University research and teaching programs for geomorphic studies emphasize interactions between landforms, soils and climate change. Study of a land's geological history helps predict its future development. Many researchers seek to develop theories and formulas of interaction with nature that will alleviate soil degradation problems that result in non-sustainable food production systems. Understanding soil is an important aspect of home gardening.
Geomorphology is the study of the earth's landforms, the processes that shape them and the history of their development. It includes classification, description, nature, origin, relationship to underlying structures and geologic history. Soil erosion and addition of sediment to a landscape are important areas of geomorphic study. Land changes resulting from the influence of global climate change are included in geomorphology research.
The formal study of geomorphology began with the theories of Quaker William Morris Davis, grandson of the first American feminist, Lucretia Mott. His 1884 theory of the cycle of erosion was an important early contribution to land science, but is today considered overly simplistic. Modern geomorphic theory relies on precise quantitative analysis of interconnected processes to predict land changes such as erosion.
The study of patterns and consequences of soil erosion is part of the larger area of research about desertification. When topsoil is degraded through climate change or harmful agricultural practices, food production is severely damaged. The Center for Earth Leadership, an environmental advocacy group, reports that 30 percent of the world's arable land has become agriculturally unproductive as a result of soil erosion.
Exposed and eroded topsoil also causes downstream flooding, reduced water quality, sedimentation in rivers and lakes, and siltation of reservoirs and navigation channels, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Soil and physical land change related to desertification of large areas of the globe contributes to poverty, famine and wars. The study of the geomorphic importance of soil contributes to solving these larger issues.
The geomorphic importance of backyard garden soil is related to organic gardening and home composting. Home soils erode easily through natural rainfall and irrigation practices until soil conservation is practiced. Soil that is replenished regularly with homemade compost retains moisture and resists erosion. Preservation of topsoil is a primary focus of attention in national sustainable agriculture programs.