Jamie Saunders wrote:
A rather interesting document from the European Commission
on problems with soil.
Towards a thematic strategy for Soil Protection
"Soil is essentially a nonrenewable resource with potentially rapid
degradation rates and extremely slow formation and regeneration
processes. The amount of land and thus soil available for food
production per person is limited. Where degradation of soil occurs,
the overall potential to perform its functions is reduced. Therefore
prevention, precaution and sustainable soil management should be at
the core of soil protection policies."
First a set of problems are identified
Decline in organic matter
Soil contamination through mining, atmosphere pollution
farming practices and waste (e.g. sludge)
Soil sealing - building onto of soil
decline in bio diversity
"Organic farming has been shown to be very effective preserving and
enhancing biodiversity. In a twoyear study in Austrian soils, beetles
were 94% more abundant in organic fields than in the conventional ones.
The number of beetle species was 16% higher. However, it is stressed
that quantification of soil biodiversity is extremely limited and
confined to projects of local relevance. "
Flood and landslides
Generally good reading and would be good for an A level or
degree student wanting to write an essay on soil.
Document then goes on to discuss specific local problems:
Its basically worse in meditarian where desertification is
a big problem.
and whats being done:
"In the UK, England is developing an overall soil strategy. The
consultation paper considers several types of pressure on soil and
lists sustainable responses. It sets out a new set of key soil
indicators and targets, and addresses the relation between soil
and landuse planning. "
Links with other EC policies are established: water, air, land use,
waste, common agricultural policy, transport, research (several
research programs looking at soil).
Then lots of fancy motivational words about whats to be done
including relavant legislation coming into force:
"By the end of 2004 a directive on compost and other biowaste will
be prepared with the aim to control potential contamination and to
encourage the use of certified compost. "
"Agrienvironmental measures aimed at soil protection range from
overall farm management systems such as organic farming (including
maximum stocking rates) and integrated crop management (ICM) to
specific measures such as notillage or conservation practices,
winter covers, use of compost and the maintenance of terraces. Measures
aiming at a reduced use of pesticides, such as integrated pest
management (IPM) or promoting balanced rotations can also contribute to
improve the condition of agricultural soils. "
Lots of other bits of legislation.
For future directions monitoring seems to be very important
"In presenting this Communication on soil protection, the
Commission is placing soil alongside water and air as environmental
media to be protected for the future. Soil is both essential to human
existence and subject to human activities.
In developing a soil protection strategy the Commission has taken a
pragmatic approach directed in the first instance towards the adjustment
of existing policies relevant to soil taking both a preventative
approach through the development of new environmental legislation and an
integrational approach for sectoral policies of particular relevance for
soil. This integrational approach is fully in line with the Cardiff
process and sustainable development.
In addition the Commission has established the need to provide a more
solid base through monitoring for actions in the future. These actions
will be beneficial not only to soil, but will also contribute to
reducing water and food contamination by hazardous pollutants and will
therefore contribute to the limitation of environmental impact on human
Soil protection has both a national and communitywide dimension and
requires that Member States implement national and community relevant
The Commission requests the Council and the European Parliament to
endorse the approach it has established in this Communication."
On the whole an interesting read, showing the EC at least knows
there is a problem. A few useful statistics. A little disappointing
for those looking for quick legislation. But definitely moving
in the right direction.
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