Empowering Soil Managers (05.12.18)
For the past five years, the RECARE project has been working with stakeholders across Europe, from Iceland to Cyprus and from England to Poland, to develop a new way of saving the soil. As the project ends, it is presenting the accumulated learning from its research to policymakers in the cities, regions and nations of Europe as well as international bodies. The urgency of this mission is underscored by recent UN reports highlighting the role that agriculture plays in climate change and how sustainable agriculture is going to be necessary to secure food production as well as liveable landscapes under climatic change.
The over-riding policy message is to empower those who directly manage the land and soil to enable and encourage them in sustainable soil management techniques. The scientific answers are available, it is making sure that farmers, growers and foresters know about them, then feel able to act on that knowledge. This effort requires some changes to policy but also an investment in training and knowledge to help people achieve sustainable land practices.
The RECARE project scientific co-ordinator Dr Rudi Hessel, from Wageningen Environmental Research, said:
“The starting point is to take farmers and land managers seriously, that researchers are willing to listen and learn from them to make sure that we are addressing their priorities and not as our researchers. To do that we need to build relationships of trust.”
Dr Ana Frelih Larsen, from the Ecologic Institute, and working on policies in RECARE, said about the practical changes that are needed:
“The Common Agricultural Policy, as the most critical policy instrument for improving soil management on agricultural and forest land, has significant potential to enhance its contribution to soil management objectives. In general, the CAP post-2020 needs to earmark sufficient support and set out ambitious requirements for sustainable soil management. The strategic planning at Member State levels needs to identify and address soil management needs and objectives and put in place monitoring to measure the policy impacts.”
Dr Per Schjønning, Aarhus University, addressed some of the changes to regulation to tackle subsoil compaction and erosion threats:
“Individual policy mechanisms need to be well defined to ensure their effectiveness. For example, the GAEC 6 standard would increase its effectiveness by being rephrased from ‘Minimum land management under tillage to reduce the risk of soil degradation including on slopes’ to ‘Sustainable land management to reduce the risk of soil degradation including on slopes’. This re-wording, while it might seem minor, introduces the notion that it is better to avoid damage rather than to remedy it later.”
Jane Mills, from the CCRI, working on dissemination in RECARE, said that empowerment needs to take many forms:
“Farmers, growers and foresters learn most by learning with their friends and peers; the RECARE project has identified how important it is to foster group activities that encourage peer to peer learning. To encourage farmers and other land managers to take part in such training activities it could be part of the conditions linked to farm payments”.
Through a policy conference in September, and briefings to key decision makers across Europe and fostering debate about the future of the soil, the RECARE project has developed a hopeful suite of actions to this globally pressing problem that affects everybody.
The RECARE Final Conference – Practical Solutions for Preserving Europe’s Soils (05.10.2018)
On the 27th of September in Brussels, the RECARE project presented its policy findings and asked people attending the event to take part in a lively and informative discussion about the future of the soil. The main results of the RECARE project were that through participation with stakeholders it is possible to implement practical solutions to many of the problems that are degrading and damaging the soil, with often severe consequences for people.
The day was attended by 103 people from 21 countries and benefited from live-tweeting throughout the day as the audience shared their thoughts and experiences, as well as pictures and videos as the day unfolded. The day was introduced by Josiane Masson from the DG Environment, with contributions throughout the day from; Jabier Ruiz representing WWF, Ana Rocha from the European Landowner’s Organisation, Martine Swerts from the Government of Flanders, Gundula Prokop from the Austrian Environment Agency, Tomasz Stuczynski from the Catholic University of Lublin all spoke from the stage. With many other stakeholder organisations represented in the discussions and debates.
We have put this resource together as an almost instant archive of the day, which you can find at this link (https://wakelet.com/wake/eb9c31c5-2ea7-4deb-bb12-1a54da01b16f).
The solutions discussed focus on a range of management practices, such as the use of mulching with forestry residues or straw to prevent soil erosion after forest fires. Other solutions are technological, such as the use of submerged drains to avoid the loss of organic matter in peat soils. Others look to longer-term threats, such as heavy metal pollution at sites in Romania and Spain, combatting problems in some of the most polluted places in Europe. Some of the sites are considering the long-term decline in soil structure and fertility that undermine people’s livelihoods, leaving communities vulnerable and the environment degraded. Through research across diverse experimental sites throughout Europe, working with local communities, the research team have devised practical answers to the soil threats that we all face.
Dr. Rudi Hessel, the scientific co-ordinator of the project said:
“We were really pleased that so many people from policy, business and NGO’s joined us for the day to talk about our science and the implications it has for policy. The day was an intense exchange of ideas and opinions in a way that truly reflected the approach of the whole RECARE project, that of participation and evidence-based answers. The research continues, and we are taking steps to make sure all of this information remains available to people, we have solutions and we are going to make sure they are accessible”.
