Soil: the living treasure under our feet

Soil is a key component of Europe’s natural capital. It contributes to basic human needs by, among other things, supporting food provision and water purification. But our soils are threatened and undergoing degradation. Binding EU targets would be necessary if we are to restore and protect this essential resource.

Imperviousness in Europe

This interactive data viewer provides accounts of land surface sealing status and change in Europe (EEA39 and EU28) for every 3 years between 2006 and 2015, measured by the high resolution Copernicus imperviousness datasets. The viewer facilitates the assessment of soil sealing over a specific period, which can be analyzed within user defined spatial units such as administrative regions, biogeographical regions or land cover classes.

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.

Soils can both remove carbon from the atmosphere or emit greenhouse gas emissions. According to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, European soils are currently a net source of greenhouse gas emissions and, if not addressed, this could pose a risk to the European Union (EU) climate targets. Mitigation actions can reduce the loss of carbon and have important co-benefits on biodiversity, but some actions can also have trade-offs such as emissions of other greenhouse gases.

Published: 18 Jan 2023

A tremendous effort has been already invested in soil monitoring in Europe, at country and at EU levels. However, there is no comprehensive and updated body of knowledge for identifying healthy soils and those that are degraded and require protection.

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