EJP SOIL Glossary

Agricultural Soil Ecosystem Services (ASES): Ecosystem services derived from soil functions that can be provided by agricultural soils, and can be divided into four categories, as based on Weil & Bradley (2017)2:  

Provisioning Services - providing goods such as food, feed, medicines, fuel and fibre. 

Regulating Services – processes such as the regulation of water flow, floods and other climate events, decompose wastes, control pests, and carbon sequestration and storage. 

Supporting Services, services necessary for the production of other ecosystem services such as nutrient retention and cycling, primary biomass production, soil formationhabitat provision and pollination.   

Cultural Services, non-material benefits such as spiritual uplift, scenic views, recreational opportunities, geological and archaeological archive. 

Aspirational goal: A hope or ambition of achieving something. In this document, aspirational goals are the long-term goals (2050) to work towards, expressed by national and EU stakeholders.

Barriers: a barrier is any element or action that hinders the achievement of an aspiration. In our specific case, we intend to define the barriers that hinder the growth of knowledge on agricultural soils in each compartment of knowledge (see ‘Knowledge’).

Climate Smart and Sustainable Agriculture (CSSA):  an approach, developed by the FAO, that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate (FAO, 2020).

Climate Smart Sustainable Soil Management – soil management for CCSA. The elements Climate smart sustainable soil management are improve water storage & water use efficiency, control soil erosion & land degradation, improved soil biodiversity, improved soil structure management, improved nutrient management and soil organic matter (SOM) management for C-sequestration (Paustian et al., 2016[1]).

Decision Support Tools: wide range of computer-based tools or systems (simulation models, and/or techniques, databases, GIS, and georeferenced/statistical or other methods) developed to support decision analysis and participatory processes. Important features should be its user friendliness meaning its simplicity, flexibility, and capability of presenting data and model outputs for e.g. policy and decision makers. 

Economy driver refers to the economic aspects of land management practices (costs and benefits), yields and profits (i.e. costs, market demand, etc.) to overcome soil challenges.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT): computers, smart phones, internet and other media that are used in different aspects of agricultural soil management, increasing access of farmers to both agricultural soil information, extension services advice, and capacity building opportunities. 

Land management categories:

  1. Crops and crop rotations: Choices that farmers make regarding the crop types and rotations; e.g. cover crops, shift towards more protein crops, grasslands;
  2. Organic matter and nutrient management: Choices that farmers make regarding, e.g., fertilization types and doses, precision fertilization techniques, crop residue management, on-farm composting, manure treatment, crop residue management and manure treatments;
  3. Tillage and traffic: Choices that farmers make regarding types, depth and intensity of tillage practices such as ploughing vs. non-inversion tillage, contour ploughing, intensity of seedbed preparation Traffic choices include size and weight of field machinery, tires and inflation pressure regulation, field traffic intensity. 
  4. Crop protection: Choices that farmers make regarding pest, disease and weed control, e.g. mechanical weeding vs. chemical weed control.
  5. Water management: Choices that farmers make regarding for example irrigation, regulating ground water levels for rewetting or drainage
  6. Agricultural systems: Sometimes farmers make clear choices towards a certain farming system, such as agro-ecological production methods, agroforestry, conservation agriculture or organic agriculture. These systems have a holistic approach and integrate choices regarding crops/rotations, organic matter and nutrient management, tillage and traffic, and crop protection. The reason why agricultural systems are a separate category here, is that they are often mentioned in policy documents and are understandable by multiple stakeholders.
  7. Buffer strips and small landscape elements (eg grass buffer strips, hedges): Buffer strips and small landscape elements do not only have a local impact, but they affect also soil functions and processes and ecosystem services in the wider area. Small landscape elements might be a source of organic residues that can be used to improve soils in the area.


Goal: something important that policy intends to achieve in the future, even though it may take a long time. The overarching EJP goals are: ‘good agricultural soil management for: climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable production, ecosystem services and less soil degradation.’

