SOILS4EU, importance of soils for societal challenges in Europe

In Europe, different Member States manage their soil and land in different ways. This is partly because there is no legal European framework for soils. In SOILS4EU we work together to raise awareness and provide insight how soil can contribute to social challenges and what the positive effects are of unsustainable land use.

Availability of land and soil is under pressure. Land and soil are needed for multiple and competing uses, such as supporting houses, food and biomass production, biodiversity, water management, leisure and other cultural aspects. Soils in the EU are exposed to numerous pressures which limit their ability to deliver their ecosystem services. Threats include erosion, floods and landslides, loss of soil organic matter, salinisation, contamination, compaction, sealing, and loss of soil biodiversity.

The scale of soil degradation in the EU is significant. Water and wind erosion affect approximately 22% of European land. 45% of the mineral soils in Europe have low or very low organic carbon content. Soil contamination affects up to three million sites and an estimated 32-36% of European subsoils are classified as having high or very high susceptibility to compaction. Due to accelerating drivers behind degradation such as increasing urbanisation, land abandonment, and intensification of agricultural production, soil degradation processes continue to undermine soil functions.

Algarve, golfcourse erosion

We all benefit from better soil and land management. Unfortunately, there is no standard recipe for good soil management or land management. The optimal management depends on which ecosystem services are demanded by society and on local soil characteristics. On top of that, many stakeholders in soil and land management are not or insufficiently aware or the benefits soil and land can deliver and of the impacts and costs of unsustainable management. Therefore, this study gives insight in many aspects of soil management or land management such as:

·       Showing that soil degradation by unsustainable management has transboundary aspects and impact on human health

·       Giving insight in the benefits and overcoming barriers of implementing soil sustainable management, as well as socio-economic aspects of soil protection

·       Giving insight in the importance to take soil quality into account in spatial planning; the ecosystem services of soil and how we can use them

·       The importance of (consistent and interoperable) soil monitoring and information systems and the potential of Earth Observation

SOILS4 EU is a three-year contract commissioned by the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission (Service contract No 07.0201/2016/742739/SER/ENV.D.l, duration–).

SOILS4EU produces six in-depth reports providing scientific background on a range of soil and soil-policy related issues in Europe, three policy briefs, logistic and organisational support for six workshops, and the organisation and provision of content to the European website and the wiki platform on soil-related policy instruments.

The work is performed by: Deltares, The 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.