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Welcome to the Foresight Sustainability Series podcast

Feb 27, 2023

Soil is the foundation upon which life is built. Soil puts food on the table, purifies our water, stores vast amounts of the worlds carbon, and protects us against floods and droughts. We are intrinsically linked; when soil’s health is at risk, so is our own.

In this episode, Lily Billings, Head of Group Sustainability at Foresight Group discusses why soil is so essential to life, and what needs to be done to protect it with Mark Nason, head of professional practice at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

Key Takeaways include:

  • Understanding what soil actually is and why it’s so essential to life
  • Understanding the different ecosystem services that soil provides
  • Addressing some of the key threats facing soil health
  • Understanding what we can do to improve the health of soil

Mark Nason is Head of Professional Practice at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), and has over 25 years of experience in environmental research and education. 

The podcast is for information purposes only and without limitation, does not constitute an offer, an invitation to offer or a recommendation to engage in any investment activity. Listeners should not construe the content of this podcast as investment advice and no reliance may be placed upon the content. The opinions of speakers are their personal opinions and not necessarily those of their respective companies.

Foresight Group LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 198020). Foresight’s registered office is at The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG.



Lily Billings [00:00:04] Welcome to Foresight Sustainability Podcast, a series that explores the sustainability themes that will play a crucial part in shaping our world in the current period of accelerated change. In this series, we will be sitting down with industry experts to explore some of the major developments in sustainability related fields, and consider the challenges facing businesses in a new decade of climate action. With these sessions, we aim to inform and promote dialogue around the mainstreaming of sustainability. I'm your host, Lily Billings, and I'm the Head of Sustainability at Foresight Group. I'm responsible for the corporate sustainability strategy, and everything from emissions reporting down to nature recovery and social responsibility. I'm joined today by Mark Mason. Mark is a soil expert and he's here today to talk to us about all things to do with soil and how it relates to carbon and nature recovery as well. So welcome, Mark. Would you like to introduce yourself? 

Mark Mason [00:01:01] Hello. Yeah, thanks, Lily. So I, well, I've worked in environmental research and education in some shape or form for my whole career, and that's involved lots of teaching, writing new degrees and apprenticeships, and doing research into soils and ecology. And so this month I started a new job as Head of Professional Practice at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. And so in that role, I'm really excited about it. I'm basically here to support and challenge people working in ecology and environmental management, to be ambitious for themselves and for nature. 

Lily Billings [00:01:40] Brilliant. Well, we're really happy to have you here today because I think so many of us are starting to realise just how important soil is when we're thinking about how we might tackle climate change and also the impact that nature has experienced over the last few hundred years, really. So is it possible for you to tell us a little bit more about your day to day job? Obviously you've moved recently, but how you get involved with what you do around soils. It would be really interesting to hear what's a normal day look like for you. 

Mark Mason [00:02:11] Yeah, well, I'm not entirely sure yet, but so basically I'm responsible for helping to evolve the training programme for CIEEM. So we've got about 7000 members who work in ecology and environmental management. So it's a significant responsibility and the world is changing so quickly and we need more people to know more about the environment and to know more about soil. So I'm responsible for thinking about the types of training programmes we need, thinking about the competency frameworks and accreditation so that when people do things there is, we know that they're doing them to a certain standard best practice. And one thing that I'm also really excited about is that I get to carry on working on projects as I have been for a number of years, to try and support new people into the profession. So getting people into good jobs in environmental management and also helping to make sure that it's a rewarding and inclusive environment to work within. 

Lily Billings [00:03:11] Brilliant. Thank you for explaining some more. And I actually have a question then. So how did it all start? I mean, what first got you interested into the world of soil? Soil is obviously quite a niche subject area, albeit we now realise it's much more important than we ever really realised before. So yeah. What got you interested? 

Mark Mason [00:03:28] Yeah. So I don't think I started off being that interested in soil, if I'm honest. I've always been really interested in nature and in fact I tell people that one of my earliest memories is playing in the garden with my friends aged three or four, and I have a distinct memory of telling them off because they were getting spiders confused with red spider mites. And that really offended me on some level. I think my interest in soil came a little bit later, so I did an ecology degree and that allowed me to keep my interest quite broad. So I studied everything from fish migration to fern classification, and a small amount of soil science. And then after my degree, I worked briefly as a quality assurance analyst in a lab. So I was looking at testing the equipment that hospitals use to measure levels of drugs in patients blood and urine. And it wasn't really for me. I enjoy lab work, but I wanted to be outside a little bit more. So I applied to work as a technician on a European Union funded project at Bangor University that was looking at experimenting with ways of creating woodland and heather moorland at post-industrial sites, especially on slate quarry waste in Snowdonia. And I was really lucky through that to have the opportunity to register for a PhD alongside my day job. And because the main constraint to establishing biodiverse habitats under those conditions tended to be a lack of soil, I chose to study how soil forms and particularly the relationship between the inputs of plant litter. So for example, when trees dropped their leaves in the autumn, and the formation of the organic matter in the soil, that then happens over time. 

