Assessing soil health on different spatial scales

To properly understand soils and the many ways in which soils influence other systems, we need to measure what is going on, on different scales: from one field to Europe-wide. Also, we need to know how soil properties develop over time and look at it’s dead as well as it’s living aspects. This research focusses on what we need to know, and when, and how precise, in order to draw useful conclusions.

The Soil Health and Food (SH&F) mission board has set the goal to have 75% of European soils healthy or significantly improved by 2030. These will be accomplished by numerous public and private initiatives. However, measuring the success of these initiatives through the harmonised monitoring of European soils is an essential, but enormously complex task.

To enhance our understanding of soil health, the selection of accurate and representative indicators is crucial, with considerations for scale and the purpose of monitoring assessments. However, the assessment of scale in terms of the relevance of indicator selection or the purpose of assessment has been largely overlooked. Yet, it is crucial to assess soil health accurately for the specific scale under consideration. When choosing sensor-based proxies for assessing soil health, it becomes evident that scaling up from finer, localized assessments to larger regions or globally leads to a decrease in prediction accuracy due to increased uncertainty. On top of that when scaling up to landscape and higher, the drivers of soil health and the threats faced by each ecosystem becomes challenging to identify. While fine-scale assessments benefit from extensive sampling and high-temporal data, such precision is often impractical at larger resolutions. Currently, there is a lack of knowledge about how much accuracy is needed across spatial scales to adopt more novel soil sensing techniques for soil health assessment, and this depends on the purpose of the survey. This significant gap, intensified by the lack of interpretation for each soil function and process, can be addressed through the implementation of a framework. This framework, termed an adaptive framework of soil indicators and proxies, is connected to soil functions and processes. Its utilization aims to achieve more accurate predictions for each scale. The basis of the proposed indicators and proxies involves samples (field and lab-based measurements), stats (existing data on soils, management practices, socioeconomic factors, and model-derived measurements), and space (digital technologies such as remote sensing, satellite technology, lidar, and drones). For more information regarding case studies please visit :