EU Science Hub

World’s soil resources: human pressure reaching critical limits

Soil in hands
Dec 04 2015

The overwhelming majority of soil resources across the globe are in poor condition and their health is worsening, according to the first global status report on soil resources, which is being presented today in Rome in anticipation of the World Soil Day (5 December). The JRC provided extensive contributions, particularly on the regional assessment of soils in Europe. The World Soil resources report is one of the main achievements of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) in the context of the International Year of Soil (IYS). The GSP is a voluntary partnership at global level which was set-up by FAO with the active support of the European Commission (which provides financial support to the GSP since 2014).  

Produced by the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) of the GSP to mark the International Year of Soils (2015), the report aims to galvanise collective efforts to achieve global sustainable management of soils. Soils are fundamental to life on Earth, yet they are under threat of continuous degradation. Further loss of productive soils will amplify food-price volatility, and potentially cause widespread poverty among millions of people. The main threats are soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter, and nutrient depletion. The relative impacts of these threats may vary at regional level. For Europe, the main threats are soil sealing, soil salinisation/sodification and soil contamination.

The four main recommendations of the report include sustainable soil management, stabilised stores of soil organic matter, reduced use of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus(P) fertilisers (except in regions with nutrient deficiency), and improved observation systems to monitor the progress in these three priority areas.

The report also highlights the lack of reliable data at global and regional level for making a detailed assessment of the status of soil resources, and calls for the development of more effective soil information and monitoring systems.

In another event marking the World Soil Day, the JRC is presenting a French version of the Soil Atlas of Africa, which also provides updated content, at the International Congress “Africa in Profile 2015” at Leuven University in Belgium.

Background

The report represents a milestone in the history of soil science – it brings together the work of some 200 soil scientists from 60 countries, and includes more than 2 200 literature references. It covers all aspects of soils in the world.