Lily Billings [00:05:04] Great. I mean, I can see how that would get you hooked, actually. There's a lot yet to understand, I think, for many of us about soil. So I've got a bit of an obscure question for you, which is, so what actually is soil? You know, we've all got an idea of what we think it is, you know, what we can see it. But how do you describe it when you've been teaching students about soil.  

Mark Mason [00:05:26] It's such a great question because it often flummoxes quite a few people and it's one that I start almost every module or professional training course with just to check where people are at. So bear with me. So soils form over time, and they form from rocks weathering or the movement of sediments from one place to another. And then as life gets a foothold and gets going, we then get an accumulation of organic materials in the soil. And so there's a huge amount of variation in soils in age, determined by the geology and the climate, how much we interfere with them and the biology. And that gives rise to a fantastic diversity of different soils. And we can describe them and classify them, using keys in the same way that we might classify species of grasses. So an average soil, if there's any such thing, is about 50% empty space. And that often surprises people that the biggest single component of soil is actually the space between the stuff and that might contain air or it might contain water, a mixture of the two, and that varies throughout the year. Then you get about 45%, which is the mineral material. And if anyone's ever looked at a soil texture triangle, we often classify that in terms of different sizes of particles like sand, silt and clay. And then the smallest slice of the pie. And this is another thing that really surprises people is the organic matter. So the living organisms and the remains of organisms and stuff that's in the process of decaying can vary quite a lot. But if there's any such thing as an average so that it might be around 5%, but we'd expect that to be lower in a really young soil or degraded agricultural soil, and a lot higher in an older soil, and particularly in peat soils. And I think lots of people who teach soil science, including me, have quite a good way of describing what soil is, and that's to compare it to a good cake or a chocolate brownie. So you've got the sugar, the flour, and the cocoa, and they're a bit like the mineral component of soil. And the very fine silky cocoa is quite analogous to the clay fraction in soil. And in fact, one way of identifying what type of soil you have is to see how silky or gritty it feels, even against your teeth. But that would just be geology though, without the organic matter. So just like in a cake or a brownie, you need something to stick everything together, like the butter or the eggs. And to give that cake a nice crumbly feel. So soil is really similar to that. Just a final progress from that is I like to think of soil as a biological structure. There's a really, really good description of soil in George Monbiots book, Regenesis, talking about how the structure and properties of soil are so transformed by the influence of the organisms that live in and on it, that really it is kind of like a coral reef and that that structure is formed by the biology. 

Lily Billings [00:08:19] Great, I mean, it is fascinating. I mean, yeah, like I said, so many of us are starting only now to really learn about soils and their importance. And obviously you've been looking into this particular topic for quite some time now. So how would you say that our understanding of soil has changed and would you say, would you recognise as well that actually that understanding has changed quite a lot in recent years? 

Mark Mason [00:08:42] Yeah, definitely. I think I've seen some big changes in the nearly 20 years, I think now since I did my Ph.D., which is a bit scary and there are plenty of live debates at the moment too. So one way to think about it is to think about the models that we use to predict the weather and to predict how the climate is going to change over time. Because if we know enough about soil, then we can produce models that attempt to predict how soil will form over time. And actually, that's really, really important because climate and soil formation are really strongly linked. So it's important for us to understand how soils will influence the climate and how the climate will influence soils. So when I first started learning about soil, I think there was often a big focus on how the chemical composition of the plant material that goes into soil, like again, the leaves that fall in the autumn and the roots below ground, there's a big focus on how that composition affects how long the materials last for in soil. So we know, for example, that some substances like simple sugars and proteins are really tasty to the micro-organisms in soil, so they'll be eaten quite quickly. If you've ever put a big load of grass clippings in your compost heap and it's heated up really quickly within the first week, that's because of all of that biological activity of the bugs eating all of those really available substances.  

