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Trends in Land Degradation in Europe

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1 Trends in Land Degradation in Europe
Luca Montanarella EUROPEAN COMMISSION JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE Institute for Environment and Sustainability TP 280 I Ispra (VA), Italy Arusha 11-15/12/2006

2 EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection adopted by the European Commission on the 22nd of September 2006 COMMUNICATION COM(2006) 231 on the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection DIRECTIVE COM(2006) 232 establishing a framework for the protection of soil and amending Directive 2004/35/EC IMPACT ASSESSMENT SEC(2006) 620 of the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection Arusha 11-15/12/2006

3 The impact of human activities on soil
Diffuse input of contaminants as particulates Manures and fertilisers Acids Sewage sludge Persistent substances Pesticides & herbicides Heavy metals Gravel extraction Accumulation/ Contamination Gradual disappearance of farms Soil erosion Compaction Release of toxic substances Salinisation Distruction of humus Sealing Acidification Blocking of soil functions important to the ecology of the landscape Destruction of soil Gradual destruction of soils Reduction in soil fertility Changes in the structure of soils Reduction in soil fertility Contamination of soils and ground water with applied agrochemicals and atmospheric pollutants Changes in soil composition Adverse impacts on living organisms in the soil Destruction of soil Arusha 11-15/12/2006

4 Threats to soil as identified in COM(2002) 179
Erosion Decline in organic matter Soil contamination Soil sealing Soil compaction Decline in soil biodiversity Salinisation Floods and landslides The EC communication “Towards a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection” COM (2002) 179 identifies 8 major threats to soils functionality in Europe: soil erosion, decline in organic matter, soil contamination (both local and diffuse), soil sealing, soil compaction, decline in soil biodiversity, salinisation and floods and landslides. The communication highlights for each of these threats the current status, trend and impact. Throughout the communication the major problem identified is the dramatic lack of policy relevant information on these threats in Europe. Information is generally scarce, fragmented, unreliable and generally not comparable between Member States. A somewhat better situation can be observed in the candidate countries, where a centralised economic system in the past has being actively promoting the collection of detailed soil information for planning purposes. Generally, a huge amount of scientific data have been collected so far by many different institutions in Europe (National soil surveys, Universities, Regional and Local authorities, etc.). While this information is often of high scientific value, it seldomly provides the necessary policy relevant information needed in order to design an effective soil protection strategy in Europe. We are still not capable to tell, for example, how many tonnes per hectare of soil a lost each year by erosion in Europe; what is the current concentration of soil organic carbon and how this concentration is changing over time; how many hectare per year of soil is sealed; etc… Future soil protection policies will only be effective if the extend and the evolution over time of soil degradation is known. Of course, for some of the threats, still basic research is needed in order to gain the necessary understanding of the underlying mechanisms. This is the case for soil biodiversity, where still only very little is known about the different species present in soils, with still many species probably still to be identified. Arusha 11-15/12/2006

5 PESERA Soil Erosion Risk Assessment
Similar approaches have been also applied to other threats to soils. Erosion, for example, is currently estimated in Europe by using advanced models, like the Pan-European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment (PESERA) model, that combine soil data from the European Soil Information System, with climate data, slope and relief data (Digital Terrain Models) and land cover data in order to get an estimate of the extent and intensity of erosion in Europe in tons per hectare per year of soil lost. As for organic carbon, these estimates need extensive validation before they can be used for policy making purposes. Water erosion: 115 Million ha Wind erosion: 42 Million ha Arusha 11-15/12/2006

6 Main human-induced driving forces
Soil disturbance e.g. ploughing up-and-down slopes Removal of vegetative soil cover and/or hedgerows Increased field size (open fields) Abandonment of terraces Late sowing of winter cereals Overstocking Poor crop management Inappropriate use of heavy machinery, in agricultural and forestry practices, but also during construction works. Arusha 11-15/12/2006

