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New book on the importance of management of mountain soils

Photo credit: FAO

Mountains are critical for the valleys below. Farmers relax in Afghanistan’s Bamyan Valley.

Peak fragility: Conserving mountain soils an urgent matter

Mountain soils are the fragile foundations of ecosystems that ultimately provide water for more than half the world’s population. A new FAO book offers technical insights on the sustainable management of mountain soils, which are home to a vast array of human activities ranging from quinoa cultivation in the Andes through European ski resorts to the collection of medicinal plants in Tajikistan’s “roof of the world” Pamir range.

Understanding Mountain Soils,” published by FAO with theMountain Partnership Secretariat, the Global Soil Partnership  and the University of Turin, contains a host of case studies from around the world covering human, productive and geological issues.

It is a contribution to the UN’s International Year of Soils 2015, which seeks to raise awareness of the importance of preserving a critical natural resource that is home to nutrients and micro-organisms which make agriculture and plant life possible.

“Mountain soils are particularly susceptible to climate change, deforestation, unsustainable farming practices and resource extraction methods that affect their fertility, trigger land degradation, desertification and disasters such as floods and landslides, leading to poverty,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in the preface to the volume.

The book aims to “promote the sustainable management of mountain soils on behalf of mountain peoples – who are often marginalized, not included in decision-making processes and development programmes, and increasingly affected by soil-related disasters,” writes Ermanno Zanini, an expert on glaciers and natural risks and professor at the University of Turin.

Shade-grown coffee and high-tech mapping

The book describes the main features of mountain soil systems, their environmental, economic and social values, the threats they are facing and their cultural heritage. Case studies provided by Mountain Partnership members include how shade-grown coffee improves soil conservation, the surprising carbon storage powers of the windblown Scottish coastline, the viability of shifting cultivation in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, and unusual peat bogs in Lesotho.

Read the full article: FAO

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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