Lily Billings [00:10:03] I always wondered what was going on there. Fascinating how hot the bin gets.  

Mark Mason [00:10:07] Yeah, no, it's fascinating. But then we thought that the bigger and more complicated bits of plants might last a bit longer or the things that decompose from them might last longer. So think about lignin, which is the substance that makes wood, woody. So there's quite an emphasis on thinking about the chemical composition of the materials that go into soil and how that might influence the rate of formation of the organic matter in soil. And all of that is still relevant. But I think what I have seen shifting, and the models that we use to predict how soil forms have been revised to reflect this, is our understanding of how important living plant roots are, and particularly the relationship that they can form with organisms in the soil, like the mycorrhizal fungi that live on the ground. I think it's that bit of soil science that really excites me because it's dynamic, like studying the physiology of the processes within an organism rather than just where the organs are located. So we know the plant roots and the organisms that they communicate with and form relationships with produce a huge range of different compounds for lots of different purposes, like physical protection and guarding against disease, competing with each other and even mining nutrient elements to make them more available. And I think the newer models of soil formation consider those substances to be really important in determining the structure and properties of soil. But there are plenty of interesting research questions that remain. So which of those substances are particularly important and is the plant more in control of the process than the microorganisms? And how does that relationship work? And so, for example, Isabella Tree popularised in her book Wilding, a particular compound called glomalin, which is kind of a bit tricksy to pin down exactly what it is. But we know that these glomalin-like substances are produced by certain fungi and that they're particularly important or may be particularly important in gluing mineral components together to give the structure of soil.  

Lily Billings [00:12:04] Okay. So that actually leads me onto my next question. So obviously, we know that soil is a great way to sequester carbon, it's great kind of carbon sink. Could you explain really what carbon stabilisation in soil really means? I mean, that would be quite useful term, because we're, it's something that we're looking at the moment because many people will know that we've invested in forest assets. So we own quite a number of forests now and afforestation projects, which is great. But we are also going through a process where we starting to better improve our emissions reporting. And so one of the things we've been looking at is soil disturbance. Whilst we obviously plant these new trees, and trying to better understand that and obviously carbon stabilisation is part of that. Yeah, if you could explain that to us, that would be helpful.  

Mark Mason [00:12:56] Yeah, absolutely. And there's a lot of interesting research in this area because there are questions that we haven't quite answered yet because carbon is an element and about 60% on average of the organic material in soil is made of carbon. And it's really important that we understand how soils can hold on to carbon, how they could sequester it, which means accumulating more. But I think even more importantly, how we can keep what's already in the ground protected and avoid releasing it unless it's completely unavoidable. So one reason the plants and the fungi so important is because those substances that they produce help to glue the mineral particles together, like those crumbs in the cake, and we call those aggregates. And that relationship between the organic and the mineral parts of the soil seems to be particularly important for holding onto it and keeping it in the soil. So you can see this in your back garden. You know, if you pull up a plant in the garden and you look at the roots, you can see how there are these little crumbs, these aggregates forming on the roots of plants. And I kind of think they're almost like glaciers or icebergs that calve off a glacier into the soil. And one of the central problems that we face is that we too often manage our soils in such a way that disturbs that process, either by physically disrupting the soil and breaking up the aggregates or by removing the plants and the fungi from the system, providing that glue that's helping to stick everything together. 

Lily Billings [00:14:30] Okay. Thank you for explaining that to us. So I think it would be great as well if we can talk a little bit about just how important is soil. So we're now touching on the carbon element of soil, but also the fact that it can support ecosystems and actually good quality soil can lead to really great biodiversity just as much as great carbon sequestration. So yeah, it's quite an open ended question. But to you Mark, just how important do you think soil is? 

Mark Mason [00:15:03] I'm hopelessly biased obviously, but it's fundamentally important to our existence. You know, there's no life, there's no food, there's no biodiversity without soil. It's effectively a non-renewable resource, and we don't tend to treat it in that way. It varies depending on the environment, how long it takes for soil to form. But typically we think that an inch of topsoil might take 500 years to form and seconds to destroy. So we also now know that soil contains more carbon than there is in the atmosphere as greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. So there's no way that we can fix climate change if we don't protect soils and manage them in such a way that they are accumulating carbon rather than releasing it. Imagine we disturbed all of the soils and released all of that carbon that's contained within them that would kill us as a species and as a planet. And yet many of the practices that we adopt in in agriculture and construction, are meaning that our soils are releasing more carbon than they are sequestering it. So I think that's almost the elephant in the room. We talk about carbon sequestration and there are things that we can do to promote that and it's really important to do so. But we have to be really mindful that we protect the carbon that is already stored in our soils because it takes a long time to measure changes in carbon accumulation in soil. And I think our new understanding of how soil forms is really important for that. So for example, if we realise that soil fungi are important and that they help glue everything together and stabilised some of those carbon compounds in soil, then what effect will using fungicides in agriculture have on the ability of soil to hold on to carbon? Perhaps there's a a different angle there that we need to be considering our use of some of those chemicals. 