Indicator: Parameter used to quantify and valuate impacts of agricultural soil practices on soil quality and the environment to draw conclusions for the farming practice or agricultural policy (modified after Piorr, 2003)[2].

Knowledge framework (Dalkir, 2005[3]): in EJP-Soil four compartments of knowledge have been identified: i) Knowledge development, ii) knowledge harmonisation, organisation & storage iii) knowledge sharing & transfer and iv) knowledge application. These four compartments are part of a cyclic process to enhance the development and use of knowledge on agricultural soils. In particular:

  1. Knowledge development refers to the existing knowledge, knowledge gaps, and research needs to provide new knowledge and innovation related to the main soil challenges. These issues can be impacted by soil management strategies; and it is important to study these interactions both from biophysical and from a socio-economic perspective.
  2. Knowledge sharing & transfer refers to strengthening scientific capacities and cooperation, establishing soil networks for scientists, science-policy and science-society and capacity building for young soil scientists and societal stakeholders, i.e. farmers and advisors, policy makers, landowners and managers, civil society and industry. The purpose is to create connected networks.
  3. Knowledge application refers to the activities that lead to an impact, such as the implementation of climate-smart sustainable soil management practices. The impact goals are (i) fostering the adoption of climate-smart sustainable soil management practices which are conductive to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and (ii) developing region- and context-specific fertilization practices (soil, water and pedo-climatic conditions).
  4. Knowledge harmonization, organization and storage of soil information refer to supporting harmonised soil information, for advancing agricultural research and international reporting. Particularly, it aims to: (i) improve harmonization of data, standardisation of methods for soil sampling, analysis and mapping; (ii) support research on agricultural soils, monitor soil fertility and quality, and improve inventories, measurements, reporting and accounting activities at different scales; (iii) improve EU contributions to global soil mapping activities, and (iv) facilitate sampling and further development of the LUCAS database.


Nature-Based Solutions: Actions for societal challenges that are inspired by processes and functioning of nature. By developing and implementing solutions that are supported by nature, resilience is achieved while producing societal, environmental, and economic benefits.

Opportunities: an opportunity is any element or action that favors the achievement of an aspiration. In the specific case the development of knowledge on agricultural soils in each compartment of the knowledge framework we adopted in EJP SOIL.

Policy ambition: In this document, the term policy ambition refers to the broader description of what a policy package (at the EU, national or regional level) wants to achieve and how. It assembles some (quantified) targets, policy monitoring tools, management practices encouraged by policy and other policy instruments.

Policy driver refers to agro-environmental regulations encompassing aspects of soil challenges (e.g., CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), SDGs (Sustainanble Development Goals), and Climate Policy at the Member State and European level).

Policy instruments the instruments/tools that are used to reach policy targets. Four categories of instruments are typically identified: mandatory regulation, economic instruments, voluntary approaches and educational/informational instruments (Cocklin et al., 2007[4], McNeill et al., 2018[5]). This includes financing mechanisms such as carbon markets and management practices that will be encouraged.

Policy monitoring tools: the tools that are used or need to be developed to monitor policy targets.

Social-cultural driver refers to a community characterized by typical land management with traditional practices, gender norms, willingness of farmers, and social acceptance of specific measures to adopt more sustainable practices.

Soil challenges: different soil processes that need to be prevented or reinforced to prevent soil degradation and to maximize soil functions and ecosystem services and to reach policy ambitions, aspirational goals and EJPSoil goals:

  • Maintain/increase SOC
  • Avoiding N2O, CH4 emissions from soils
  • Avoid peat degradation
  • Avoid soil erosion
  • Avoid soil sealing
  • Avoid salinisation
  • Avoid acidification
  • Avoid contamination
  • Optimal soil structure
  • Enhance soil biodiversity
  • Enhance soil nutrient retention/use efficiency
  • Enhance water storage capacity


Soil Degradation is “the diminishing capacity of the soil to provide ecosystem goods and services as desired by its stakeholders (IPBES, 2018)”. (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B) 

