Biosphere Processes 101

Basic biosphere processes such as water cycle, carbon cycle, both driven by solar energy, and which do much more work than industrial energy.

Rancher-to-Rancher project

To California landowners and land managers who use livestock:

The Rancher-to-Rancher project can help you set up a small, no-risk learning site trial on your
land, say a few acres or less, where you could concentrate your livestock for a few hours or a day, and
give it a substantial recovery period from grazing. Our support could be help in planning the trial to work
with your needs, simple monitoring of the soil surface, and an optional soil carbon baseline plot.

Carbon cycle videos

The first two segments of a video presentation/animation of the carbon cycle.

Cows save the planet: and other improbable ways of restoring soil to heal the earth

Judith Schwartz's new book is out (we're in it!):

From the publisher:

Unmaking the Deserts, Rethinking Climate Change, Bringing Back Biodiversity, and Restoring Nutrients to our Food

Cows saving the planet? Why not? An idea that sounds preposterous begins to make sense when you take a soil’s-eye view of our current ecological predicament.

In Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems—climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity—our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil. Where do cows fit in?

Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. For example, land can suffer from undergrazing as well as overgrazing, since certain landscapes, such as grasslands, require the disturbance from livestock to thrive. Regarding climate, when we focus on carbon dioxide, we neglect the central role of water in soil—“green water”—in temperature regulation. And much of the carbon dioxide that burdens the atmosphere is not the result of fuel emissions, but from agriculture; returning carbon to the soil not only reduces carbon dioxide levels but also enhances soil fertility.

Carbon that counts (Christine Jones)

Christine Jones has a new paper here.

"Failure to acknowledge/ observe/ measure/ learn how to rapidly build fertile topsoil may emerge as one of the greatest oversights of modern civilisation." The paper emphasizes the differences between the decomposition pathway and the liquid carbon pathway, and the consequences of the failure to recognize the difference.

Selman Waksman's HUMUS: Origin, Chemical Composition, and Importance in Nature (1936)

Selman Waksman, a microbiologist who won the Nobel Prize in 1952 for the discovery of streptomycin, wrote this thorough and well-researched book on humus in 1936. It is available as a 21.6 mb pdf (text-searchable) download here.

Using multi-species cover crops to improve soil health

This is an excellent presentation by Jay Fuhrer, who works for the Natural Resource Conservation Service in North Dakota, USA. He uses case studies to explain how innovative use of cover crops can boost soil health and productivity, and dramatically reduce the use of artificial fertilizers.

Sea WIFS biosphere animation

Watch the global carbon cycle! The link below takes you to a NASA page that loads a 90 megabyte animated GIF file showing chlorophyll concentration (in the oceans) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI, on land) as the seasons change. Note: this page requires a fair bit of computer memory and good internet connection to load the image. It may step around slowly until the image is fully loaded.

Carbon cycle video

The first two segments of a video presentation/animation of the carbon cycle.

Water and soil demonstration

Soil scientist Ray Archuleta shows a remarkable contrast in the responses of tilled and no-tilled soil to water. Note that the biological glue he speaks of during the second half, substances such as glomalin, are one of the important large compounds that contain soil carbon. The takeaway from this demonstration is also that soil organic carbon has huge leverage on the effectiveness of the water cycle. See also http://managingwholes.com/eco-water-cycle.htm

Soil and society

Charles E. Kellogg wrote an essay published in the United States Department of Agriculture's 1938 Yearbook of Agriculture (Soils and Men). Thanks to Abe Collins for the tip.

Kellogg shares profound insights on how the thinking that prevails in a society can affect its soils, its resource base.

"Do civilizations fall because the soil fails to produce -- or does a soil fail only when the people living on it no longer know how to manage their civilization?"

"It was not the soil of Rome that failed, but the men."

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