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Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop (2009)

Chapter: 2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research

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Suggested Citation:"2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
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2 Placing a Value on Soil Science Research A n underlying starting point for discussion of the directions that soil science research should take is the need to place a value on soil and its contribution to ecosystem services. Soils play an important role in ecosys- tem services and environmental quality, but in comparison to water and air, they receive neither the same attention nor funding. More is known about water and air where effects of certain actions are directly visible, but relatively little is known about soil, where the actions may be invisible to the layman’s eye and in which processes occur at a much slower rate. The need for funding for soil science research was mentioned throughout the workshop in both plenary discussions and breakout periods. Brent Clothier, HortResearch, New Zealand, in his opening presentation, gave workshop participants an example from New Zealand of how soil science researchers might work with those for whom the research is intended (the end users) to define the research that is needed and thereby secure funding for research of important aspects of both basic and applied soil science. Clothier described how the New Zealand soil science research com- munity regrouped after almost disappearing in 2003 to become a sustained research program funded by the central government. The media called for support of soil science, noting that research into soil was one of the most productive uses of science for the country and that constant requirements for fertilizer and soil erosion were reasons enough to continue research for improving soil quality and stability. The soil science community responded by identifying the “why” and the “for whom” the research is being con- 

PLACING A VALUE ON SOIL SCIENCE RESEARCH  ducted, and in turn identifying “what” research needed to be done. Clothier defined four steps to a healthy research climate in New Zealand: 1. Participation–identifying end users and clarifying their needs and expectations 2. Policy­–developing a framework for delivering research and develop- ment needed to meet those expectations 3. Purchase–an institutional framework for investing in that research 4. Progress–the enhanced development of soil science research in New Zealand How do we apply the lessons learned in New Zealand to a broader ap- proach for expanding the frontiers of soil science research? One aspect that was drawn out by workshop participants during the discussion that followed Clothier’s presentation was the importance of placing economic and environmental values on the soils’ natural capital stocks and the ecosystem services associated with soils. The imperatives are to ensure that the inventory value of the soils’ stocks does not decline, and that their ecosystem services are sustained. Our ultimate goal is sustainable development that encompasses not only environmental concerns but also economic and social concerns. Indeed, Clothier noted that New Zealand has seen new land uses develop in the last 20 years, even as agricultural productivity has increased. Greater emphasis has focused on the need to address the impact of land use on managed ecosystems—both agricultural and nonagricultural. Clothier mentioned the greater appreciation in New Zealand for the value of ecosystem services such as maintenance and regen- eration of habitat, provision of shade and shelter, pest control, maintenance of soil health, maintenance of healthy waterways, water filtration by soil and control of soil erosion, sustaining the productive capacity of soil, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and moderation of climate change. The role of soil and soil function in these ecosystem services is beginning to be recog- nized, and new knowledge is needed to support these services. The value of soil as an ecosystem service was a theme that echoed throughout the workshop. A later speaker, Iain Young, Scottish Informat- ics, Mathematics, Biology, and Statistics (SIMBIOS) Centre, University of Abertay, Scotland, quoted the following values (in trillions of dollars) of the following ecosystem services: soil 20, clean water 2.3, food 0.8, and genetic resources 0.8 (Boumans et al., 2002). He stated that the total of ecosystem services (approximately 24 trillion pounds sterling) is twice the global gross

10 FRONTIERS IN SOIL SCIENCE RESEARCH national product. Kate Scow, University of California, Davis, also noted the need to place a value on soil and the ecosystem services it provides. She stated a need to bring in and engage stakeholders, as well as the need to inspire the public. Another key point made by Clothier was that the understanding of soil function, that is, the knowledge and understanding of basic soil science processes, is of utmost importance. Clothier noted that it underpinned the other research areas in which their end users and stakeholders were interested. The example he gave was that improvements in our ability to measure and model the flow and transport of water and solutes through soil are required to enable developments in better managing contemporary land use, in the understanding of the resilience of soils under land-use change or global change, as well as in providing measures of the value of the ecosystem services provided by soil as a filter. Throughout the workshop, many participants identified issues of funding and the undervaluation of soil both as a resource and as a topic of scientific study as problems facing the discipline. The rapporteur’s sum- mary of one of the breakout groups, in discussing soil science as part of the public conscience, noted: “Soil science is an undervalued science and soil is an undervalued resource. It is important to raise public awareness of what we do and how soil science can solve regional and world problems.” The examples provided by the New Zealand revitalization of soil science can serve as a model. The summary of the breakout group went on to say, “We need to demonstrate the interaction of soil science with socioeconomic problems facing the world. In America, soil is seen as part of agriculture, and as long as we maintain crop yields, there will be little concern. Soil functions beyond crop production need to be related to the public, especially how soil functions in water quality and availability.” This last comment was echoed in Kate Scow’s presentation at the end of the workshop. She quoted Tilman et al. (2002) on soil valuation and the lack of information on why soils are important to society beyond agricultur- al needs. Scow stated that a “fundamental institutional shift [is] required to quantify and derive societal value from remaining natural soils and ecosys- tems and to provide the scientific basis to argue for their preservation.” As a framework for valuing ecosystem goods and services, Scow noted a 2004 National Research Council report on Valuing Ecosystem Services, which gives a conceptual framework for understanding, shown in Figure 2-1. This total economic value framework for ecosystem services includes not only value derived from using a service or resource, but also “nonuse” values that may