Lily Billings [00:16:55] Yeah, completely. And it's definitely something we've been looking at about reducing chemicals in our business processes because we're setting ourselves targets to improve biodiversity and obviously reduce our emissions. And the only way really we can do that effectively in certain parts of our business is by heavily reducing chemicals that have been just traditionally used as standard, completely lawfully. And we're starting to now challenge that status quo and look for other ways of managing land. So yeah, that's really interesting. That leads me on to ask then, so what would you say a healthy soil looks like? I mean, you said about how, you know, some of these top soils can take, you know, 500 years to get to the quality that they are. But what does that look like? What does a healthy soil like? And is it possible for us in a shorter space of time to make soil more healthy, whether that be in one of our forestry sites, for example, or even just at home in our gardens? 

Mark Mason [00:18:00] Yeah, definitely. So there's about four questions there.  

Lily Billings [00:18:03] Sorry.  

Mark Mason [00:18:05] I mean, the million dollar one there, is what does soil health mean and whats a healthy soil look like. And it's been a surprisingly contentious debate, actually, because there are a wide variety of different soils and we expect soil to do lots of different things for us. It's only actually in the last couple of years, believe it or not, that we've come up with shared definitions of healthy soil. So we have one that was proposed by the UN, and that is that healthy soil has the ability to sustain productivity, diversity and environmental services in terrestrial ecosystems. So if you want to determine whether you soil is healthy, then you're going to need some things to measure, some indicators. And there's no one indicator because they might be different in different systems. So for example, the fertility of soil or the availability of nutrients is one factor that determines how diverse a plant community is above ground. And in agriculture and horticulture, we might want more available nutrients to support the productivity that we need for crops, and we rely on the soils to produce those crops. But, in natural systems to maintain biodiversity in a grassland or a heathland for example, then actually we need lower fertility. So we can come up with different things that we can measure. We need to acknowledge that it depends on what we want from that soil, but we definitely agree that living soil is more likely to be healthy. So we're interested in how we can measure the activity and the diversity of the organisms that live within the soil, particularly because they're so important for doing a whole load of things we talked about, you know, the formation of aggregates, the stabilisation of organic matter with the carbon in it, but they're also essential for recycling nutrients in the soil, for providing natural disease suppression and making sure that the plants get the water and the nutrients that they need. So I think techniques that we can use to measure the activity of organisms within soil, and the diversity of organisms within soil, are quite good indicators of the health of soil. 

Lily Billings [00:20:06] It's an interesting point you raised that she and I associated notice, but you kind of forget. So the fact is certain species of plant and animal thrive in different areas, and therefore soil quality will be completely different. So, you know, you often had wild flowers, for example, actually quite like low quality soil. And so if you want an immediate quick fix when it comes to biodiversity, often people lean on wildflowers because, you know, they can be quite hardy and they can grow almost anywhere. So it's actually still important to have a spectrum then of different quality soils.  

Mark Mason [00:20:43] Yeah, absolutely.  

Lily Billings [00:20:45] Obviously, you mentioned as well around construction being a particular activity and agriculture, that are a threat to soil in the way that we're managing those two activities. What would you say are some other threats to soil? We touched on chemicals as well, obviously. Yeah. What would you say are some major threats to soil and therefore major threats to climate change and nature recovery as well.  