Dr. Ana Frelih Larsen who co-ordinated the policy work in the project said:
“It has been really clear from the contributions on the day that people are concerned about the soil and the consequences its degradation has for the future of all of us, but it was also clear that there are lots of soil management techniques available and we need to find together ways of making sure they are implemented”.
Jane Mills, who co-ordinated the project’s publicity said:
“As with many events today many people were sharing their day on social media, and we were particularly fortunate to have pervasive coverage of the day, so if you missed it, you could experience the day through the tweets, pictures and videos that people posted. We can’t rerun the day, but we have an instant archive of what people contributed and how they hope the work will be continued”.
Notes for Editors:
You can find the Twitter archive of the day at this link - https://wakelet.com/wake/eb9c31c5-2ea7-4deb-bb12-1a54da01b16f
For more photographs of the day please contact us; please credit Erik van den Elsen as photographer and copyright owner.
Photo 1 - Josiane Masson from the DG Environment, introduces the day
Photo 2 – The attendees in discussion.
For interviews please contact Jane Mills or Matt Reed
CCRI - +44 1242 714138
Earthy Solutions – Practical Research for Preserving Europe’s Soils (24.09.18)
For the past five years, the research project RECARE has brought together Europe’s leading soil scientists to focus on practical experiments around management practices that can preserve and restore Europe’s soils. From experimental sites in the shadow of a volcano in Iceland to the mountain terraces of Cyprus, RECARE scientists have worked with local farmers and land managers conducting experiments to protect soils from a range of threats that are damaging this vital ecosystem. Damage to the soil threatens people’s lives through issues such as flooding, but also undermines the productivity of soils leading to billions of Euros lost from agricultural production.
The solutions focus on a range of management practices, such as the use of mulching with forestry residues or straw to prevent soil erosion after forest fires. Other solutions are technological, such as the use of submerged drains to avoid the loss of organic matter in peat soils. Some solutions look to longer-term threats, such as heavy metal pollution at sites in Romania and Spain, combatting problems in some of the most polluted places in Europe. Some of the sites are considering the long-term decline in soil structure and fertility that undermine people’s livelihoods, leaving communities vulnerable and the environment degraded. Through research across diverse experimental sites throughout Europe, working with local communities, the research team have devised practical answers to the soil threats that we all face.
At a conference on the 27th of September in Brussels, this research team are coming together with policymakers and influencers to discuss the results of the RECARE project, and especially the messages it has for future policies on soil management in Europe. In a day of discussion, and debate, the science will be outlined, policy options considered and the key messages of the project shared.
Scientific Project Co-ordinator Dr. Rudi Hessel of Wageningen Environmental Research said:
“This project has allowed us to focus on working with land managers to make sure our experiments are ready to be used and become part of the policy process. At a time when people are increasingly concerned about the environmental threats we all face, and often feel powerless, we can show them our techniques that can make a real difference.”
Professor Francesco Morari of Padua University said:
“The RECARE project has allowed my team to engage with local farmers in new ways and through that dialogue we have been able to discuss ways in which science can help further protect the soil. Through RECARE we have made some films about the threats to the soil and our work, which has inspired a discussion in our region that has included not only farmers but through the TV many other local people.”
Ana Frelih Larsen, from the Ecologic Institute in Berlin said:
“Drawing on the expertise of soil scientists we have had an expert team of social scientists and policy specialists working to understand how sustainable soil management can be achieved by working with the community. This research has given us many valuable insights that we have been able to relate to policy challenges, and on the 27th we will be engaged in discussing how we ensure this knowledge is used in future decision making.”
Notes for Editors:
- For more on the project background see - www.recare-hub.eu
- There will be live tweeting of the event on #RECARE2018 – please follow @RECARE_EU.
- We can arrange interviews in Dutch, German, Danish, French, Romanian, Slovakian, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Portuguese and English.
- The venue will be in central Brussels – there are a limited number of press passes – please contact us if you are interested.
- We have high quality images; stills and video available to illustrate experiments and themes.
For more detail, or to arrange interviews, please contact
T: +44 7932 802172
T: +44 7813 201807
Solutions for a Brown Planet (05.12.17)
What essential resource are scientists seeking practical solutions for to help challenge pressing global environmental problems: global warming, flooding, food security, desertification and pollution?
A clue is that today is World Soil Day, an ideal time to talk about how scientists are looking at how the soil can capture carbon and so lessen climate change, how to stabilise the soil to slow the flow of water and stop flooding, and how agricultural soils can be managed sustainably into the future ensuring we are all fed.
