The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. The goal is to enhance awareness of the important role that soils play in human life, especially as populations increase and global demand for food and fuel rises. Canadians such as University of Toronto Department of Chemistry professor Jennifer Murphy are at the forefront of critical studies into soil ecosystems. One of Murphy’s discoveries, published this past December in Nature Geoscience, is that nitrous acid, a primary contributor to smog, cannot survive exposure to sunlight but is continually refreshed by spending its nights hiding in soil.

University of British Columbia soil researchers have also dug up information about the quality of the earth that urban farmers are growing their vegetables in. UBC soil science students Gladys Oka and Lis Thomas discovered that community gardens in and around Vancouver are sites of potential metal toxicity from previous contamination and air pollution which may impact the quality of food grown.