Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Preventing and Remediating degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care

Periodic Report Summary 2 - RECARE (Preventing and Remediating degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care)

Project Context and Objectives:
Although there is a large body of knowledge available on soil threats in Europe, this knowledge is fragmented and incomplete, in particular regarding the complexity and functioning of soil systems and their interaction with human activities.

As soil formation is an extremely slow process, soil can be considered a non-renewable resource. Soils should thus be adequately protected and conserved to ensure that soil functions are not lost or diminished. Soil functions are, however, threatened globally by a wide range of processes, and in Europe, a number of threats have been identified in the European Soil Thematic Strategy. The challenge is to prevent degradation and its adverse effects on soil functions and ecosystem services, while simultaneously improving lively-hoods

The main aim of RECARE is to develop effective prevention, remediation and restoration measures using an innovative trans-disciplinary approach, actively integrating and advancing knowledge of stakeholders and scientists in 17 Case Studies, covering a range of soil threats in different bio-physical and socio-economic environments across Europe.

Main objectives of RECARE are to:

1. Fill knowledge gaps in our understanding of the functioning of soil systems under the influence of climate and human activities,

2. Develop a harmonized methodology to assess state of degradation and conservation,

3. Develop a universally applicable methodology to assess the impacts of soil degradation upon soil functions and ecosystem services,

4. Select in collaboration with stakeholders, innovative measures, and evaluate the efficacy of these regarding soil functions and eco-system services as well as costs and benefits,

5. Upscale results from case studies to European scale to evaluate the effectiveness of measures across Europe,

6. Evaluate ways to facilitate adoption of these measures by stakeholders,

7. Carry out an integrated assessment of existing soil related policies and strategies to identify their goals, impacts, synergies and potential inconsistencies, and to derive recommendations for improvement based on RECARE results,

8. Disseminate project results to all relevant stakeholders.

Project Results:
Description of the work performed

Providing the base for data collection and methods (WP2)
The soil threats studied in RECARE were reviewed based on literature and (geo)databases. Key soil properties were identified to
1) determine status of degradation,
2) assess effect of measures, and
3) assess how degradation and remediation measures impact ecosystem services.

A framework for soil-based ecosystem services was developed, based on a literature review, a workshop with experts and by collecting feedback at several scientific and policy meetings. The framework informs the monitoring plans for field trials, the ecosystem service assessment, the policy impact assessment, and the selection of indicators for upscaling.

Assessing state of degradation and conservation (WP3)
Existing information at Case Study level was collected and used for case study descriptions in close collaboration with the review of soil threats at EU level in WP2 and with JRC, who facilitated access to geo-datasets available at EU level.
For the assessment of the state of degradation and conservation, the WOCAT mapping questionnaire (QM) was applied.

Stakeholder participation and valuation (WP4)
A standardized procedure was applied to identify relevant stakeholders. Guidelines and fact sheets on stakeholder involvement were developed to support establishing stakeholder platforms.

Selection of measures (WP5)
The selection of measures to be test-implemented at the case study sites was realised through training workshops, designing guidelines and tools, inclusion of promising SLM measures in the WOCAT database, and selection workshops.
WOCAT QT provides information on the measures which could be used to remediate soil degradation in the case studies, QA provides insight in the enabling conditions required to implement measures.
The selection of measures in the case study sites was informed by a literature review on existing measures against soil threats applied in Europe and the world.

Testing measures (WP6)
The selected measures are currently tested in field experiments.
The monitoring results obtained so far are promising as they give initial evidence on the impacts of the measures being tested.

Costs, benefits and adoption of measures (WP7)
Three methods were developed to assess costs and benefits of the implemented measures in the case study sites: impact assessment on ecosystem services, participatory model development using Bayesian Belief Networks and process-based cost-effectiveness analysis. These methods will be used in combination to provide the fullest picture possible. Work on all 3 is ongoing.

Applicability and effects of measures at European level (WP8)
In order to integrate results from WPs 3-7, WP8 has interacted with project partners to discuss upscaling results to the European scale.
A large part of the work has been devoted to developing a software environment able to run at 100 m resolution across Europe, and to adapt and enhance individual model components to allow the IAM to integrate prevention, remediation and restoration methods for various soil threats.

Policy analysis and recommendations (WP9)
A review of EU level policy instruments with relevance for soil has been completed. In addition, Member State instruments for RECARE study countries have been identified. These will be the focus of the policy impact assessment at national level.

Data use, management, and hosting (WP10)
A database management system for RECARE was developed, together with an online viewer. JRC has built the web hosting infrastructure to host RECARE data at the end of the project. The interactive web interface allows project partners to navigate and download baseline data and spatial data.

Dissemination and communication (WP11)
Information on the project has actively been disseminated since the start of the project. Early on, a strategy for dissemination and communication was developed, and is now being executed. The main achievements are:

• Continued development of the RECARE Dissemination and Communication Hub. This website is the central collection point and communication portal for RECARE. It is continuously updated with outputs from the project
• Case Study dissemination plans were made. These plans ensure that the Case Study outputs are communicated in an appropriate way to local/national stakeholders.
• Continued awareness raising of the RECARE project through: project leaflet, 3 newsletters, 7 soil threat fact sheets, journal articles, conferences and dissemination events, social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and publications trees.
• Presentations at multiple meetings.
• Production of films; 4 completed, 2 more planned.

Potential Impact:
RECARE will improve the scientific understanding of complexity and functioning of soil systems and interaction with human activities. The main RECARE scientific innovations are related to the integrated trans-disciplinary approach for assessing preventing, remediating and restoring soil degradation in Europe. RECARE will contribute scale-appropriate solutions to soil degradation problems, which will in addition restore soil functionality and ecosystem services throughout Europe.

The engagement of relevant stakeholders will help to i) identify existing obstacles to the integration of soil protection objectives into and between relevant policies and ii) to reveal solutions to overcome these impediments. RECARE will support improved implementation and coherence across a number of relevant EU policies and strategies.

List of Websites: