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Soil is a vital component of natural capital, hosting rich biodiversity and providing critical ecosystem services, such as food production, water purification and carbon storage. However, European soils are under increasing pressure and comprehensive monitoring to asses soil health is lacking. Published today, a European Environment Agency (EEA) report presents a core set of soil indicators and critical limits for soil health.
European soils are under increasing pressure due to soil sealing, pollution, intensive agriculture and climate change. At the same time, there are management options to improve soil functions and health, including to sequester carbon, increase biodiversity and prevent erosion.
The EEA's ‘Soil monitoring report’ presents a comprehensive set of common indicators to assess soil health as well as risk-based thresholds to inform protection and restoration needs and soil-related policies in Europe.
The selected indicators address soil organic carbon, nutrients, acidification, pollution, biodiversity, erosion, compaction and sealing. For each indicator, the EEA report identifies thresholds beyond which soil functioning, for example for water purification or food production, is negatively affected. These thresholds can be regarded as critical tipping points for soil health and action points to safeguard soils.
The EEA assessment supports the EU soil strategy for 2030, which is an integral element of the European Green Deal with the overall aim of ensuring healthy soil ecosystems and sustainable use of EU soils.