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Soils store and filter water

Improving food security and our resilience to floods and droughts







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    Infographic
    Infographic #6 - Soils store and filter water 2015
    Functional soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and drought. Water infiltration through soil traps pollutants and prevents them from leaching into the groundwater. Moreover, the soil captures and stores water, making it available for absorption by crops, and thus minimizing surface evaporation and maximizing water use efficiency and productivity. Healthy soils with a high organic matter content have the capacity to store large amounts of water. This is bene ficial not only during droughts when soil moisture is crucial to plant growth, but also during heavy rainfall because the soil reduces flooding and run-off by slowing the release of water into streams. Healthy soils are therefore crucial for maintaining food production and clean groundwater supply, while also contributing to resilience and disaster risk reduction.
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    Book (stand-alone)
    Global assessment of soil pollution: Report 2021
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    Soil pollution is invisible to the human eye, but it compromises the quality of the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe and puts human and environmental health at risk. Most contaminants originate from human activities such as industrial processes and mining, poor waste management, unsustainable farming practices, accidents ranging from small chemical spills to accidents at nuclear power plants, and the many effects of armed conflicts. Pollution knows no borders: contaminants are spread throughout terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and many are distributed globally by atmospheric transport. In addition, they are redistributed through the global economy by way of food and production chains. Soil pollution has been internationally recognized as a major threat to soil health, and it affects the soil’s ability to provide ecosystem services, including the production of safe and sufficient food, compromising global food security. Soil pollution hinders the achievement of many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those related to poverty elimination (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), and good health and well-being (SDG 3). Soil pollution hits the most vulnerable hardest, especially children and women (SDG 5). The supply of safe drinking water is threatened by the leaching of contaminants into groundwater and runoff (SDG 6). CO2 and N2O emissions from unsustainably managed soils accelerate climate change (SDG 13). Soil pollution contributes to land degradation and loss of terrestrial (SDG 15) and aquatic (SDG 14) biodiversity, and decreased the security and resilience of cities (SDG 11), among others.
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    Book (stand-alone)
    Global assessment of soil pollution
    Summary for policymakers
    2021
    Also available in:

    Soil pollution is invisible to the human eye, but it compromises the quality of the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe and puts human and environmental health at risk. Most contaminants originate from human activities such as industrial processes and mining, poor waste management, unsustainable farming practices, accidents ranging from small chemical spills to accidents at nuclear power plants, and the many effects of armed conflicts. Pollution knows no borders: contaminants are spread throughout terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and many are distributed globally by atmospheric transport. In addition, they are redistributed through the global economy by way of food and production chains. Soil pollution has been internationally recognized as a major threat to soil health, and it affects the soil’s ability to provide ecosystems services, including the production of safe and sufficient food, compromising global food security. Soil pollution hinders the achievement of many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those related to poverty elimination (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2) and good health and well-being (SDG 3). Soil pollution hits the most vulnerable hardest, especially children and women (SDG 5). The supply of safe drinking water is threatened by the leaching of contaminants into groundwater and runoff (SDG 6). CO2 and N2O emissions from unsustainably managed soils accelerate climate change (SDG 13). Soil pollution contributes to land degradation and loss of terrestrial (SDG 15) and aquatic (SDG 14) biodiversity, and decreased security and resilience of cities (SDG 11), among others. The report addresses the extent and future trends of soil pollution, considering both point source and diffuse soil pollution, and describes the risks and impacts of soil pollution on health, the environment and food security – including land degradation and the burden of disease resulting from exposure to polluted soil. The process to develop the report involved in-depth regional assessments of soil pollution, and the regional chapters provide an overview of soil pollution issues at the global scale that is long overdue (Figure 1). The Editorial Board comprised over 30 international experts representing the ITPS, the Regional Soil Partnerships, relevant international fora and expert groups, and the private sector. The Summary for Policymakers presents the main findings of the report, together with options for action to facilitate global policy considerations in the UNEA process. The main report is a comprehensive publication which is available on the FAO website.

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