European soil is under pressure: sharing knowledge helps to make the right decisions

Published: 22 February 2019

Europe's Member States manage their soil in different ways. Partly because there is no European legal framework for soil but also because knowledge and insights have not been shared enough until now. In collaboration with European researchers working on land use and soil, Deltares has looked at soil use in Europe in the context of social challenges and sustainability.

The availability of land and soil in Europe is under enormous pressure. We need the soil for housing, food and biomass production, water management, leisure, biodiversity and culture. But our soil is also threatened by erosion, flooding, landslides, pollution, sealing and compaction.

The analysis shows that the scale of soil degradation in the EU is significant. Water and wind erosion affects 22% of soils, organic carbon levels are low in 45% of mineral soils, three million sites are polluted and 32-36% are very sensitive to compaction.

building plot

The right ingredients but no standard recipe

It is clear that we all benefit from better soil and land management. Unfortunately, there is no standard recipe. Good soil and land management depends on local conditions and the ecosystem services required. Not all European soil and land managers are aware of the added value of sustainable management or the consequences and costs of not working in that way. The reports from this study provide them with a picture of various aspects of soil and land management.

The reports of the researchers:

· demonstrate that soil degradation as a result of unsustainable management is a cross-border issue and that it affects human and ecosystem health;

· provide a picture of the benefits of implementing and overcoming barriers to sustainable soil management, as well as the socio-economic aspects of soil protection;

· provide a picture of how important it is to include soil quality in spatial planning: the ecosystem services supplied by soil and how we can use them;

· demonstrate the importance of consistent and interoperable soil monitoring and information systems and the potential of Earth observation methods.

The reports (and policy briefs) are available from this site.


SOILS4 EU is a three-year project commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment (Service Contract No. 07.0201 / 2016/742739 / SER / ENV.D.l,).

SOILS4EU will produce six reports with scientific background information on a range of soil-related issues in Europe and three policy briefs, organise six workshops and deliver the support needed to update and supply content for the European website and the wiki about soil-related policy instruments.

The project will be implemented by: Deltares, Netherlands (coordinator); lUNG Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation, Poland; UFZ- Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany; IAMZ – Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza, Spain; CSIC-EEAD Spanish National Research Council – Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, Spain.