The new EU Soil Observatory – EJP SOIL willing to contribute with strong member state engagement

In the light of World Soil Day, the EU Soil Observatory was launched on 4 December 2020, emphasizing and highlighting the importance of soil. The new EU Soil Observatory will be a dynamic and inclusive platform that will provide information and data needed to safeguard soils to the European Commission and the broader soil user community.

Healthy soils are at the heart of the Green Deal for Europe. The recent proposal by the European Commission for a Soil Health and Food Mission - ‘Caring for soil is caring for life’ - has set the ambitious challenge of ensuring that, by 2030, 75% of EU soils are healthy for food, people, nature and climate.

Over the next two years, the EU Soil Observatory (EUSO) will become a dynamic and inclusive platform that aims to support policymaking by:

  • Providing the Commission Services and the broader soil user community with the soil knowledge and data flows needed to safeguard soils.
  • Supporting EU Research & Innovation on soils with information gathered and organised by the Observartory.
  • Raising societal awareness of the value of soils.

Soil is the glue that binds the strategies of the Green Deal

EUSO is a great contribution to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal. Sustainable soil management and the restoration of degraded land is critical if biodiversity protection targets are to be achieved.

The EU Soil Observatory will support these strategies by:

  • Collecting high-resolution, harmonised and quality-assured soil information (showing status and trends) to track and assess progress by the EU in the sustainable management of soils and restoration of degraded soils;
  • Fostering networking, cooperation and partnerships among users of soil data and information;
  • Underpinning policy development through meaningful indicators and assessments.

According to Giovanni De Santi, EC of Joint Research Centre and chair of the EUSO launch event, the success of the EUSO is dependent on the involvement of member states.

EJP SOIL contributes with and encourages strong member state engagement

“We live in exciting times for soil.” EJP SOIL programme coordinator Claire Chenu, INRAE, states that it is a major challenge to predict the ability of a given soil to provide a given function or ecosystem service and to be able to access its degradation state. For this, she says, accurate, up-to-date, relevant and standardized soil information is needed originating from regional, national and or transnational monitoring systems.

Claire Chenu explains how the EJP SOIL works on the transnational harmonisation of the national soil information and its compliance with EU regulations.

Currently, the LUCAS soil monitoring system and a series of national soil monitoring systems exist co-independently. Both categories of monitoring systems should improve and evolve towards the common goal of the European Soil Observatory. It is ambitions and attractive for research, for soil protection and soil related policies at national and European scale.

The EJP SOIL envisions three points for the European Soil Observatory:

  1. Involvement of member states from the start. Strong two way communication and where member states identify benefits and where terms of reference and the implementation plan are co-constructed. The system is only valid if it is filled with data. Discussions should take place at two levels, the political level and the technical level.
  2. EJP SOIL encourages the commission to develop a distributed soil information system where member states are owners of own data and agree to share, parts or all data in a common format and model with EU for a specified use of this data.
  3. EJP SOIL scientists propose a mixed hybrid soil monitoring system that benefits from both the LUCAS system and the existing national soil monitoring systems. This is a mutual and highly valuable option full of richness.

EJP SOIL is enthusiastic about collaborating on the development of this new instrument on the technical/scientific level – as it does not represent the political level - and is honoured to take part in the celebration of the launch of the new EU Soil Observatory.