Blog post

Blog: Soil Science and the Sustainable Development Goals

Published on
August 22, 2017

Looking back upon the resolutions of the previous Wageningen Soil Conference, Chair Jakob Wallinga argues that the Sustainable Development Goals should be at the centre of this year's edition.

I firmly believe that soil scientists should take a leading role in achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals. They can provide unrivalled insights in processes and interactions occurring at the earth surface, which are crucial to e.g. climate change and food security challenges.

I’m profoundly looking forward to welcome participants at the next Wageningen Soil Conference (WSC2017), held in Wageningen from 27-31th of August. This conference is an international bi-annual event, aiming to be a platform to discuss novel insights in (applied) soil science in relation to societal demands.

Looking back

Personally, I have warm memories of the previous meeting in 2015, where we agreed on a resolution which I would like to repeat here:

Participants of WSC2015 – Soil Science in a changing world agree that:

  • Soils play a key role in confronting challenges related to food security, water resources, climate change and biodiversity.
  • Increasing soil organic carbon will generally enhance soil life and promote soil functioning with respect to the challenges listed above.
  • A professional communication strategy is needed to ensure that society benefits from soil-based solutions.

And therefore agree to:

  • Urgently identify actions for soil-based solutions towards achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Initiate and strongly support programs that aim at a lasting increase in soil organic carbon.
  • Develop convincing narratives on soil-based solutions, and communicate these with stakeholders and policy makers.

In my opinion, these statements are still very true and relevant. Some of the aspects have been further worked out in the special issue of SOIL ‘Soil Science in a Changing World: contributions of soil science for solving global challenges of our time’. It includes a landmark paper by Keesstra et al., ‘The significance of soils and soil science towards realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals’, detailing how soil scientists can contribute to achieving different SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals

Looking forward

WSC2017 provides an excellent opportunity to remind applied soil scientists what was agreed upon, discuss new insights and developments in soil science and discuss what actions are needed to ensure that we, as a community, contribute to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The conference will combine plenary sessions with internationally renown keynote speakers, who will connect soil science with climate change, food security, water resources, biodiversity and land functions. A special session is geared towards governance and policy aspects and another on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The plenary sessions will allow ample time for discussions between participants and keynote speakers. Moreover, there will be parallel sessions of each theme, and poster sessions. Again, there will be enough time for discussion, reflection and networking. It is still possible to join the event, even if you haven’t registered yet! 

Jakob Wallinga
Chair Wageningen Soil Conference 2017