The EU-funded RECARE project has brought together leading soil scientists from across Europe to find practical solutions to the problems facing the soil. Ranging from the cold deserts of Iceland to the sunny terraces of Cyprus, Europe has issues with its soil that are relevant, both locally and globally. Fires and floods in 2017 have highlighted soil related problems and the importance of utilizing the techniques and technologies on hand to provide solutions. RECARE project scientists have been working on forest fire-related issues in Portugal, and on how soil can be protected from flooding in mountainous areas.
This year the RECARE team has been working on a new way of looking at soil problems to provide early warnings and the chance of early interventions. Using satellite data, information about land management and knowledge of how soil works in the ecosystem, they are producing a new Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) that can show detail down to 100m. With maps created by this system, policy-makers, planners and land managers can anticipate where problems will arise. Hedwig van Delden, the scientist leading this part of the project said:
"With the IAM model, we are bringing together a range of previous studies, using the knowledge of many colleagues to create a new tool that will be of direct interest to policy-makers. Our new tool looks to inform people in their decision-making processes, to help all of us make better future choices about how we use the soil."
RECARE project manager, Rudi Hessel said:
"The RECARE project has been very ambitious bringing scientists together across many specialist areas. We are now beginning to see the results of that collaboration in tools such as IAM, bringing data-driven maps about soil threats to decision-makers in a way that they can use. At the same time, we also have a suite of techniques that farmers and other land managers can use to address urgent soil threats."
The plots to save our soils (05.12.16)
World Soil Day, (5th December) is the one day in the year that the United Nations asks us all to think about the role of soil in our daily lives and how it protects us from many environmental problems. If we look to the problems of food supply, flooding, and climate change, many of the answers lie in the soil. This fragile crust of soil is complex and still mysterious, but every year scientific research reveals more about its importance to supporting our lives on earth.
As part of that scientific research, the RECARE project has gathered scientists from across Europe to find practical answers to sustaining healthy soil. From Iceland to Cyprus the research team are testing solutions to urgent problems of soil management, these trials are devised by the scientists working with local farmers and land managers.
Across Europe, test plots are being used to find practical solutions to soil-based problems as diverse as the impacts of wildfire on soil erosion to how to reclaim the soil from the deserts created by arctic winds in Iceland. Through to cleaning up polluted soils in Romania and Spain through planting trees and using plants to mop up toxic metals.
[The National Project leader, at the University of XXXX] said,
"We are excited that the project has reached its mid-point, the community around the trials have been enthusiastic about taking part and making suggestions that we have been able to incorporate into our trails."
"We know that answering practical questions about [insert soil threat] is critical not only to people who live in the area, but also to those who are impacted more widely. Once we have results from our trials, we will then share these not only across [host state] but throughout Europe. Work done here in collaboration with local people is going to have international importance as well as solving our problems through better management of the soil".
The University of Wageningen in the Netherlands co-ordinates the project, Prof. Ritsema said;
"We face many environmental challenges in Europe, but we know that we can manage soil more efficiently, and in doing so stop many of the problems people face. From landslides in mountainous areas, through to the flooding in cities caused by sealing over the soil, as soil scientists, we are creating many practical solutions. The RECARE project is working with people who are often affected by damaged soil, and we are using their knowledge to find answers that will make a difference quickly."
"RECARE is a remarkable collaboration between scientists across Europe; I am sure that in a couple of years, at the end of the project, we will be able to announce a series of steps that can be taken to help preserve soils and protect people from the problems of damaged soil."
European Soil Scientists Unite To Tackle Threats to Soil (05.12.2014)
The world's soils face a wide range of threats that could undermine the very basis to our current way of life. Recently Europe has seen flooding that dramatically and tragically demonstrates how such threats can impact on people's lives and property. Poor management of soils can exacerbate flooding and other soil threats. In recognition of the pressing importance of threats to soils the United Nations has designated 2015 as the 'International Year of Soils' to bring to public attention the wide variety of threats to soil and the consequences that these can have on all of our lives. This year is being launched on World Soil Day on the 5th of December 2014.
As well as making people aware of the threats to soil, over the next four years European Scientists involved in an EU funded project called RECARE are working with those who manage soils - farmers, planners, builders, policy makers – to identify practical measures to ensure that these urgent threats are not just stopped, but whenever possible, reversed. Working on 17 case studies across Europe, from Iceland through to Cyprus, they are developing solutions to the problems of flooding and landslides, desertification, soil erosion, soil compaction, the contamination of soils, soil biodiversity, loss of organic matter, salinization and soil sealing.
