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New Soil Atlas Of Asia Provides A Snapshot Of The Richness Of Soils

From permafrost to peatlands, a comprehensive reference on soils in Asia is now available.

13/07/2023, Rome – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Commission have launched the first ever Soil Atlas of Asia presenting a series of annotated maps that show the diversity of soil types across Asia.

The atlas compiles existing information on different soil types in easily understandable maps that cover the entire continent. The atlas aims to bridge the gap between soil science and society at large. The soil resources of Asia are diverse, reflecting a broad combination of climatic, geological and geomorphological conditions, biological diversity and soil parent materials. These range from permafrost affected soils in the north to the extensive topical peatlands of southeast Asia.

The preparation of the atlas took over 5 years and engaged approximately 100 soil experts across the region coordinated by FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP-FAO) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC EC). Financial support was provided by the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI), managed by the Rural Development Administration of the Republic of Korea. The atlas forms part of a series initiated by the JRC-EC.

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The Soil Atlas of Asia emphasizes the critical role of healthy soils in ensuring food security, nutrition, and the provision of essential ecosystem services. Asia houses nearly 60 percent of the global population. In 2021 alone, over 425 million people in the region suffered from hunger, a crisis further exacerbated by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in the international supply chain, conflicts, and rising costs of raw materials, fertilizers, and energy. To compound matters, climate change and the degradation of natural resources, particularly soils and water, pose additional threats to food security and development in the region.

Despite the challenges this region also contains some of the most fertile soils on the planet. However, many soils are also inherently fragile, being low in nutrients and organic matter. A lack of water presents major constraint to their use in agriculture. Adopting sustainable soil management practices becomes paramount. Such practices not only increase food production but also enhance the nutrient content of food while helping communities adapt to and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

The publication was launched at the 11th plenary assembly of FAO’s Global Soil Partnership in Rome where the FAO Director General Qu Dongyu stressed the importance of the Global Soil Partnership Action Framework 2022-30, that sets out the ambitious goal of improving and maintaining the health of at least 50% of the world’s soils by 2030. “This is only possible through increased support, solidarity, and scaled-up sustainable soil management solutions,” he added. As the decision-making body of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), the GSP Plenary Assembly is where strategic decisions to boost the global soil agenda are taken.

Accurate and timely soil information is essential for informed decision-making, from the field to policy levels. The Soil Atlas of Asia serves as a comprehensive resource, drawing on state-of-the-art scientific evidence and the extensive knowledge of renowned soil experts from each participating country. The Atlas showcases the rich diversity of soils in the region through maps and photographs highlighting the importance of soil health and the threats they are currently facing.

The Soil Atlas of Asia aims to promote dialogue and collaboration among various disciplines and countries, both within and beyond the Asian region. By empowering the development of agricultural policies, a consideration of soils in diverse policy sectors and offering educational resources for schools and universities, the atlas serves as a valuable tool. It also acts as a comprehensive reference on soil governance and invites policymakers, scientists, educators, and the general public to engage and reinforce their commitment towards the sustainable management of soils.

An understanding and assessment of the current state of our soils is essential if we are to implement measures to preserve this invaluable resource and enjoy the benefits of the many services it provides. Embark on a comprehensive exploration of the diverse soils found in Asia and discover the origins of your food.

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