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Suggested Citation:"Epilogue." 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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Page 45
Suggested Citation:"Epilogue." National Research Council. 2009. Frontiers in Soil Science Research: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12666.
×
Page 46

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Epilogue T his workshop was not intended to be a one-time event, but rather a step in a process of identifying how soil science research can expand and grow to meet the needs of science and society. We must understand soil in ��������������������������� terms of its dynamics, its stability, and the resulting rates and efficiencies of soil processes. Many of the research topics and issues raised at the workshop �������������������������������������������������������������� will be important in the future. Among them are the following: • Valuing soil as an ecosystem service • Translating research across both temporal and spatial scales • Sharing and using data already available for other purposes in soil science research • Incorporating existing and new technologies from other disciplines to study soil systems • Collaborating across disciplines • Translating soil science research into information for stakeholders and end users (e.g., policy makers, regulators, farmers, land developers, and engineers) Many of these topics are interrelated. Using available data may require up- scaling or downscaling of results owing to the disparate scales at which soils and, for example, vegetation, water, sediment, and atmospheric measure- ments are made. Likewise, interdisciplinary collaboration may result as soil scientists apply new and existing technologies to soil science research. 45

46 FRONTIERS IN SOIL SCIENCE RESEARCH There is an identified need for more funding for both agricultural- related and environmental soil science. As was noted several times during the workshop, soil science lacks a primary sponsor or steward, which partly emanates from its interdisciplinary nature. In recent years when science budgets have diminished, it is increasingly important for soil scientists to continue to collaborate across and outside the discipline, finding ways to relate their science to the societal needs, as well as linking it to such issues as environmental policy. This is a struggle not just in the United States, but in other countries as well, as witnessed by Brent Clothier’s presentation to the workshop on efforts to link soil science to policy in New Zealand, and recent meetings in Europe on the future of soil science research. Several networks mentioned during the workshop—including, for ex- ample, the National Ecological Observatory Network and the Critical Zone Exploration Network—are working across disciplines on research issues of interest to soil scientists. Soil scientists need to continue to find ways to link their basic research to broader research efforts, in an effort both to bring soil science research to the forefront and to raise awareness in the broader scientific community as to what soil science research can offer to the larger scientific endeavor. It is up to soil scientists to continue to search for the frontiers in re- search, linking research to important societal and global issues, such as food security, sustainability, climate change, and water resources. However, to do so, we must continue to collaborate, keeping ourselves open to learning from other disciplines, and reaching out to our scientific colleagues, scien- tific societies, and research endeavors.

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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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