Soil Fertility: “the ability of the soil to supply essential plant nutrients and soil water in adequate amounts and proportions for plant growth and reproduction in the absence of toxic substances which may inhibit plant growth” (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B) 

Soil Health is “the soil’s fitness to support crop growth without becoming degraded or otherwise harming the environment (Acton and Gregorich, 1995)”. (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B) 

Soil Organic Carbon (SOC): Carbon contained in soil organic matter (IPPCC, 2019)5 

Soil organic carbon (SOC) storage: is the soil´s function to store Carbon in a given land unit and for a defined depth as SOC. SOC stocks variations over time are accounted for (IPCC, 2006). (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B) 

Soil organic carbon sequestration: is the process of transferring CO2 from the atmosphere into the soil of a land unit, through plants, plant residues and other organic solids which are stored or retained in the unit as part of the soil organic matter. Retention time of sequestered carbon in the soil can range from short-term (not immediately released back to atmosphere) to long-term (millennia) storage. (Olson et al. 2014)”. (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B);

Soil Quality: “the capacity of a soil to function within ecosystem and land-use boundaries to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health (Doran and Parkin, 1994).” (p. 11 of EJP Soil – Annex 1 - Part B) 

Soil Quality Indicator: Parameter used to quantify and valuate impacts of agricultural soil practices on soil quality and the environment to draw conclusions for the farming practice or agricultural policy (modified after Piorr, 2003)6.  

Soil threats (and soil challenges): soil threats can be defined as processes or agents that could deteriorate (some of) the functions of soils and the services that soils provide. For the European soils major soil threats are: soil erosion by water and wind, decline in soil organic matter in peat and mineral soils, soil compaction, sealing, contamination, salinization, desertification, decline in soil biodiversity (EU, 2006[6]). Each soil threat represents also a challenge to be overcome for preserving soil from degradation. In this document we will refer to these matters as soil challenges. By converting the negative into the positive, farmers can optimise primary soil functions and related ecosystem services (see glossary for an overview of the agricultural soil ecosystem services (ASES)).

Stocktake is an inventory of a given information, searched in a systematic way across the EJP SOIL participating countries (e.g. which models are currently used for accounting and policy support regarding soil C or how do national or regional fertilisation guidelines account for soil characteristics or what is soil science education in the partner countries) (p. 21 of EJP SOIL – Annex 1 - Part B). 

Sustainable soil management: Soil management is sustainable if the supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural services provided by soil are maintained or enhanced without significantly impairing either the soil functions that enable those services or biodiversity (FAO, 2015)[7].

Synthesis refers to when information is gathered and synthesised but with no systematic country scale inventory, e.g. synthesis on management methods that minimize total GHG emissions from rewetting organic soils (p. 21 of EJP SOIL – Annex 1 - Part B). 

Target: Specific goals that have to be reached within a given time frame. Usually, targets are quantified and to be reached within a given time frame e.g., to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030 compared to 2005.

[1] Paustian, K., Lehmann, J., Ogle, S., Reay, D., Robertson, G. P., & Smith, P. (2016). Climate-smart soils. Nature532(7597), 49-57.


[2] Piorr, H. P. (2003). Environmental policy, agri-environmental indicators and landscape indicators. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment98(1-3), 17-33.

[3] Dalkir, K., 2005. The knowledge management cycle. Knowledge management in theory and practice. Oxford: Elsevier, pp.25-46.


[4] Cocklin, C., Mautner, N., & Dibden, J. 2007. Public policy, private landholders: Perspectives on policy mechanisms for sustainable land management, Journal of Environmental Management 85(4): 986-998.

[5] McNeill, A., Bradley, H., Muro, M., Merriman, N., Pederson, R., Tugran, T., Lukacova, Z., (2018),  Inventory of opportunities and bottlenecks in policy to facilitate the adoption of soil-improving techniques. Scientific Report No. 9, www.soilcare-project.eu

[6] European Commission (EC): Communication from the Commis- sion to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Eco- nomic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, COM 231 Final, Brussels, 2006.

[7] FAO, 2015, Voluntary Guidelines for sustainable soil management.