Soil is one of the most diverse habitats on Earth, a teaspoon of it can contain more organisms than people on earth.
The exhibition represents a snapshot of the love and dedication that urban gardeners have for their soil. Preston growers buried a square of 100% cotton in their topsoil and left it there for 6 to 8 weeks. This tests for biological activity; the less cotton there is at the end of the test, the healthier the soil.
The ‘geography’ of these pieces of cotton, laid out on a table of soil, sketch out some of Preston’s valuable dirt, and give information about the soil and the health of its ecosystem.
As urban dwellers, these Preston gardeners are exceptional.
In a single gram there may be millions of individuals and several thousand species of bacteria, several yards of invisible fungal hyphae, a few thousand protozoa, and dozens of nematodes. There will be worms and many other creatures within the thriving and complex ecosystem beneath our feet. This ecosystem is essential to the health of the soil, and therefore to human life.
Healthy soil acts as a massive carbon sink, storing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Degradation of the soil leads to increased carbon emissions and speeds up climate change.
It is easy to assume that the soil is abundant and until recently its complex living structure has not been fully investigated nor understood. The fact is that, although 90% of food is grown in the earth, very little soil is available, and globally it has been largely devastated by human efforts. Urban soil especially is being obliterated by our efforts. Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this figure is fast growing.