2002-2003: Priorities for
the environmental protection of soil (Ref. P5-055)
Soil systems are a complex
mixture of minerals, organic matter, water, air, chemicals and biota.
The soil has a range of functions, from the recycling and storage of
both natural and anthropogenic chemicals to food production or acting
as a platform for buildings. Soils can support several functions at the
same time but may be damaged by the pressures placed upon them.
Sustainable development of the soil resource requires the long-term
maintenance of the functions of the soil to be in balance with the
needs of society.
and uncertainty of how soils perform their functions and of processes
that govern their formation and maintenance and of the current state,
means it is difficult to define what exactly we are trying to protect.
It is possible that significantly degraded soils, whilst currently
performing their functions may not do so in the long term. We need to
interpret changes in the important properties of soils in terms of
their long-term implications and it is inevitable that the uncertainty
about the future will feed through into these predictions. Applying the
precautionary principle is particularly important for soils where there
is limited monitoring data and few reliable indicators of quality or
standards against which to assess the data.
Through the development of a
working software-framework a methodology was developed that provided a
risk-based approach for prioritising current and possible future issues
for soil protection at a variety of scales (in England and Wales). This
involved: the use of a matrix approach to illustrate the complexity of
the problem and help define issues for prioritisation; the definition
of soil functions and properties which require protection for both
national policy and local management purposes; and the determination of
the issues which pose the greatest risk to soil function and ranking
them by priority for action with justification. This project was funded
by the Environment Agency and several of the UK's leading soil
scientists acted as consultants.
- Tzilivakis, J., Lewis K.A.
& Williamson, A.R. (2005). A prototype framework for assessing
risks to soil functions. EIA Review 25, 181-195.
- Tzilivakis, J., Lewis
K.A., Green, A., Warner, D.J. & Calvert, A. (2002). Priorities
for the Environmental Protection of Soil. R&D Project Record
P5-055 for the Environment Agency.
(Note: the phone
this document for the
Environment Agency’s R&D
Dissemination Centre is now