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Find Your Science at GSA
2 October 2008
GSA Release No. 08-59
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach

Sara Uttech
Program Manager, Communications

Topsoil's Limited Turnover: A Crisis in Time

Boulder, CO, and Madison, WI — Topsoil does not last forever. Records show that topsoil erosion, accelerated by human civilization and conventional agricultural practices, has outpaced long-term soil production. Earth's continents are losing prime agricultural soils even as population growth and increased demand for biofuels claim more from this basic resource.

Top geomorphologist David R. Montgomery of the University of Washington says that "ongoing soil degradation and loss present a global ecological crisis that, although less dramatic than climate change or a comet impact, could prove catastrophic nonetheless, given time" (GSA Today, v. 17, no. 10, p. 5).

Montgomery is an invited speaker for the Pardee Keynote Symposium, “Human Influences on the Stratigraphic Record,” on 9 October at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America-American Society of Agronomy-Crop Science Society of America, and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies in Houston, Texas, USA.

In his talk, Montgomery will present the record of erosion, both in historic civilizations and today, and address the long-term implications for agricultural sustainability, including the possibility that unchecked anthropogenic erosion will in time undermine the foundation of civilization itself.

Montgomery is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which recognizes individuals who have shown extraordinary originality, creativity, and dedication, a marked capacity for self-direction, and promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment.


Thursday, 9 October 2008, 8:30 AM
George R. Brown Convention Center, General Assembly Theater Hall A

View abstract:
“Records of Anthropogenic Soil Erosion: Implications for Agricultural Sustainability”

View Pardee Keynote Symposium session:
“Human Influences on the Stratigraphic Record”


For on-site assistance during the 2008 Joint Annual Meeting, 5-9 October, contact Christa Stratton or Sara Uttech in the Newsroom, George R. Brown Convention Center, Room 350B, +1-713-853-8329.

After the meeting, contact:
David R. Montgomery
Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences, University of Washington
Box 351310, Seattle, WA 98195-1310

For more information on the 2008 Joint Meeting visit