Soil monitoring in Europe. Indicators and thresholds for assessing soil quality

Apart from specialists, people don’t bother much about the soil. And yet everyone understands intuitively that there are different soils with their own characteristics and that therefore every type of soil has different qualities and possibilities. The 2021 ETC/ULS Report with the title “Soil monitoring in Europe. Indicators and thresholds for soil quality assessments” deals with precisely these differences, with the aim of setting out the limits of soil quality. The acronym ETC/ULS stands for European Topic Centre on Urban Land and Soil Systems and is part of EIONET (the European Environment Information and Observation Network) which is part of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

We promise not to use any more acronyms!

“The development of adequate and broadly applicable indicators and thresholds is challenged by the great diversity of European soils and climate, as well as different political, economic, and social conditions which lead to different priority settings for targets and indicators. There are 23 main soil types, four prevailing macroclimatic zones, and eight recognised soil threats, which all together form a complex matrix of basic different environmental growing conditions, whereas each of them requires specific responses to optimize and sustainably use the available resources.

This report describes the rationale for a series of common and broadly accepted soil quality indicators. The indicators were selected in view of their appropriateness to assess the condition of soils, its degradation, its resilience, and its valuable services. In particular, the available state-of-the-art knowledge has been compiled to evaluate each indicator using thresholds for the good condition of soils. In this respect, the report provides a framework for the observation of soils, using a broadly accepted indicators. They are specified with the objective to help achieving the best possible degree of harmonization.”

While this report is already available for download on the EIONET website, it has not yet been finalised. It has been published in order to allow different organisations, technical bodies, and above all EU member states to revise it. We recommend reading it and especially reflecting critically on its contents.