Population growth and increasing land use intensity lead to growing demands and exploitation of natural resources. Soils are among the most important and most endangered natural resource entities. In order to plan and implement sustainable soil management practices and to facilitate the rational exploitation of the resource, more detailed information on the occurrence of soils, its particular characteristics, potential risks, and hazards is needed.
The two main objectives of the GS Soil Consortium were the structural specification for the description and harmonisation of spatial soil data within Europe as well as the operation of a corresponding Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). Technical and syntactic interoperability have been ensured by the use of open standards such as published by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the INSPIRE Directive Specifications on Network Services. As a result, soil data providers offer their data via OGC compliant Web Feature Services (WFS) or Web Map Services (WMS), ensuring that the GS portal and other client systems are capable of accessing and displaying the distributed data.
The central result of the project is the GS Soil portal. European soil data from heterogeneous sources are bundled here and best practice expertise is exposed. In order to ensure transnational usability of the portal and related services, aspects of multilingualism and data interpretation were considered thoroughly. In this respect, the harmonisation of metadata and the definition of terms and conditions have been addressed with supporting tools and explanatory documents.
Targets and Aims
The project GS Soil aimed at establishing a European network to improve the access to spatial soil data for public sector bodies, private companies and citizens. The project considered aspects of data organization, data harmonization as well as semantic and technical interoperability in order to produce seamless geospatial soil information and to improve the data access for a wider community of different user groups. Soil conservation and its sustainable use are implemented through political initiatives such as the Common Agricultural Policy, Nitrate Directive, Soil Thematic Strategy and other programmes. The draft Soil Directive for instance also addresses consistent soil information at a target scale of 1:250.000 for reporting requirements across Europe.
The project, co-funded by the community programme eContentplus, involved 34 partners from 18 European countries, and their role was either data provider and/or IT expert. Several partners brought expertise in both field.