In Italy, the issue of slope stability and the threat of landslides are priorities in national soil protection legislation.
Photo: Bilderbox.com

23.08.2013

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Since 2006, a European Union-wide strategy on soil conservation has been in existence that is to address the complex roles that soil plays as a natural resource. However, a legally binding agreement has so far met with opposition by a blocking minority of EU Member States. Does the EU nevertheless offer prospects for soil conservation?

It is generally recognised that relevant soil degradation processes are on-going within Europe. There is increasing public awareness that soil contamination, soil erosion and landslides, and soil sealing by infrastructure and housing are a threat to our daily lives. But other, more subtle threats exist as well and are already affecting our lives by limiting vital soil functions. Soil compaction, soil salinisation, acidification, loss of organic carbon and the associated loss of biodiversity in soils are some of the threats that may be less visible to us but are equally important.

Addressing soil degradation in Europe has a long history. The oldest soil conservation service in the world is the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service, founded in 1907. Other European countries followed with dedicated legislative initiatives and public services and organisations addressing soil protection and conservation. Different priorities were identified by the various national soil conservation services and legislations. In most cases, soil protection was seen as a task within the improvement of agricultural production, but in some countries, already at a very early stage, other considerations emerged, linked especially with soil contamination and the large amount of historical industrial and mining installations that posed a severe problem for public health.

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