Report ‘Soil monitoring in Europe’ now published

A tremendous effort has been invested in soil monitoring in Europe, at country- as well as EU-level. However, there is so far no comprehensive and updated state of knowledge to identify healthy soils and those requiring protection. For the last few years, the European Topic Centre on Urban Land and Soil Systems (ETC/ULS) has followed EU-level research and literature on soil indicators, their relation to soil functions and soil threats, and their mapping and assessment. A report has now been published, which synthesizes this knowledge with the objective to identify criteria for healthy soils across Europe. ECT, represented by Jörg Römbke, contributed to this report.

The report primarily refers to indicators for soil threats. Soil threats are the result of altered soil properties under pressure, soil degradation imposed by unsustainable soil management and, increasingly, disturbances triggered or enhanced by climate change. All soil threats can be linked to one or several soil functions and ecosystems services, and this relation is considered when recommending thresholds, i.e. critical limits for the good condition of soils. Each threshold addresses a specific unwanted loss or deterioration of a soil function.

The report intends to create a firm baseline of knowledge about how soil indicators can be evaluated applying thresholds, which relate the current condition (health) of soils to the functions to be expected or strived for. The report also provides a logic to approach remaining questions (e.g. the representativity of thresholds and the effects of land use) through further research, assessments, and policy decisions.

It focusses on eight soil threats. Twelve soil quality indicators were selected to assess soil degradation related to various important soil functions or ecosystem services. In most cases, the selected indicators are well established, data availability at the European level is at least acceptable and the indicators are appropriate to describe key soil degradation types and impairment of key soil services.

For further information, see the report:

European Environment Agency (2023). Soil monitoring in Europe – indicators and thresholds for soil health assessments (editor: Baritz, R.; authors: Baritz, R., Amelung, W., Antoni, V., Boardman, J., Hijbeek, R., Horn, R., Prokop, G., Römbke, J., Romkens, P., Steinhoff-Knopp, B., Swartjes, F., Trombetti, M., de Vries, W.). EEA Report No 08/2022.

For additional new publications, see ECT’s publication list.