity with which to desalinate the seawater? What then will we do in the Canary Islands? He asks.  It is difficult to find solutions in the Canary Islands with no fertile agricultural land in sufficient quantity or springs to provide enough water for all who live in the fortunate islands.
 
Mitigating measures already underway
 
In the case of Fuerteventura, it has already taken action. The Cabildo of the island has machinery to preserve ditches with its fertile soil. What are ditches? They are large fields roughly rectangular charged with collecting the water runoff. Thus, on a plot of land cultivation a wall about 80cm, called "trastón" is erected. This wall surrounds the ditch and makes the water stay in it. If it is with fortune that the water is sufficient, when it reaches the desired level it pours out through a drain into the next ditch. 
 
 
Ditches are part of the landscape of Fuerteventura, a system very ingenious and beneficial for crops ... so the more ditches –stuck together- the better ... because the water will flow through all of them. A soil with water is a living surface where it can sprout vegetation, it’s a great ally. We owe this technique to the neighboring continent, particularly the Morisco slaves who worked the land after the conquest. If we look to home, the regulation of ranching would also promote revegetation much needed in our island.
 
The Children, conservators of soil
 
We are aware that education is the future and this is why we have developed environmental education programs and awareness to protect the soil with the little ones. They have planted and also transplanted on dates key for our planet: World Environment Day or Arbor Day, for example. We also collaborate with PlantforthePlanet a project promoted by our active Department of Education.
 
Recently, in addition, last April we inaugurated our Native Plants Reserve not only to create a breathing space in nature but to form a fabric of homogeneous soil, stable, protected. In our Reserve they have planted thousands of ´ tabaibas dulces´ and ´cardones canarios,´ and we have expectations to plant many more in the future. All efforts to the advantage of the soil are small.