Soil conservation and protection in Europe - the way ahead


Courtesy of European Commission

This book introduces the reader to the current soil protection and conservation debate in Europe. It is written for the informed person with a background in for example environmental science, agriculture, forestry, geography or law. The focus of this book is not on the scientific analysis of the problem but rather on the actions that can be taken to improve and protect European soils. We have tried to minimise our use of technical terms. Although this book is about Europe, the issues we discuss have a global dimension. We have included many examples of successful soil conservation policies and strategies adopted in other countries, for example the USA, Brazil and South Africa, as well as examples from Eastern Europe (e.g. Hungary).

The book is based on the scientific platforms that were set up as part of the SCAPE project and contains information that was presented at free and open discussion. We were able to discuss soil conservation and protection with several hundreds of stakeholders. The scientific information that supports the interpretations we provide in this book can be located at

In Chapter 1 the reader will find an introduction and background material to the present day soil conservation and protection issues in Europe. Chapter 2 describes soil data, monitoring and information issues. In Chapter 3 we explore different aspects of sustainability. In Chapter 4 we summarise the results of many case studies, most of which illustrate the lessons that can be drawn from good practises. In Chapter 5 we discuss different approaches in policy and legislation. In Chapter 6 we present our conclusions that largely draw from the findings of the International Conference held in September 2005 in Iceland. At this meeting soil conservation scientists and practitioners got together with members of the legal profession in order to consider amongst other things, how current science and legislation possibilities could be brought together.

This book presents the conclusions of SCAPE in a way that can be used to guide public and professionals alike in their evaluations of future soil protection policy development. Many of the readers of this book will have only a limited experience with soils. But the reader should be aware that the soil is very complex and multi-faceted so that many scientists and experts are also partially in this position. Consequently, there is a danger that the people who advise policy makers might misjudge or overlook the significance of particular data or information. For the reader to understand what the soil is (see Appendix 2), what it does and why it is important to him, he does not need to have advanced education in chemistry, biology or to be an agronomist or forester.

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