New atlas reveals Europe’s soil biodiversity is under threat

29 Sep 2010

Europe’s valuable soil biodiversity could be under threat, according to findings of a new the European Commission (EC) atlas.

The EC’s own research body, the Joint Research Centre, has published the indicator-based map of potential threats to soil biodiversity, which they hope will guide decision-makers in protecting soil biodiversity – which plays a vital role in agriculture and in the water and carbon cycle.

According to the atlas, the areas of Europe where soil biodiversity is most at risk include parts of the UK, the Benelux countries and northern France – although other Member States are areas of high risk also, it says.

Multiple threats include to soil biodiversity include: land use change, habitat disruption, intensive human exploitation, invasive species, soil compaction, erosion and pollution.

“Soil is essential to the biodiversity, which makes life on earth possible and keeps our economies sustainable. Soil degradation threatens our access to food, clean air and water, as well as many crucial raw materials. This atlas is a major European contribution to the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity 2010. It will raise awareness about the need for the ‘Soil Framework Directive’ the Commission first proposed in 2006 and help prevent further soil degradation and repair the damage already done. Unless we tackle this problem soon and in a co-ordinated manner, it will cost a lot more to put it right,” said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, commissioner for research, innovation and science and Janez Potočnik, commissioner for environment:

The atlas examines the soil environment, its multiple uses, the ecosystem “goods and services” that it provides, and the role that the soil biota play in these.