Commission drives soils change

Ground beneath our feet takes on greater relevance


The traditional view of soil is as a producer of biomass - food, timber, fibre. The environmental services that soils perform are only now being recognised for their full value. From a nature conservation perspective these soil services are vital. Soils provide a physical substrate that supports important habitats, but they also recycle nutrients, filter water and provide an important habitat in their own right for species of conservation significance. In many areas, conservation management requires us to understand the underlying influence of soils both in terms of their structure and biodiversity.
Soil biodiversity itself is stunning. We are a long way from fully understanding this diversity, but soil scientists are beginning to appreciate its nature and the role it plays in maintaining terrestrial ecosystems. This is a huge area for study, and, in their work on soils, the conservation agencies are concentrating on those issues of most direct relevance to nature conservation. Through inter-agency working groups, and participation in government programmes, the conservation agencies have now made their interest in soil science clear. Agency soil scientists are providing advice to the devolved administrations, to Defra and to the European Commission, on the nature conservation aspects of soils, including how soil issues might affect future implementation of the Habitats Directive. A strong drive is now coming from the Commission for soil issues to be taken account of in a range of environmental and agricultural programmes work to develop conservation-relevant soil indicators is also a priority for the agencies to help us monitor change through time.
The environmental significance of soils may have been ignored for too long, but a lot is now happening and the UK's conservation agencies are fully engaged at both the national and European level.
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