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 day at Sierra Foothill Conservancy near Prather, California

The Rancher-to-Rancher day at Table Mountain with Sierra Foothill Conservancy on March 19, 2016 was one of the best. Kent Reeves had arranged this with Billy Freeman, their cattle and grazing manager. We had great weather for an outdoor day, and the place was lush and beautiful with lots of grass and flowers.

Shifting soil paradigms

This 3-minute video is the intro to a series of videos on soil health. By Buz Kloot who works in South Carolina.

Soil aggregates and infiltration: an analogy

Using flour, bread, and water, Emaline shows how rainwater and flooding affect unaggregated (poorly structured) soils vs. aggregated (living) soils. This is part of the Climate, Water, Soil & Hope project created by Didi Pershouse of the Soil Carbon Coalition. Our goal is to grow and support leaders who know how to collaborate with the power of biological work. To donate to our project, see button on this page, or for more information contact

Water cycle

Much conventional thinking about the environment tends to separate "parts" of the same whole. In dealing with water problems, for example, we tend to focus on symptoms -- such as flooding, erosion, and riparian conditions -- rather than causes, which are almost always related to the function of the water cycle.

Power, work, and energy

Power, work, and energy are not things -- we cannot see them directly, but only as actions or processes, by what happens as a result, such as how high a thrown stone gets before it begins to fall. But we can know them and even measure them.

Is it possible to measure the work done by plants, by photosynthesis? How?

Can you find estimates of total global photosynthesis, expressed in watts or horsepower or some other measure? What kinds of observations and measurements are these estimates based on?

Media type: 

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.


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