The management and protection of soil cover: an ecosystem approach
There is need for increased societal awareness of the importance of soil management for varying specific uses and for protection of the environment. The main purpose of the study was to analyze the role of soils in the formation and function of ecosystems, to elucidate the properties and mechanisms which play the main role in plant-soil mutual relationships, and to generalize the pedoecological principles of soil management and protection in conditions of Estonia. The treatment is a departure from the pedocentric viewpoint and is based on an ecosystem approach. The relationships between soil and plant covers are tested quantitatively on the basis of the ecosystems' phytoproductivity and fluxes of organic carbon, and qualitatively on the ground of humus forms and site types. On the basis of personal research and data available in literature, the constraints limiting soil cover functioning, the soil degradation features which occurred in actual time and the measures and activities for prevention of soil degradation are analyzed. Problems connected with biodiversity and soil environment protection ability as they relate to soil cover management and protection are discussed. For sustainable land use and to avoid deterioration of soil properties, the experience of local farmers, scientific research and monitoring of degradation features are needed. The soil cover is protected (or sustainable land use is attained) in circumstances when soil fertility and functioning is maintained adequately for the soil types' characteristics. Soil cover should be considered as a medium through which it is possible to improve the environmental status of the area.