chapter
8 Pages

Introduction

Soil, the extremely thin but precious skin covering our planet, supports all terrestrial life forms and contributes nutrients to aquatic and marine environments. ¤is covering of the unweathered and partially weathered geological formations at the Earth’s surface is a unique, fragile veneer. No longer rock nor geological sediment, soil has been altered during the process of soil formation by geological, topographical, climatic, physical, chemical, and biological factors to form a living entity, which inextricably links inorganic or mineral particles with organic matter and biota bathed in a milieu of liquid water and gases. Water, the major constituent of all living entities, is the solvent and conveyor of nutrients, which, together with the solid phase, become the fertile substrate from which all planetary life springs. ¤is nurturing and life-supporting pedosphere zone is a biologically active, porous, and structured medium that e¦ectively integrates and dissipates mass ¥uxes and energy. In its pristine state, soil is a self-regulating, slowly evolving biogeochemical system that weathers with time, simulating sponge-like behavior and regulating and bu¦ering nutrient supply and water quality and quantity for the growth of macro-and micro¥ora and fauna. Furthermore, it determines the partitioning of water into surface and subterranean groundwater reservoirs.