New Soil Health Dashboard Reveals Alarming State of EU Soils

New Soil Health Dashboard Reveals Alarming State of EU Soils

The EU Soil Observatory (EUSO) has developed a new tool, the Soil Health Dashboard, which is a key element of the EU Soil Strategy for 2030. The dashboard aims to specify the conditions required for healthy soils, identify options for soil monitoring and establish rules for sustainable soil use and restoration, in support of the European Commission’s forthcoming proposal for a soil health law and the indicators proposed by the Soil Mission of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe.

New Soil Health Dashboard Reveals Alarming State of EU Soils
New Soil Health Dashboard Reveals Alarming State of EU Soils

The EUSO Soil Health Dashboard is based on a set of 15 indicators covering nine themes: soil erosion, soil pollution, nutrients, soil organic carbon loss, soil biodiversity loss, soil compaction, soil salinisation, soil organic matter loss and soil sealing. The dashboard is based on the scientific evidence available to date, but covers only a subset of the degradation processes affecting soils. The EUSO team hopes that the dashboard will highlight the current gaps in soil data and guide improved data sharing and targeted research.

The dashboard is a novel approach that uses a convergence of evidence approach, spatially combining datasets to highlight the intensity and location of soil degradation processes. It provides a map showing the areas likely to be affected by soil degradation, indicating where unhealthy soils may be located in the EU. The map is based on EU-wide harmonised datasets, most of which were developed by the JRC and provided by the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC), the European Environment Agency (EEA) and other institutions.

The EUSO Soil Health Dashboard also shows overlaps between pairs of the 15 soil degradation processes, highlighting typical associations. Thresholds have been set for each soil degradation process to determine when soils can be considered healthy or unhealthy, based on a combination of scientific estimates and established critical limits.

According to the dashboard, a staggering 61% of EU soils are in an unhealthy state, with the most common types of soil degradation being loss of soil organic carbon, loss of soil biodiversity and risk of peatland degradation. The dashboard shows that most unhealthy soils are subject to more than one type of soil degradation, indicating that the soil restoration agenda needs to address different types of soil degradation.

The set of indicators, together with thresholds for soil health status, will evolve in line with the implementation of the forthcoming EU soil health legislation, scientific developments and improved data flows from EU countries. Additional elements will be developed to reflect the implementation of specific policy strategies and legislation, such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the Biodiversity Strategy, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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