Understanding mountain soils
Mountain soils are the fragile foundations of ecosystems that ultimately provide water for more than half the world's population. A new FAO book offers technical insights on the sustainable management of mountain soils, which are home to a vast array of human activities ranging from quinoa cultivation in the Andes through European ski resorts to the collection of medicinal plants in Tajikistan's "roof of the world" Pamir range. Understanding Mountain Soils, published by FAO with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, the Global Soil Partnership and the University of Turin, contains a host of case studies from around the world covering human, productive and geological issues. It is a contribution to the UN's International Year of Soils 2015, which seeks to raise awareness of the importance of preserving a critical natural resource that is home to nutrients and micro-organisms which make agriculture and plant life possible. Mountain soils are particularly susceptible to climate change, deforestation, unsustainable farming practices and resource extraction methods that affect their fertility, trigger land degradation, desertification and disasters such as floods and landslides, leading to poverty. The book aims to "promote the sustainable management of mountain soils on behalf of mountain peoples - who are often marginalized, not included in decision-making processes and development programmes, and increasingly affected by soil-related disasters.