Geological Surveys in Europe maintain extensive information about the properties of rocks and derived material close to the surface. Unfortunately, this information is not readily available and is hardly harmonised. On the other hand, this information is important to support for soil mapping activities especially in areas where existing soil maps are incomplete, or obsolete. The existing continent-wide soil map is still quite coarse. Stakeholders have repeatedly referred to the need for improved soil information. However, the existing soil maps at higher resolutions lack harmonization. A harmonized European layer of parent material derived from geology maps would be a fundamental covariate for applying modern soil mapping methods which build on digital input data. Also, a harmonized base layer about surface-close rocks would facilitate the integration of soil map data from different sources.
The EuroGeoSurveys Soil Resources – Superficial Deposits Task Force (SDTF) mission is to compile and harmonize data about the surface-close parent material for soil development and other process such as ground water production. It will seek to produce a harmonized high-resolution soil parent material layer for Europe. Therefore, the existing information needs will be studied, and if possible integrated; this includes data about the distribution, properties and weathering behaviour of exposed rocks and superficial deposits.
The SDTF Vision is to act as a connecting link between soil and geology, to make geology knowledge and data available to the soil domain and to fill an important data gap for the below-ground modelling of the unsaturated zone.
Politically, the SDTF intends to support assessments of priority areas for soil protection with regard to erosion, salinization, and landslides. At the EU level, the EGS SDTF supports technical discussions related to the EC’s Soil Thematic Strategy and the INSPIRE Directive with regard to digital soil and parent material data. The SDTF is closely collaborating with the European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC) in activities such as soil mapping research, and the revision of the European Soil Atlas; with the European Environment Agency (EEA), the task force cooperates on spatial data sets for ecosystem mapping and assessment in Europe, including the evaluation of the state of soils.
Furthermore, EGS SDTF is representing EuroGeoSurveys in the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), supporting the development of a global soil information system, advice about sustainable soil management practices, and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals where related to soils. National and European-wide Geological Survey Projects related to soil (e.g. the European geochemical surveys – GEMAS, FOREGS, Baltic Soil Survey, etc.) will aim to enhance available information on soil for policy makers, researchers and society at large.. Among other activities, the SDTF Members participated to the Global Soil Week 2015, a multi-stakeholder platform highlighting the importance of land and soil to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the UN designated International Year of Soils.
Soil is the interface between the geosphere and the biosphere; it is the fragile, thin top layer of the earth’s crust, formed by mineral particles, organic matter, water, air and living organisms. Soils serve various functions: farmers grow their crop on it; it is used for forestry, roads, industrial sites, housing, mining and other important infrastructure. It also serves as an archive containing natural and human history. However, soil is the arena for a large number of land use conflicts and potential risks.
Soil is damaged and ruined by contamination such as leaching of agrochemicals, deposition of heavy metals, disposal of agricultural, domestic and industrial waste. The soil structure can be demolished through loss of organic matter, salinization and compaction of the subsoil. In addition to these man-made threats, wind and water constantly erodes the soil and make conditions unstable.
Soil can be restored, but at high cost, and long time intervals. Soil degradation has huge economical and ecological consequences. The EC’s soil thematic strategy takes into consideration the principles of precaution, anticipation and environmental responsibility, and focuses on initiatives already being undertaken in environmental policies, better integration of soil protection in other policies, soil monitoring and new actions based on monitoring results. However, in order to develop and plan the proper management systems and policies, the European community needs information on soil quality and soil stability in order to preserve and manage this important resource. Geology and geochemistry both play a significant role in defining the quality of soil.