The Critical Zone

Human Impacts on Soil


Remember that your task in this lesson is to create a qualitative Critical Zone system model, not a soil system model. While soil lies at the "heart" of the CZ, the zone is more than soil—soil may be thought of as a component of the CZ system.

Reading assignment

Continue your readings of human interactions with the CZ by considering more specifically some of the effects we have on soil. Use this information to help build your CZ system model. (The articles below that are not directly linked are located in Library Reserves.)

  1. Richter, D. D. J. Humanity's Transformation of Earth's Soil: Pedology's New Frontier. Soil Science, 172(12), 957–67.
    • Dan is a soil scientist at Duke and a member of the Critical Zone Exploration Network steering committee.
  2. Montgomery, D. R. (2007). Is agriculture eroding civilization's foundation? GSA Today, 17(10), 4–9. doi: 10.1130/GSAT01710A.1.
    • Dave is a geomorphologist at the University of Washington. His book entitled "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations" is an excellent read if you have any interest in how past civilizations' abuse of soil resources led to their demise.
    • Also see "Flood: Farming and Erosion" (from Teachers' Domain) for a nice video discussion of the relationship between farming and erosion.
  3. In Lesson 11, you read some articles from a special section in a 2004 edition of the journal Science entitled "Soils—The Final Frontier." Read the remainder of the articles from the special section listed below.
    • Sugden, A., Stone, R., & Ash, C. (2004). Ecology in the Underworld. Science, 304(5677), 1613–1615. See also the interactive version of the map from that article.
    • Kaiser, J. (2004). Wounding Earth's Fragile Skin. Science, 304(5677), 1616–1618.
    • Stokstad, E. (2004). Defrosting the Carbon Freezer of the North. Science, 304(5677), 1618–1620.
      • Also, see the Teachers' Domain video entitled "Changing Arctic Landscape" for a first-hand look at the effects of melting permafrost.
    • McNeill, J. R., & Winiwarter, V. (2004). Breaking the Sod: Humankind, History, and Soil. Science, 304(5677), 1627–1629.