7 Consequences of erosion
On-site effects Loss of soil Loss of soil fertility due to disrupted nutrient cycles Restrictions on land use hindering future redevelopment and reducing the area of productive and valuable soil available for other activities (agricultural and forestry production, recreation etc.) Land value depreciation Off-site effects Damage to infrastructures due to excessive sediment load Diffuse pollution of surface water Negative effects on aquatic ecosystems and thereby biodiversity Reduced water retention capacity, hence higher flood risk Human health problems due to dust and particles in the air Arusha 11-15/12/2006

8 Cost of soil erosion Arusha 11-15/12/2006

9 Organic matter decline
Topsoil Organic Carbon Content (30cm) Model output Aggregated results Organic carbon content (%) in the surface horizon (0-30 cm) of soils National Soil Organic Carbon stocks (0-30cm) in Gt Organic matter decline Arusha 11-15/12/2006

10 Net rate of change in England & Wales = - 4.4 Mt yr-1
Estimated changes in carbon stocks across England & Wales (and UK) Bellamy et al., Nature 437, (2005) Net rate of change in England & Wales = Mt yr-1 Net rate of change in UK ≈ x UK / E&W topsoil OC stock ≈ -13 Mt yr-1 Arusha 11-15/12/2006

11 Soil organic carbon decline
Main human-induced driving forces Conversion of grassland to arable land Drainage of wetlands Poor crop rotation and plant residue management such as burning crops residues Accelerated mineralization due to management practices such as continued tillage Deforestation Arusha 11-15/12/2006

12 Consequences of SOM decline
Release of greenhouse gases Negative effects on biodiversity, including soil biodiversity Reduced water infiltration due to changes in soil structure, hence higher flood risk Reduced absorption of pollutants and increased water and air pollution Increased erosion with the effects stated above such as: Loss of fertile soil Loss of soil fertility (i.a. due to disrupted nutrient cycles) Damage to infrastructures due to excessive sediment load Diffuse pollution of surface water Negative effects on aquatic ecosystems and thereby biodiversity Restrictions on land use and hindering future redevelopment and reducing the area of productive and valuable soil available for other activities (agricultural and forestry production, recreation etc.) Land value depreciation Arusha 11-15/12/2006

13 Loss of Biodiversity in Soil
Consequences of biodiversity decline Reduced food web functioning and consequently crop yield losses Reduced soil formation Reduced nutrient cycling and nitrogen fixation Reduced carbon sequestration Reduced resilience of the soil to endure pressures Reduced recycling of organic waste/litter Increased plant pests and diseases Reduced water infiltration rate and water holding capacity Reduced bioremediation capacity Hampered soil structure (by affecting the stabilisation of organo-mineral complexes) Reduced genetic resources present in the soil, including moral and ethical consequences Negative impacts on terrestrial biodiversity outside of soil Fungy (35000) Nematodes (5000) Protozoa (1500) Algae (2500) Bacteria (3200) Acari (25000) Others (6200) Collembolla (6500) Number of known species in soil Arusha 11-15/12/2006

14 Soil Salinisation in Europe
Salinisation affects around 3.8 million ha in Europe Arusha 11-15/12/2006

15 Main human-induced driving forces for salinisation
Poor irrigation technology Inappropriate drainage Use of saline waters for irrigation and the overexploitation of groundwater Consequences of salinisation On-site effects Loss of soil fertility due to toxic effects of high salt content Loss of biodiversity Land value depreciation Off-site effects Reduced water infiltration and retention resulting in increased water run-off Damage to transport infrastructure from shallow saline groundwater Damage to water supply infrastructure Arusha 11-15/12/2006

16 Cost of Soil Salinisation in Europe
Arusha 11-15/12/2006

17 Main human induced driving forces
Soil contamination Main human induced driving forces Industrial installations Mining installations Illegal waste dumps and landfill sites not properly managed Storage of chemicals Accidental and provoked spills of chemicals Atmospheric depositions of dangerous substances Military sites Intentional introduction of dangerous substances in the soil Arusha 11-15/12/2006

