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Soils function in a myriad of ways, including supporting plant growth, serving as a major component of the hydrologic cycle, recycling nutrients, providing habitat for soil organisms, and acting as an engineering medium. The importance of these soil functions to the environment as well as society cannot be understated.

Soil's role as a medium for plant growth includes anchoring the plant's root system; providing air, water, and nutrients to the roots; and protecting the root system from the temperature fluctuations (and extremes) that occur at the surface. Soil's support of plant life and role in nutrient cycling provides food and fiber for subsistence as well as livelihoods. As a component of the hydrologic cycle, soils serve as a reservoir that fills up in times of abundant ...

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