From 22 to 23 May 2014, the JRC-IES hosted the European Soil Partnership plenary meeting, with the aim to define and develop the action plan of this new European initiative. The European Soil Partnership (ESP) has been established during the last Global Soil Week in October 2013, as a regional node of the Global Soil Partnership initiative, in order to federate all institutions and stakeholders in Europe willing to adopt the principles of the World Soil Charter. The objective of this regional network is to bring together the various scattered networks and soil-related activities into a common framework, open to all institutions and stakeholders willing to actively contribute to sustainable soil management in Europe.
The plenary meeting addressed ways to ensure a higher recognition of the central role of soil resources as a basis for food security and their provision of key ecosystem services, including climate change adaptation and mitigation; and draw the action plan for the five pillars defined by the European Soil Partnership:
- Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity
- Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil
- Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions
- Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines
- Harmonisation of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources
The meeting gathered a hundred of participants including members of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), the Soil National Reference Centres (NRC) of the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), the European Soil Bureau Network, the European Commission Directorate General for Environment, the European Environment Agency and representatives of the soil science community and stakeholders.
JRC-IES scientists Luca Montanarella chairs the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils and Arwyn Jones leads the global action plan for the second pillar of the European Soil Partnership.
Despite numerous regional and international projects, soil resources are still seen as a second-tier priority and no international governance body exists that advocates for and coordinates initiatives to ensure that knowledge and recognition of soils are appropriately represented in global change dialogues and decision making processes. In this context, the Global and European Soil Partnership seek to create a unified and recognised voice for soils.