Soil is made up of mineral particles, organic matter, water, air and living organisms, and is a complex, variable and living medium. It's a non-renewable resource which performs many vital functions: food and other biomass production, storage, filtration and transformation of many substances including water, carbon, and nitrogen. All of these functions make soil worthy of protection.
Erosion, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinisation, landslides, contamination, and sealing… all these contribute to accelerating soil degradation, with negative effects on human health, natural ecosystems and climate change, and our economy.
Soil needs to be protected in its own right as it forms the very basis of human activities and of natural ecosystems. It also provides us with food, drinking water and raw materials. As a major carbon store it plays a crucial role in the water cycle.
The European Commission adopted a strategy for soil protection in September 2006. The aim is to fill the gaps between different EU policies which already contribute to soil protection (for example, water, waste and agriculture) and will also provide Member States with a systematic European approach. Currently only 9 EU countries have specific legislation on soil protection. The Commission has proposed legislation for a soil framework directive, but the Environment Council has not yet adopted a position on the proposed legislation.