The EU Soil Thematic Strategy: outline and current situation in the debate

Soil provides us with food, biomass and raw materials. It serves as a platform for human activities and landscape and as an archive of heritage and plays a central role as a habitat and gene pool. It stores, filters and transforms many substances, including water, nutrients and carbon. In fact, it is the biggest carbon store in the world (1,500 gigatonnes). These functions must be protected because of both their socio-economic and environmental importance. Soil is subject to a series of degradation processes or threats. These include erosion, decline in organic matter, local and diffuse contamination, sealing, compaction, decline in biodiversity, salinisation, floods and landslides. A combination of some of these threats can ultimately lead to desertification under arid or sub-arid climatic conditions.

Given the importance of soil and the need to prevent further soil degradation, the Sixth Environment Action Programme called for the development of a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection. On 22 September 2006 the European Commission published the Thematic Strategy for soil protection (‘the strategy’). This strategy contains three documents: a Communication, a proposal for a Framework directive and an Impact assessment.

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