Taxonomy term

soil

Red Planet Roundup: October 2017

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

13 Oct 2017

Soil acidity changes quickly from place to place

The acidity of soils, which affects soil fertility, depends largely on a region’s climate. What has been less clear is just how abrupt — or gradual — shifts in acidity are at the boundaries between adjacent regions with different climates. In a new study in Nature, scientists report that acidity transitions are indeed abrupt, and the results may provide a glimpse into how plant communities will evolve as the planet’s climate continues to change.

04 Apr 2017

Soil moisture may help predict power outages in hurricanes

Power outages, most often caused by trees and branches falling on electric lines and transformers, are one of the most debilitating aspects of hurricanes, knocking out power to large numbers of people and businesses. In a new effort to improve modeling of where and when power outages caused by falling trees will occur during hurricanes, researchers are making use of frequent measurements of soil moisture provided by NASA’s SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) mission, which began collecting data in spring 2015. 

08 Mar 2017

How soil management could help reduce greenhouse gas concentrations

As scientists continue studying the web of natural and anthropogenic processes that affect Earth’s climate, discussions about how to limit global warming have included proposals both to cut emissions and to increase sequestration of greenhouse gases through a variety of methods. In a recent review published in Nature, Keith Paustian, a soil ecologist at Colorado State University, and his colleagues noted the understudied and underrated greenhouse gas mitigation potential of the world’s soils.

17 Feb 2017

Liverworts, not moss, dominated Earth's early terrestrial ecosystems

Moss, the springy green plant that blankets forest floors, has been heralded as the generator of large amounts of oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere during the Paleozoic. In a new study, however, researchers suggest that it could have been the overlooked relative of moss — liverworts — that dominated early terrestrial ecosystems and thus had more to do with reducing high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at the time and cooling climate globally.

 
08 Feb 2017

Fungi stabilize steep slopes

The steep slopes of Switzerland’s high Alps are unstable — with loose soil and few plants — which poses hazards such as shallow landslides. In a new study, researchers have found that the symbiosis between plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi helps ground gravelly hillsides, suggesting a possible eco-engineering tool to stabilize the slopes.

30 Jan 2017

Chaco Canyon: Garden of Eden or salty-soiled pilgrimage site?

The remains of elaborate stone houses, some with hundreds of rooms, and other structures scattered throughout New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon attest to advanced settlements built there by ancestral Puebloans between A.D. 800 and 1250. But how these peoples subsisted amid the arid climate and seemingly infertile ground of the canyon has long puzzled scientists. In a new study, researchers suggest that Chaco Canyon’s salty desert soils may have supported ample agriculture after all.

17 Jan 2017

Underground ants can't take the heat

Army ants, which move in swarms and show their prey little mercy, are some of the most ferocious insects in the animal kingdom, but a recent study reveals a weakness in some underground species: warm temperatures.

24 Mar 2016

Toxic Gardens: The long legacy of urban lead

Many urban soils, including those in parks, playgrounds and community gardens, remain contaminated with lead from its historic use in gasoline and house paint. But there are ways to mitigate the risks of this legacy lead.
 
11 Oct 2015

Step one: Soil testing

The first step in planning a community or backyard garden should always be to get the soil tested, getting a read on not only pH and nutrient levels, but possible contaminants like lead and arsenic. “Some cities have public health programs to help residents get their gardens tested for low or no cost, but it’s kind of hit or miss,” says Gabriel Filippelli, a biogeochemist at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Some cities such as Philadelphia have also held one-day “soil kitchen” workshops where people can bring in samples of soil for immediate testing with an X-ray fluorescence instrument. 
 
11 Oct 2015

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