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 policymakers. 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."