Passion for Soil
The ongoing capacity of soil ecosystems to maintain the services they provide is fundamental to our economic, cultural, social and environmental well-being. We estimate that in economic terms, around 17% of NZ’s GDP depends directly on our soils, but the importance of soil to our social, cultural, and long-term environmental well-being is less well understood. Current measures of soil health focus on short-term “dynamic” soil characteristics (such as pH and soil nutrients) that may be inadequate to assess long-term changes to soil health and resilience.
Present measures in Aotearoa-New Zealand do not recognise cultural perspectives. In this programme we are exploring the meaning of soil health from a kaupapa Māori perspective so we will be able to articulate and express long-term effects of land use on soil ecosystems based on scientific knowledge and mātauranga Māori.
The development of mātauranga Māori concepts of soil health is advancing. A Māori Experts group has been established and a wealth of information has been collected on traditional and contemporary uses of soils and aspirations for soils. While New Zealand classifies its soils into 15 broad soil classes, Maori gardeners have at least 60 descriptive names for soils. If you live in Auckland you will not be surprised to learn that “One hunga” describes a soil made up of “beach sand sometimes mixed with mud”! “Tuatara wawata” is a brown friable soil suitable for kumara.
At the end of April around 60 people with an interest in Soil Health joined the research team for a workshop to share ideas on what is “healthy soil” and how this is understood by different people who work with the soil. A community of interest is bubbling up around this work and the researchers are keen to stay engaged, particularly with regional councils and their stakeholders. To join the update mailing list please contact Electra Kalaugher at firstname.lastname@example.org