December 2019

Members of the SERS community are involved in cutting edge sustainability research, important policy initiatives and outreach. Check out the 'SERS Stories' below to see some examples of how we are helping to protect, restore, reform and transform the world around us.

SOIL: IT'S NOT DIRT

Hands, soil and plant

As kids we used dirt for play – ‘mud burgers’ anyone? – and parents demanded that we wipe our feet and wash our dirty hands when we came inside the house.  But soil is not dirty! In fact, soil contains an entire universe of organisms – one  gram of soil contains billions of bacteria, thousands of fungi and algae. In addition to the billions of organisms, soil is also a mixture of living and non-living materials. The non-living materials include rock particles that have weathered over thousands of years from the bedrock below, plant residues and dead microbes. Soil’s living component ranges from microscopic bacteria to earthworms and rhodents. All components that are living – or once living – are categorized as organic while those that never lived, like the minerals, are referred to as inorganic. Combined, soil’s organic and inorganic components form a complex network of interactions: organic materials decompose and become soil’s highly fertile humus layer. Soil humus is a form of highly recalcitrant carbon that is stored in the soil for more than 1000 years. In fact, a handful of soil means you are holding an entire living ecosystem in your hands with some of its components more than a millennia in age.