Mark Mason [00:21:11] Yes. So, and there's a really good book actually by Richard Bardgett called Earth Matters that I recommend. And he summarises some of the threats to soil in there. And so we talked a little bit like disturbance and that disturbance can be when we plough a field or when we excavate soil in construction. And we know that that releases carbon from the soil. We know that there's a whole range of different contaminants and metals, organic pollutants, microplastics and even the depleted uranium that is used in weapons. And I guess the other one that is of particular concern is soil sealing. So that's where we cover the ground with something impermeable like concrete or tarmac. And the reason that that's bad, is that it's removing the plants from the system and all of the substances that they can produce through photosynthesis, through taking carbon from the atmosphere. And then another thing that we've learnt relatively recently is, is that quite a high proportion of that carbon that they suck up from the atmosphere is then pumped below ground and a lot of that is used for all of the purposes that we've been talking about and to maintain those relationships with other organisms in the soil. So when we put something impermeable down on top of the soil, then that area of land is not taking up any more carbon from the atmosphere. It's not fixing any more carbon. And so whilst there might be a certain amount of carbon that's protected in the soil, one of the first things that will happen is that the microbes in the soil are going to be hungry, so they're going to start breaking down some of the carbon containing compounds, the ones that they can get to and release that carbon back from the atmosphere too. So I think there is what we call an opportunity cost for sealing soil and that you're taking that land out of being able to have plants in it and therefore there's no carbon being put back into the soil in that area.  

Lily Billings [00:22:58] Okay. So I was thinking, if you're looking off soil and essentially you'd be protecting it, the carbon from not being released, but actually it can have the opposite effect, which is quite interesting. 

Mark Mason [00:23:09] Yeah, you know, it might be that there might be carbon in the soil that is stored, but it can't sequester anymore. It can accumulate anymore because you've stopped those, because you know you need living organisms in the system for more carbon to be put into it.  

Lily Billings [00:23:24] Yes. Recently, Mark, you visited one of our UK solar sites. And so I wondered just as a quick one, what were your thoughts on how a bog standard solar site, for example, could improve soil quality and how? I mean, the fact is this would be different in different locations. So focusing on the UK and what we know of the UK. What would you suggest are your thoughts on how we can improve that? 

Mark Mason [00:23:47] I think solar farms are a great opportunity actually. I think they're really interesting. It takes a while to be able to measure changes in the total carbon content of soil, although we can look at specific pools and how they change more quickly. But what we do know, and it's quite logical really, is that the diversity of plants that you have above ground is linked to the diversity of organisms that you have below ground. So as a general rule, if you've got more diversity in the species of plants, you know, in a meadow compared to a monoculture in a pasture or in arable system or something, then you've got more compounds being put into the soil, you've got different rooting depths, and that is going to give you more biodiversity below ground too. And the other general rule that we know is that more biodiverse environments are likely to be more resilient to a changing environment. So how on earth does that relate to solar farms? I think one of the opportunities for solar farmd is that alternating pattern of shade and light that's provided by the panels. It's definitely important when we install the panels to disturb the soil as little as possible. Once they are installed, you're then going to get a different microclimate beneath the panels. And that's what I saw in Sandridge. You know, it's slightly cooler, and slightly drier underneath the panels. And different plant species are adapted to different environmental conditions. So if you've got more of a range in the soil conditions on the site, then that will support more biodiversity in the plants too. And the other reason that's relevant is that solar farms are often put onto former agricultural land. So a constraint to establishing biodiverse habitats is often that those lands have been enriched with fertiliser over time or other chemicals have been used. So over time, some of those things will work their way out of the system. But where you have these slightly barer patches, this slightly different microclimate underneath the panels. I think there's quite a good opportunity for putting some interesting native species in there to provide some islands of biodiversity, which then gives you more food sources, for example, for pollinators. And even it might be possible to put species like yellow rattle in there, which we know is called a meadow maker, because it helps to parasitised the ryegrass that you would have in pastures and reduce its dominance. And then that helps us to create more biodiverse habitats too. So I talked quite a lot about plants. I think that's because healthy soil is a biodiverse soil and if you've got a biodiverse habitat and that range of compounds, then you're keeping the soil healthy and you're maintaining those those carbon inputs there too. 

Lily Billings [00:26:26] Of course. I mean it makes sense that the more biodiverse the plants are, the better it is, and also therefore the more resilient soil on the plants can be just through being more diverse. So, conscious of time. I'm wondering actually whether it's worth thinking about, you know, you've talked about business, you've talked about solar and what we could do potentially to improve a solar site. What could people just do at home? What are some easy, quick wins that you'd suggest that anyone could do in their garden, perhaps starting to improve their soil? 