PLACING A VALUE ON SOIL SCIENCE RESEARCH 11 ECOSYSTEM Structure Functions e.g., regulatory, HUMAN ACTIONS habitat/production (PRIVATE/PUBLIC) ECOSYSTEM GOODS & SERVICES VALUES Use values Nonuse values e.g., existence, species preservation, biodiversity, cultural heritage Consumptive use Nonconsumptive use e.g., harvesting, water supply (irrigation, drinking), genetic and medicinal resource Direct Indirect e.g., recreation (boat/swim), e.g., UVB protection, habitat transportation, aesthetics, support, flood control, pollution birdwatching control, erosion prevention FIGURE 2-1 Connections between ecosystem structure and function, services, policies, and values. SOURCE: National Research Council, 2004, 241. Figure 2 R01519 be derived from a service’s existence. A social value, as well as environmental copied from figure 7-1 in R0415 and economic, determines the value of an ecosystem service. “The funda- vector, editable mental challenge of valuing ecosystem services lies in providing an explicit description and adequate assessment of the links between the structures and functions of natural systems, the benefits (i.e., goods and services) derived by humanity, and their subsequent values” (National Research Council, 2004, 2). Another method of identifying the value of ecosystem services, also mentioned by Scow in her presentation, is the approach adopted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), which is based on function: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting. Scow noted that the soil resource fits into all of these functions. One of the research gaps in soil science that was noted in the workshop is the understanding of soil functions in relation to these ecosystem services, and how these functions are affected by such factors as degraded conditions,

12 FRONTIERS IN SOIL SCIENCE RESEARCH management techniques, and inherent soil properties. New monitoring and measurement methods, as well as dynamic simulation models that reflect real field conditions, are needed to better place a value on soil functions as they relate to ecosystem services. Perhaps the broader soil science research community can learn from the New Zealand experience. We need to find ways to work with the funding community to raise awareness of the value of the ecosystem services that soils in both managed and natural settings provide, as did the scientific community in New Zealand. REFERENCES Boumans, R. M. J., R. Costanza, J. Farley, M. A. Wilson, R. Portela, J. Rotmans, F. Villa, and M. Grasso. 2002. Modeling the dynamics of the integrated earth system and the value of global ecosystem services using the GUMBO model. Ecological Economics 41:529-560. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. National Research Council. 2004. Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Tilman, D., J. Knops, D. Wedin, and P. Reich. 2002. Experimental and observational studies of diversity, productivity, and stability. Pp. 42-70 in Functional Consequences of Biodiver- sity: Empirical Progress and Theoretical Extensions, A. Kinzig, S. Pacala, and D. Tilman, eds. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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There has been renewed interest in soil and soil science in recent years as the recognition that biogeochemical processes that occur at the Earth's surface influence global climate change, land degradation and remediation, the fate and transport of nutrients and contaminants, soil and water conservation, soil and water quality, food sufficiency and safety, and many other issues pertinent to the stewardship and conservation of land and water resources. In some areas of the Earth we have approached near irreversible soil conditions that may threaten the existence of future generations. Understanding the long-term implications of decreased soil quality and addressing the aforementioned challenges will require new information based on advances and breakthroughs in soil science research that need to be effectively communicated to stakeholders, policy makers, and the general public.

On December 12-14, 2005, the National Academies convened the Frontiers in Soil Science Research Workshop, summarized in this volume, to identify emerging areas for research in soil science by addressing the interaction of soil science subdisciplines, collaborative research with other disciplines, and the use of new technologies in research. The workshop focused around seven key questions addressing research frontiers for the individual soil science disciplines, and also addressing the need for integration across soil science with other disciplines.

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