Soil and water
Soil is the heart of a healthy ecosystem. One of the primary functions of soil is to capture precipitation, storing water for plants to use at a later day. Essentially it is the plants water and nutrient bank account. Each soil has different water storage quality, depending on organic matter levels, soil texture and structure. Some soils will have a high water storage bank, whilst others store much less. The ease by which plants can withdraw water from their soil water storage bank varies greatly between different soils.
Once the soil water storage bank is full, excess precipitation either moves to surface water as run-off, or percolates down through soil as drainage into groundwater. One of the other primary functions of soil is the ability to cleanse this drainage water. The significance of the soil's role as the earth’s primary filter is becoming increasingly recognised, as we work towards reducing the impacts on water quality of intensive rural and urban land use.
Scientists are actively working towards better characterisation of how different soils store water. Equally important is research into the myriad of processes that soil water influences, ranging from the availability of nutrient’s for plant uptake to processes that determine soil’s ability to filter contaminants. Based upon this platform of fundamental knowledge scientists are actively working towards developing best management practices and decision support tools to increase the efficiency of soil water storage, and resultant plant use, whilst decreasing nutrient and contaminant leakage from soil into waterways.