Mark Mason [00:27:00] Yeah. So I think just acknowledging that healthy soil is alive and that means that ideally it will be covered and it will be fed and it can be fed by having living plants in it. Or we might think about how we produce our own compost or spread clippings as mulch that help to keep the soil protected and keep those inputs. And I think we can encourage more biodiversity above ground. So for example, by sowing wildflowers in our gardens and then that will help us to improve diversity below ground too. If we are growing veg, then we can think about where we can work the soil less. And I think, thinking about that problem of soil sealing, I think we have an opportunity to reflect on on whether or not we need the paving and the decking and where it might even be possible to remove some of that and put plants back into the system to restore some of those inputs of carbon into the soil. 

Lily Billings [00:27:57] Yeah, I've actually been quite interested in a new phenomenon. Or maybe not so new, I'm not sure. But of moss lawns. So rather than having, you know, your traditional lawn, if you really must have one, the carbon sequestration properties of moss are pretty impressive. And yeah, I've just got this dream one day of having a moss lawn. Yeah. So a quick question there on that one. So obviously every location will have different species that will thrive better in those locations. So would you also suggest that it's important to make yourself aware of species that are native to your location? And not just to mean country, because it can be more specific than that. Like lots of local authorities, for example, who have a biodiversity action plan and will suggest that if you want to proactively try and improve nature in your area and therefore soil quality and biodiversity, it's important to plant things that are known to thrive in your particular area.

Mark Mason [00:28:58] Yeah, so I think it's interesting because we talk about restoration and habitat creation as being from the ground up. So in nature, soils will co-evolved with the community of plants and animals that are supported by them. So they influence what will grow there, but they're also altered by the plants that grow there. So if we, for example, want to create habitat on a site that's been used for something else, then we need to think about whether the properties of the soil are appropriate for the target species. So we'd want to at least measure things like the acidity, the pH, the water holding capacity. We've already talked about the fertility and the levels of nutrients. And then we can identify a habitat type that might be most appropriate. And in all cases, we then need to monitor how that develops over time to determine whether it will ever approach being fully self-sustaining or whether we need to manage it and enhance it by our own actions, like cutting and grazing of a meadow. And there's lots of guidance on that that's produced by organisations like the Woodland Trust for woodland creation, and Magnificent Meadows for meadows. But I think we also need to keep a close eye on how things change over time, particularly where the soil we started with might have been used very differently for the decades before we attempt to create a habitat on it.

Lily Billings [00:30:22] So am I right in thinking, you know, you mentioned about finding out the acidity levels of the soil. That's something that is actually quite easy for, you know, the general person to do. You can quite easily pick up like, you know, little kits can't you, so that you can test your own soil at home. 

Mark Mason [00:30:36] Yeah, absolutely. So you can get pH test kits from most garden centres. And then you can find online, you know, most providers of seed mixes will indicate the type of acidity that they will most likely be successful under. 

Lily Billings [00:30:51] Great. That's really good to know. It's probably worth asking you then. It's been a really interesting discussion with so many kind of offshoots of this conversation that we could go down because, you know, the topic of soil links with so many other important topics. And, you know, you mentioned fungi earlier as well. I mean, that's a whole new world that we're learning in the mainstream about. You know, you just have to go into Netflix and see how many documentaries there are about it, and so many books as well. So I think it would be, you know, where you are such an expert in this particular field. What's one thing that you'd like our listeners of this podcast to walk away with today? 

Mark Mason [00:31:31] I think an awareness the soil is a dynamic and living system, so it responds when we poke it basically. So anything you do to soil will have an impact. But there are simple things that we can do to protect it and improve it. And I think that particularly means keeping plants growing in it. 

Lily Billings [00:31:52] Thank you. Yeah, I really thank you so much for your time today. I think if you've got any suggestions, Mark, of where people can go to get more information on this, yeah, please do say so now. 

Mark Mason [00:32:03] Yeah, no, I will, because there are some really good resources out there and and it also gives me an opportunity to plug the CIEEM spring conference. That's being held in March. And we've got some fantastic ecologists and soil scientists talking about the role of soils in nature recovery. So check out the CIEEM website for details of the spring conference. And then there's also a load of really good resources provided by the British Society for Soil Science. From experiments for kids, up to policy and science notes for for decision makers. So definitely check out the CIEEM and the BS-cubed, as we call it, websites. And then for information from a more global perspective. You can find lots of resources on the on the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation around soils. And there's lots out there. I mean, also check out the Soil Association. 

Lily Billings [00:32:53] Great. Well, thank you so much Mark. It's been a fascinating discussion. Yeah. We really appreciate your time today coming to talk to us on this podcast. Thanks very much. And thanks to our listeners as well. 

Mark Mason [00:33:03] No problem. Thank you.