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 proposes to aims to collaborate with stakeholders in 24 European case studies to create 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 provides 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 framework will be developed for land uses agriculture, forestry and urban, and will be multi-scale (local, landscape, regional and Europe). Key outcomes of the project will be:
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