18 Consequences of soil contamination
Risk to human health for people living on and in the surroundings of a contaminated site (through different exposure paths, e.g. consumption of food grown in from contaminated areas) Contamination of surface water, mainly through run off of contaminated sediments Contamination of groundwater and hence drinking water if extracted from groundwater Risk to human health through drinking water extracted underneath of a contaminated site Risk of ecotoxicity for the flora and fauna living in the soil on the site and around a contaminated site causing loss of biodiversity and biological activity Loss of soil fertility due to disrupted nutrient cycles Restrictions on land use and hindering future redevelopment and reducing the area of productive and valuable soil available for other activities (agricultural and forestry production, recreation etc.) Land value depreciation Arusha 11-15/12/2006

19 The Cost of Soil Contamination
Estimated total annual cost caused by soil contamination for EU25 (€ M, 2003) On-site costs Off-site costs Total Lower bound estimate 96 2,283 2,379 Intermediate estimate 192 17,126 17,318 Upper bound estimate 289 207,615 207,904 Arusha 11-15/12/2006

20 Soil Compaction in Europe
36% of European Soils are having high or very high susceptibility to compaction Arusha 11-15/12/2006

21 Source: R. Horn, personal communication
Soils in Europe can support different loads depending on their soil strength Source: R. Horn, personal communication Precompression stress at a given pore water pressure pF 1.8 for topsoils of Europe in relation to a given low topsoil load (tyre inflation pressure: 60 kPa), high topsoil stress: 200 kPa) Classification of the effective soil strength by the relationship of precompression stress to soil pressure: >1.5 very stable, elastic deformation, stable, labile, >0.8 unstable, additional plastic deformation. Arusha 11-15/12/2006

22 The Impact of Soil Compaction in Europe
Damage due to increasing soil deformation After rain storm Rapid water table increase in rivers and lakes Reduced groundwater recharge erosion N2O gas emission N - loss due to stagnic water Effects on the environment Surface water runoff increase Heavy machinery compacts arable, forest, and pasture soils Consequences for plant production Reduced growth, higher uncertainty less yield Increased fungi deseases, more weeds Reduced root growth (less dense and deep) Soil biota suffers Soil quality declines due to reduced pore volume, - reduced aeration Water infiltration reduced, - soils remain longer wet and cold, more slaking problems, reduced water storage Effects on soil management - higher draft energy required, - higher fuel consumption, - wet and cold soils result in smaller number of working days, - more fertilizers needed Dust emission increased Arusha 11-15/12/2006 Source: R. Horn, personal communication

23 Soil Sealing by Infrastructure and Housing
Arusha 11-15/12/2006

24 The Impact of Soil Sealing
Main human driving forces for sealing Urban sprawl Increased transport Movement of population Consequences of sealing Disruption of gas, water and energy fluxes Increased flood risks Reduced groundwater recharge Increases water pollution (due to runoff water from housing and traffic areas being normally unfiltered and potentially contaminated with harmful chemicals) Loss in soil and terrestrial biodiversity (due to fragmentation of habitats) The Impact of Soil Sealing Arusha 11-15/12/2006

25 Landslides Arusha 11-15/12/2006

26 Main human-induced driving forces for landslides
Rupture of topography such as due to construction works Land use changes such as deforestation and land abandonment Extractions of materials Arusha 11-15/12/2006

27 The Cost of Landslides in Europe
Arusha 11-15/12/2006

28 Conclusions Extensive soil and land degradation processes are occurring in Europe. Observed degradation processes are mostly human induced. Extreme climatic events may further exacerbate the impact of the land degradation on local population. The total costs of soil degradation that could be assessed for erosion, organic matter decline, salinisation, landslides and contamination on the basis of available data, would be up to €38 billion annually for EU25. The recently adopted Soil Thematic Strategy by the European Commission provides the legal framework for EU Member States to implement adequate responses in order to revert the negative trend of land and soil degradation in Europe. Arusha 11-15/12/2006

29 Desertification and Climate Change
Preliminary announcement Wengen-2007 International and Interdisciplinary Workshop Desertification and Climate Change Hotel Regina, Wengen, Switzerland, September 10-14, 2007 Co-organized by: Michel Verstraete, Andreas Brink and Luca Montanarella European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra, Italy Bob Scholes Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa & Martin Beniston Universities of Geneva and Fribourg, Switzerland Arusha 11-15/12/2006

30 Thank you for your interest!
“Unity in diversity” Arusha 11-15/12/2006

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