Our project

The Soil Health and Food (SH&F) mission board has set the goal to have 75% of European soils healthy or significantly improved by 2030. This is in line with other important European initiatives such as the Green Deal and EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy, as well as with preparations for a new EU law on the protection of Soil Health that aims to protect soils on the same legal basis as air and water. Meanwhile, the private sector too, is proposing explicit visions of sustainable food systems, such as the 1000 landscapes for 1 billion people (1000 landscapes, 2022), the 100-million farmers platform of the World Economic Forum (World Economic Forum, 2022) and the Regen10 initiative of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD, 2022).

Measuring the success of these public and private initiatives through the harmonised monitoring of European soils is an essential, but enormously complex task. It requires coherent yet context-specific monitoring on multiple scales for multiple land uses across all EU member states.

To address these challenges, BENCHMARKS collaborates with stakeholders in 24 European case studies to co-develop and evaluate a multi-scale and multi-user focused monitoring framework that is transparent, harmonised and cost-effective. Underpinned by the best scientific knowledge and technologies this framework aims to provide a clear soil health index for benchmarking, using indicators that are pertinent to the objective of assessment, applicable to the land use and logistically feasible.

This Integrated Soil Monitoring Framework combines a newly developed logical sieve method (Zwetsloot et al., 2022) soil health indicator selection, with sample, space (earth observation technologies) and 3 stats (existing and derived data) collection methods.

The multi-scale (local, landscape, regional and Europe) framework is developed for the land uses: agriculture, forestry and urban. Key outcomes of the project are:

  • A harmonised and cost-effective framework for measuring soil health

  • A review of SH&F and BENCHMARKS proposed indicators tested in the 24 Landscape Case Studies

  • An integrated soil health tool demonstrating the links between indicators, soil functions and ecosystem services

  • Scientific underpinning of soil health incentivisation schemes for value-chain businesses

BENCHMARKS works across scales and purposes

BENCHMARKS, scales and purposes

The story behind our logo:

Our Objectives & Work Plan

Stakeholders

BENCHMARKS works with a range of stakeholders across Europe to define the role of soil health in our society and how we can ensure that soil health plays a central role in developing multi-functional landscapes. In this regard, BENCHMARKS considers the engagement of stakeholders a crucial component in the development, testing and validation of the Integrated Soil Health Monitoring Framework (ISHMF) and in ensuring future application of this indicator framework post-project.

Together with WP2, WP4, WP5 and WP6, WP1 coordinates, direct and activate stakeholder involvement to ensure strong communication and integration.

Active measures proposed include outreach to stakeholders such as citizen science groups and communities to understand their demands and drivers and incorporate these into the scope of the project. At the level of indicator selection (WP2), stakeholders play a crucial role in defining the needs of the ISHMF. The proposed multi-scale case studies are ideal platforms for co-design and co-creation and workshops will be organised that bring the different regional case studies together to share experiences and connect with citizen science groups.

MRV Users evaluate the indicators for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) activities at local, national, European scales.

Types and methods for stakeholders’ engagement

Project Communication
Website, Social Media & Publications
Indirect
Surveys & Questionnaires
Direct
Meetings, Dialogues & Consultations
Active
Workshops & Site Visits