Healthy soils are one of our main life support systems. They are the foundation of 95% of the food we eat, host more than 25% of all biodiversity on the planet and act as the largest terrestrial carbon sink. Only by protecting, restoring and sustainably using our soils can we continue to enjoy benefits of healthy soils for people, food, nature and climate.
The state of European soils. Soil is a non-renewable natural resource, that, once lost, cannot be recovered during a human lifespan. Thus, it takes ecosystems about 500 years to form 2.5 cm of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions. Despite its clear value to society, 60 to 70% of EU soil ecosystems are in poor health.
What are the main drivers of soil degradation? Soils in Europe are threatened by a variety of factors, including soil erosion, pollution, compaction and sealing, soil salinisation and acidification as well as loss in soil biodiversity and in soil organic matter. This leads to a rapid decline in soil fertility and to soils losing their ability to provide key ecosystem services such as purification and storage of water, providing food or sequestering carbon. Key trends leading to soil degradation are agricultural intensification, climate change and urban sprawl.
What can we do to achieve good soil health? The lack of a dedicated EU legislative framework on soil is one important reason for the poor state of EU soils today. So far, soil protection in the EU has been fragmented and action under sector-related policies is clearly not enough. The EU has adopted a new EU Soil Strategy for 2030, as a key component of the European Green Deal, that aims to achieve healthy conditions of all EU soil ecosystems by 2050. A key commitment of this strategy is that the European Commission will propose a new Soil Health Law in 2023. A coherent legal framework is long overdue and absolutely essential to protect and restore European soils. If designed and implemented correctly, it has the potential to significantly improve soil health and thus the foundation of all life on earth.
of EU soil ecosystems are unhealthy.
of all soils worldwide could be at risk of poor health by 2050, without a radical change in the way we value and use our soils.
of European soil are washed away by erosion every year.