Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Maintaining valuable soils

03.05.2018

Each year almost one thousand hectares of cultivated land continue to be lost, thereby wiping out numerous services delivered by the soil, such as filtering water and storing carbon, which are central for our society's wellbeing. The National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource" (NRP 68) is suggesting ways in which spatial planning can be structured so that this loss remains as small as possible. First and foremost, soil quality should play a larger role in spatial planning decision-making.

Between 1985 and 2009, 85,000 hectares, or five percent of the cultivated land available in 1985, was lost, mainly in the Swiss Central Plateau and valley floors. Recent land-use statistics indicate that this loss has continued at a slightly reduced rate over the last few years.


Photo: Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

Although the revision of the Spatial Planning Act (SPA) has alleviated the situation with regard to rezoning, a large amount of land is still being consumed by infrastructure and building construction outside the official building zones. Along with this, we forfeit the numerous soil functions – such as its fertility, its ability to store carbon and also to retain and filter water

Considering soil quality when weighing up interests

Although the Spatial Planning Act requires land to be used economically, existing legislation does not give cultivated land sufficient protection. Compared to other areas worth protecting such as marshland and forests, fewer specific legal conservation goals exist for cultivated land.

One exception is that of crop rotation areas, which make up around one third of all agricultural land. The remaining two thirds of cultivated land is scarcely considered when weighing up interests. Furthermore, when ring-fencing crop rotation areas, only agricultural productivity is relevant: other soil functions, such as filtration or its role as a habitat, tend to be disregarded.

But it is precisely these aspects that sustainable spatial planning must include when weighing up interests. Added to this, most current construction activity is taking place on highly productive agricultural land: due to their historical development, existing settlements are often surrounded by high-quality soil. Expanding construction activity in the immediate vicinity of settlements therefore leads to a significant loss of high-quality soil in many cases.

Thresholds for the loss of soil quality

Until now, there has been a shortage of suitable instruments for practicably including soil quality in planning decisions. Researchers from the National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource" (NRP 68) have therefore developed the concept of soil index points that makes soil quality tangible. For example, it provides information on the question of where construction work or rezoning would be associated with the least impact on soil quality.

"Such a system can be used to maintain soil quality in the long term," explains Adrienne Grêt-Regamey of ETH Zurich. "At a cantonal level, we could define a threshold that represents the maximum tolerable consumption of soil index points. Using this as a quota would enable us to control consumption in terms of soil quality." Experience gained in Stuttgart has shown that the loss of high-quality soil can be reduced using tools such as this.

Achieving a sustainable soil policy

Other NRP 68 researchers are also highlighting the importance of available cultivated land and its quality. "Anticipated population growth and climate change in particular represent major challenges for the sustainable use of soil," declares Felix Walter of Ecoplan. "Because soil is not a renewable resource, there is no way of avoiding restrictions in the long term."

We therefore not only need to take action in farming and forestry, but also in other policy areas such as settlement and infrastructure development, and we need to make targeted efforts with regard to communication. Based on an overview of possible initiatives, Felix Walter is therefore highlighting ways of achieving a sustainable soil policy.

Alongside effective measures in spatial planning, agriculture and forestry, such a strategy also requires improved soil mapping, an intensive awareness campaign, close collaboration between the various parties involved in soil protection and spatial planning, and a high degree of commitment on the part of political bodies at the federal, cantonal and local level.

Time is of the essence

We do not have much time in which to take effective measures towards a sustainable soil policy. "Time is of the essence," stresses Adrienne Grêt-Regamey. "Our analyses show that the window of opportunity for protecting today's soil quality is extremely small." We therefore need to further develop the necessary foundations without delay. For example, in order to use soil index points, we need in-depth pilot studies, which NRP 68 is no longer able to carry out. "The forthcoming second revision of the Spatial Planning Act provides an opportunity to incorporate soil quality more firmly into legislation."

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Sander Kool, Lukas Bühlmann, Samuel Kissling (2018): A soil agenda for spatial planning. Thematic Synthesis Report TS3 for the National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource" (NRP 68), Berne.

Felix Walter, Elvira Hänni (2018): Ways to a sustainable soil policy. Thematic Synthesis Report 5 for the National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource" (NRP 68), Berne.

Contact

Prof. Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development, ETH Zurich
Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5, 8093 Zurich
Phone: +41 44 633 29 57
Mobile: +41 79 667 53 31
E-mail: gret@eth.ch

Felix Walter, Ecoplan
Monbijoustrasse 14, 3011 Bern
Phone: +41 31 356 61 74
E-mail: walter@ecoplan.ch

Urs Steiger, NRP 68 Knowledge Transfer Officer
Pilatusstrasse 30, CH-6003 Lucerne
Tel. +41 79 667 62 53
E-mail: u.steiger@bluewin.ch


National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource"

NRP 68 is laying the foundations for the sustainable use of soil in Switzerland. This requires both the ecological and the economic benefits of soil to be considered. The concept of ecosystem services provides an opportunity to link soil functions and their value to human well-being. www.nfp68.ch

This is the last of three media releases that the NRP 68 is publishing on its five thematic synthesis reports. The first, "Switzerland needs nationwide soil mapping", was published on 19 April, and the second, "Keeping the soil fit", was published on 26 April 2018.

The two syntheses and pictures for editorial use can be found on our website.

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.snf.ch/en/researchinFocus/newsroom/Pages/news-180503-press-release-ma...

SNF Media - Abteilung Kommunikation | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: ETH ETH Zurich SNF agricultural land construction crop soil quality soils spatial planning

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New research recovers nutrients from seafood process water
31.10.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology

nachricht Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility
17.10.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>