The ground plays an important role in maintaining a clean environment by serving as a natural water filtration and purification system, said Henry Lin, professor of hydropedology and soil hydrology. Understanding the components that make up this integral part of the ecosystem can lead to better groundwater management and smarter environmental policy.
"We look at nature and we see all the beauty and all the prosperity around us," said Lin, "But most people don't know or tend to forget that the key to sustainability is right underground."
Lin, who reports on his research today (Feb. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, said that the earth's outer layer -- from the top vegetation canopy to the strata of soils and layers of underground material -- helps soak up and purify water by extracting excess nutrients, heavy metals and other impurities. The ground can also act as a storage container for freshwater.
About 60 percent of the world's annual precipitation ends up in this zone, Lin said. "In fact, there is more water under the ground than there is in the so-called 'blue waters,' such as lakes and rivers," said Lin.
Besides using freshwater for drinking, people use large amounts of water to irrigate agricultural fields and as part of industrial operations. The researcher said that just as a global green revolution raised awareness about food security, a "blue revolution" may lead to efforts to water security with clean, safe water supply around the globe.
"Without water there is no life," Lin said. "Without groundwater, there is no clean water."
Lin said that the system is currently under threat from poor land management practices that fail to consider how ground water is affected by land uses, such as new building projects, underground storage and agricultural operations. Planners should consider, for example, how the ground and plants in an area can affect water run-off. In some cases, not taking the ground and underground features of an area into consideration can lead to flooding, or to the addition of impurities into drinking water supplies.
Besides reaching out to managers and planners, Lin said that the general public also must become more aware of groundwater management issues.
"In a lot of cases, for the general public and even people from government agencies and funding agencies, it's out of sight, out of mind," Lin said. "But, beneath the surface lies the foundation of our sustainability."
Matthew Swayne | EurekAlert!
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Making Oceans Plastic Free - Project tackles the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans
31.05.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Information Technology
23.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy