The Impact of Policy Instruments on Soil Multifunctionality in the European Union

Vrebos, Dirk; Bampa, Francesca; Creamer, Rachel; Gardi, Ciro; Ghaley, Bhim; Jones, Arwyn; Rutgers, Michiel; Sandén, Taru; Staes, Jan; Meire, Patrick


Agricultural ecosystems provide a range of benefits that are vital to human well-being. These benefits are dependent on several soil functions that are affected in different ways by legislation from the European Union, national, and regional levels. We evaluated current European Union soil-related legislation and examples of regional legislation with regard to direct and indirect impacts on five soil functions: the production of food, fiber, and fuel; water purification and regulation; carbon sequestration and climate regulation; habitat for biodiversity provisioning; and the recycling of nutrients/agro-chemicals. Our results illustrate the diversity of existing policies and the complex interactions present between different spatial and temporal scales. The impact of most policies, positive or negative, on a soil function is usually not established, but depends on how the policy is implemented by local authorities and the farmers. This makes it difficult to estimate the overall state and trends of the different soil functions in agricultural ecosystems. To implement functional management and sustainable use of the different soil functions in agricultural ecosystems, more knowledge is needed on the policy interactions as well as on the impact of management options on the different soil functions