The world's most rapidly depleting natural resource isn't fossil fuel and it's not fresh drinking water either... or coal or wood... Believe it or not our planet's most endangered natural resource is top soil!
What is Topsoil?
Topsoil is the soft fluffy clean-smelling layer that most plants prefer to grow in. Also called loam, it's very different from the fine, compact sand or clay that usually exists a foot below it. Overtime, the decomposition of natural materials (leaves, bark, wood etc.) by a variety of microscopic micro-organisms causes topsoil to be born.
On average, it takes around 500 years for nature to produce 1 inch of topsoil. Right now we are washing away this precious commodity anywhere from 10-40 times as fast as the planet is producing it! The biggest culprits? Erosion, tilling, and unnatural waterway management. In the last 4 decades we've lost around 1/3 of viable cropland on the planet due to topsoil loss.
Heavy tilling of fields and commercial farming causes topsoil to be degraded, pulverized and blown away by the wind. Poor drainage design on roads, pathways and building sites causes topsoil to be washed away by rains. The paving of drainages and waterways means that once it's washed away, instead of being caught in a meandering stream or river course and re-absorbed into the environment, topsoil goes straight out to sea.
AMAZING Qualities of Topsoil
In the book Terra Preta: How the World’s Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger, Ute Scheub and co-authors claim increasing the humus content of soils worldwide by 10 percent within the next 50 years could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels. - David Suzuki
Topsoil is also AMAZING at retaining moisture. Cultivating topsoil in the desert (or anywhere) can lead to a 100x the retention of rain water or manual watering, just in a flat field or garden.
We've put together a short and inspiring video on one of the fastest ways to help generate topsoil. The solution? MULCH
Straw mulch, bark mulch, paper, leaf, bark or even stick mulch will all help to stimulate the topsoil generation process. Leaf blowers beware, you're not wanted here!
Without further ado....
Hi! I'm Briana, Lead Designer and Founder of Califia ECOdesigns in Pasadena, CA. I've organic farmed all over Western North & Central America and love designing drought tolerant and sustainable landscapes. I earned my Permaculture Design Certification in 2011 from engineer Rob Avis.