Preventing and remediating degradation of soils in Europe through land care

Published on
November 28, 2013

The European Commission recently granted Wageningen University and partners a 11 million euro international research project focusing on preventing and remediating soil degradation in Europe. The RECARE project is a joint initiative of 27 institutions and organisations in Europe. Wageningen University is lead contractor, with a.o. Alterra and ISRIC as partners.

The cross-cutting aim of the RECARE project is to fill the knowledge gaps in the understanding of the complexity and functioning of soil systems and their interaction with human activities. “It is a very large project,” project leader Coen Ritsema says. “It has a strong Wageningen UR participation with the chair group Soil Physics and Land Management as lead contractor, and Alterra and ISRIC as full project partners. The total project budget is 11 million euro, the budget of the 3 Wageningen partners amounts to 2 million euro. The European Commission contributed 8.6 million euro. Besides participation of universities and research institutes, also multiple small and medium enterprises are embedded within the initiative up to a level of 15% of the available project budget.”

RECARE envisions 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. Within this context, soil degradation processes, like water erosion, salinization, compaction, sealing, desertification, floods and landslides, loss of organic matter, contamination, and loss of soil biodiversity will receive the required attention.

Coen Ritsema: “Within the RECARE case study sites we deploy several activities. The current state of degradation and conservation will be assessed using a new methodology, based on the WOCAT mapping procedure, and impacts of degradation and conservation on soil functions and ecosystem services will be quantified in a harmonized, spatially explicit way, accounting for costs and benefits, and possible trade-offs. Prevention, remediation and restoration measures, selected and implemented by stakeholders in a participatory process, will be evaluated regarding efficacy. And the applicability and impact of these measures at the European level will be assessed using a new integrated bio-physical and socio-economic model, accounting for land use dynamics as a result of for instance economic development and policies.”

Existing national and EU policies will be reviewed and compared to identify potential incoherence, contradictions and synergies. Policy messages will be formulated based on the case study results and their integration at European level. A comprehensive dissemination and communication strategy, including the development of a web-based dissemination and communication hub, will accompany the other activities to ensure that project results are disseminated to a variety of stakeholders at the right time and in the appropriate formats to stimulate renewed care for European soils.

The European Commission provided funds for RECARE to contribute to achieving objectives of multiple European and international policies like the Soil Thematic Strategy, the Soil Sealing Guidelines, the Floods Directive, the European Landscape Convention, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.