for the environmental protection of 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.
understanding 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.
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.
definition of soil functions and properties which require protection
for both national policy and local management purposes.
determination of the issues which pose the greatest risk to soil
function and ranking them by priority for action with justification.
project was funded by the Environment Agency and several of the UK's
leading soil scientists acted as consultants.
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