Ted Floyd

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NSW Branch Soil Science Australia – Special Interest Group URBAN AND ANTHROPOGENIC SOILS

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Jane Aiken

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     Australian Society of Soil Science Inc.

Web: www.soilscienceaustralia.org     Accreditation: www.cpss.com.au     ABN 96 080 783 106

Urban and Anthropogenic Soils

Notice about an October 2015 meeting

There is growing interest in the international soil science community in soils in the urban context, and in soils made from anthropogenic materials. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) has even formed a division: https://www.soils.org/membership/divisions/urban-and-anthropogenic-soils

Soil science is being taught in several design faculties in the U.S. such as Harvard Graduate School of Design (architecture, planning and landscape architecture)- pioneered by soil scientist and author Phillip Craul.

Soil science in Australia has traditionally been taught in an agricultural or geomorphological context. However, there are some exceptions. The University of Melbourne Burnley Campus teaches soil science in an urban horticulture context. Pam Hazelton at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) teaches soils within an environmental and engineering and built environment context, and Peter Martin at The University of Sydney (USYD) has produced agronomy and soils graduates for the sports-turf industry. Simon Leake has practiced soil science in the built environment for nearly 30 years and there are many other soils graduates working in the environmental area such as waste to land management and contaminated sites, much of which occurs at the urban interface.

Despite this professional progress, there is little momentum occurring in the established faculties in teaching soils in the urban context outside of contamination and engineering issues. This lack of academic progress is surprising since Australia has produced some world-renown publications in the area. The outstanding work of Kevin Handreck including what is widely considered the best book in the world on the subject “Growing Media for Ornamental Plants and Turf”, culminated in the best industry standard in the world “AS 3743 – Potting Mixes in 2003. Australia also has a very creditable standard for composted materials, AS 4454 (2012) – Composts, soil conditioners and mulches”, and our Society continues with representation on the CS-037 Garden Soils and Potting Mixes Standards Committee.

The gambit of Urban and Anthropogenic Soils is much wider than most soil scientists realize and includes:

  • The survey, recovery and repurposing of in-situ or natural soils on “Green-field” and “Brown-field” development sites.
  • The design and construction of completely new soils for specialist purposes from manufactured materials e.g.

o   Sports-fields and recreational turf and racetracks

o   Green roofs and walls

o   Rain-gardens and storm-water treatment soils

o   Potting media for the nursery industry

  • Rehabilitation and revegetation of both natural materials (overburdens and fill) and anthropic material (eg power station ashes).
  • Urban “farming” and food production.
  • Composting of industrial, forestry and other organic and inorganic wastes
  • Land application and beneficial reuse of industry and animal wastes (manures etc)
  • Construction of effective root-zones for trees in a heavily urbanised context.

The holy trinity of soil disciplines pedology, chemistry and physics are irreplaceable in all of these areas of endeavour and it is the soil scientist who has the best educational background to work effectively in them. In 2008 the world passed the 50% urbanization mark, and Australia’s population is one of the most urbansied in the world with 86% of the population living in cities. As such, there is increasing interest in creating safe, healthy, functional environments in urban areas.

Creating effective soil and vegetation associations are important not only for their aesthetic and psychological effects in the urban context but for their environmental benefits such as improved air and stormwater quality, reduced “heat island” effects and carbon sequestration through revegetation. From a soil science perspective, such work requires and understanding of anthroposols – soils profoundly modified by human activity.

The Soil Science Australia NSW Branch Committee is considering holding an inaugural workshop on “Urban and Anthropogenic Soils” later this year (October 2015). If you have a topic you would like discussed, or an abstract of a paper you would like to present please contact Dr Peter Bacon (NSW Branch Vice President – E: woodlots3@bigpond.com).

We anticipate that short “headline” presentations would work best as it will be a one-day event. The purpose of the workshop is not only to highlight the importance of this area as a worthwhile topic for research and career development but to gauge the interest in Australia in setting up a focus group such as ASSS has done.

Jane Aiken, CPSS 2 NSW Branch President

Email  jane.aiken@lendlease.com


Phone   M: 0407 990 613 

Soil – a non renewable resource       Soil Science Australia membership – a renewable resource
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Jane Aiken (Jane.Aiken@lendlease.com)

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2 responses to “Ted Floyd

  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. Ted was famous long before this to some of us … but good to see due recognition at last!

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