Rudi Hessel, representing RECARE said. "Often all we hear about is the problems that the environment faces, but the good news is that in projects like RECARE we are not only developing practical answers, but also working with those who manage the soil to get these solutions into use. We all tend to take soil for granted, until something goes wrong and we then need urgent answers. Part of our task in RECARE is to help stop it going wrong in the first place, but when that doesn't happen to ensure that we have the best solutions we can develop ready to hand".
Jane Mills representing the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire, UK said, "The soil doesn't recognise national boundaries, the physical and biological processes of the soil are the same everywhere. Working with colleagues from across Europe means that we can share knowledge and experience. This means that we can bring the best science to bear on the problems more quickly and effectively than we might without this collaboration."
As European science makes history by sampling the surface of a comet in deep space, we need to remember that there is still a great deal to learn about the soil around us. It may not be quite as dramatic as the Rosetta mission that has travelled about 4 billion miles through the solar system to reach the comet, but it is important for us all to learn more about the surface of our home planet. RECARE is part of the effort to bring the best of science to the people of Europe.
Throughout 2015 as part of the International Year of the Soil, the RECARE project will be taking part in a range of events to promote knowledge and awareness of threats to the soil, as well as the management and technological solutions to those problems.
Vital soil saving techniques being trialled as International Year of Soils comes to an end (04.05.15)
As World Soil Day on 5th December 2015 marks the ending of the International Year of Soils, it is reassuring to know that scientists will still be working to find solutions to protect our soils.
2015 was declared International Year of Soils by the United Nations in order to raise awareness of the profound importance of soil for human life . As well as providing us with food and fibre, soils can also play an important role in climate change mitigation by storing carbon and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Meaning they have a vital role to play in the current Climate Change discussions in Paris.
As global attention now moves away from soils, scientists working on an EU funded project called RECARE will still be developing solutions to the problems of soil erosion, soil compaction, soil contamination, flooding and landslides, desertification, soil biodiversity loss, decline in organic matter, salinization and soil sealing. The challenges to peoples’ lives and homes are detailed in an international series of documentaries showing how damaging soils, damages lives.
RECARE researchers are working with the local people across Europe in 17 case study areas to put soil saving solutions into practice. Low tech but scientifically informed interventions are set to transform the protection of soils and the lives of those affected by them. Examples include, grassed waterways, straw mulching or terracing to prevent soil erosion and flooding, the use of intercropping to increase soil organic matter, or the planting of particular tree species to remove the toxins from contaminated soils. RECARE has already produced a review of potential measures that can be applied to combat these soil threats .
Professor Coen Ritsema is the RECARE Project Co-ordinator and is based at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. He said,
“As the International Year of Soils draws to a close, it is good to know that work continues to protect this precious resource. The project team is committed to ensuring that we are able to provide people with practical, affordable ways in which they can protect our soil resources. 2015 has raised awareness of the soils vital role in all of our lives, now we need to take action”.
RECARE researchers will continue their work to develop effective prevention, remediation and restoration measures in the battle against soil threats until 2018, when the project is due to finish.
Can the answer be in the soil? RECARE – finding and sharing solutions to protect our soils (01.04.2014)
A growing world population has to deal with increasingly urgent issues of food security, flooding and drought, as well as pollution which threaten agricultural productivity and the environment. The answer to all these urgent issues could rest in the soil.
Soil is vital to supporting food production as well as the filtering of water consumed by humans and plants. In addition, soil cycles and stores nutrients which are key to supporting life, as well as holding water to alleviate the stresses of both drought and flooding and storing carbon to mitigate against climate change.
Due to growing human intervention and unsustainable management, soils are currently under increasing threat from a wide range of processes, such as soil erosion, compaction, desertification, salinization, sealing, contamination and loss of organic matter and biodiversity. They need to be adequately protected and conserved to ensure that their many functions and services to all of society are not lost or diminished.
With the importance of soil in mind, the EU has funded a 5 year research project which will be looking at measures to prevent and remediate soil degradation in Europe.
The project, entitled RECARE, will bring together a multidisciplinary team to find ways of assessing the current threats to soils and finding innovative solutions to prevent further soil degradation across Europe, from Iceland to Cyprus. Researchers from 27 different organisations, will share information regarding the current evidence and approaches to resolve the main threats to soils.
Professor Coen Ritsema, based in Soil Physics and Land Management Department at Wageningen University and the lead for the project says that 'the exciting thing about this project is that it seeks to look at soils across the whole of Europe. RECARE includes 17 Case Studies of soil threats that will study the various conditions that occur across Europe and find appropriate solutions using an innovative approach combining scientific and local knowledge".
For more information about the project go to http://www.recare-project.eu/ or the RECARE Information Hub http://www.recare-hub.eu.new. Further information is also available on Twitter @RECARE_EU and Vimeo http://vimeo.com/channels/RECARE