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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Soil

Soil

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Soil underpins 90% of all human food, fiber, and fuel and is essential for water and ecosystem health. It is a global carbon sink; holding an important role in the potential slowing of climate change. Soil conserves the remains of our past, it is a reservoir for genes and is an important element of our cultural heritage, through the maintenance of landscapes and biodiversity. Nevertheless, soil is being exploited and irreversibly lost and degraded as a result of conflicting demands from most economic sectors. More

Key facts and messages
Soil is a largely non-renewable natural resource that underpins a range of vital ecosystem services. Soil organisms play a key role in soil processes, such as bio-geochemical cycles, organic matter decomposition, and nitrogen transformation.... more
Certain regions of Europe are affected by soil salinisation, acidification, landslides or desertification, with considerable economic and environmental consequences. Soil degradation is accelerating in many parts of Europe, exacerbated by human... more
Soil erosion by wind and water, largely the result of unsuitable land management, deforestation, overgrazing, construction activities and forest fires, affects around 17% of Europe’s land area. Erosion rates and extents are expected to continue... more
Soil is being lost due to intensive soil sealing – about 4% of Europe’s total land area is sealed and the demand for urbanisation and transport infrastructure is rising. In addition, it is estimated that around 18% of agricultural soils... more
Industrialisation and poor management have left thousands of contaminated sites throughout Europe, resulting in human health impacts and environmental problems including groundwater contamination. While some countries have made significant progress,... more
Few countries have specific legislation to protect soil and there is no EU law or regulatory instrument that specifically addresses threats to it or requires the systematic collection of comparable data. The European Commission has published... more
115 million ha, or 12 % of Europe’s total land area, are affected by water erosion. 42 million ha are affected by wind erosion. more
Europe's soils store about 73 to 79 billion tonnes of carbon. Some 45 % of soils in Europe have a low or very low organic matter content (meaning 0-2 % organic carbon) and 45 % have a medium content (meaning 2-6 % organic carbon). more
Some authors estimate 36 % of European subsoils as having high or very high susceptibility to compaction. Other sources report 32 % of soils being highly vulnerable and 18 % moderately affected. (The use of heavy machinery in agriculture can... more
Salinisation stands for the accumulation of basic substances mainly from minerals in water and fertilizers which makes soils unsuitable for plant growth. It affects approximatly 3.8 million ha in Europe. The main driver is the inappropriate... more
500,000 sites with contaminated soil are are currently identified in Europe and need remediation. but up to 3.5 million sites may be potentially affected. more

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