Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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The Tiny Critters Beneath Our Feet Keep Us Healthy

Scientist are discovering that preserving biodiversity in the soil lets life flourish aboveground.

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Diana Wall has spent so much time studying soil in Antarctica that there’s a region, Wall Valley, named after her. The soil ecologist and professor at Colorado State University has gotten to know soil pretty well, yet she continues to learn about ways in which healthy soil is important not just for good agriculture but for entire ecosystems and, increasingly, for human health.

Last November, a few weeks before departing for her latest research trip, Wall published a paper highlighting examples of the link between soil health and human health. Strongyloides, for instance, are parasites that can penetrate human skin and reproduce in the intestine. Researchers found higher rates of infection in areas of Cambodia where there was a loss of organic carbon in soils that had been converted from forest to agriculture. It’s unclear what drives infection rates, but the connection suggests that increasing organic carbon levels in cropland—also a tactic for combating climate change—could be effective in reducing disease-causing parasitic worms.

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Source:  Rachel Cernansky, Take Part, February 3, 2016

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