Amazonian Dark Earth to Regenerate Our World

How Amazonian dark earth can help regenerate our world.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

How Amazonian dark earth can help regenerate our world. Source: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Researchers in Brazil have been studying the nutrient makeup and benefits that Amazonian Dark Earth (ADE) could have for regenerating our world in the face of climate change.  

The Importance of Regeneration

Deforestation has been incredibly damaging to our ecosystems around the world. With the advent of new technology, the ability to harvest large amounts of trees rapidly has never been easier. Economic incentives have favoured it, so regenerating our forests is multifaceted. 

In addition to developing new, different technologies, utilizing existing techniques to increase the health of our world is necessary. This is partly why scientists are researching the soil of the Amazon Rainforest, as it is incredibly fertile and chock full of nutrients and microbes that are essential for the regeneration of forests. 

Amazonian Dark Earth (ADE), as it is commonly known, is being studied so its benefits can be applied elsewhere outside of the Amazon. 

Amazonian Dark Earth

The human change of landscapes and ecosystems is nothing new. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in North America, where large swaths of trees were cut down to fuel the building of ships for the navies of the colonizing nations. 

Contemporarily, the necessity to expand farmland for an ever-increasing world population is what is driving the deforestation of large areas. This is happening in the Amazon Rainforest, which is on the verge of becoming a carbon source rather than a carbon sink.

In the Amazon, though, there lies hope in the ground beneath the trees. Amazonian dark earth, also known as Terra preta, has been cultivated for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples living there and might contain valuable insights into how to regenerate the soil around the world. 

Amazonian dark earth was created by enriching the soil with charcoal from low-intensity fires, animal bones, broken pottery, manure, and compost. This mix resulted in some of the most fertile soil on earth, with a dense amount of nutrients and beneficial microbes. 

Deforested arable soils in the Amazon only have a limited productive lifespan before their nutrients are depleted due to rain or flooding. This leads to migrating farmers and the need for newer unburned land that is cleared using fire, perpetuating the cycle of deforestation and soil damage. In contrast, Amazonian dark earth is resistant to nutrient leaching because of its high concentration of charcoal, microbial life and organic matter. The mixture allows for the retention of important minerals, microorganisms and nutrients even over extended periods of time.

Researchers have been studying soil composition to apply their knowledge to other soils in other places. Luís Felipe Zagatto, a Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture researcher, says, “This means that knowledge of the ‘ingredients’ that make ADEs so very fertile could be applied to help speed up ecological restoration projects.” 

In an experiment they ran with control soils, a hybrid soil, and 100% Amazonian dark earth, they found that the Amazonian dark earth remained richer than the control soil and hybrid soil by a large margin. They also found that the Amazonian dark earth had a greater biodiversity of microbes and archaea. 

Modern Techniques, Ancient Wisdom

In the modern world, the necessity of increasing the number of tools we have available to combat climate degradation is of utmost importance. 

Indigenous peoples have always had an intimate relationship with their land, and their knowledge regarding environmental restoration is invaluable as the risks of climate change continue to become more pronounced. 

Linking indigenous knowledge with modern science is important, as the scale at which we can apply these techniques and technologies can be far greater than what currently exists. In the future, we hope to see that the benefits of the nutrient composition of ADE can be applied everywhere, not just in the Amazon. 

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