This paper explores the concept of soil health from a human well-being perspective in Aotearoa New Zealand. Globally, soils play an integral role in wider society and the environment by maintaining a large range of ecosystem services and benefits. As populations and resource constraints increase and food production and food security become growing issues globally, there is a recognition of the importance of defining soil condition or soil health for sustaining all ecosystems, including services and benefits to humans, plants, animals, and micro-organisms. While the ecosystem services approach has helped to illuminate the varied services soils provide, an understanding of the complex human–soil relationships and values has been missing. Those seeking to understand and form concepts about soil health have concentrated on the more inherent biochemical, physical and economic (e.g., productivity) aspects of soils, but not on the human, social or cultural dimensions. It is argued in this paper that soils form an integral part of our social and cultural fabric and are fundamentally important to human and societal well-being. The way humans interact with, value and use soil is a critical part of determining the health and sustainability of soil ecosystems. We discuss how a well-being approach can improve understanding of soil health with respect to societal goals and needs. We believe this type of approach, which includes social and cultural dimensions, provides a more diverse and inclusive knowledge base and perspective to better inform the development of integrative policy. This would lead to improved management and decision-making of land resources and soils in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally.
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