European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity Released

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science and Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment, said: “Soil is essential to the biodiversity which makes life on earth possible and keeps our economies sustainable. Soil degradation threatens our access to food, clean air and water, as well as to many crucial raw materials. This atlas is a major European contribution to the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity 2010. It will raise awareness about the need for the Soil Framework Directive the Commission first proposed in 2006 and help prevent further soil degradation and repair the damage already done. Unless we tackle this problem soon and in a coordinated manner, it will cost a lot more to put it right.”

The European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity includes the first ever threat map for soil biodiversity covering most EU Member States. Potential threats to soil biodiversity were selected and ranked in an expert evaluation organised by the Soil Biodiversity Working Group, established by the JRC. Multiple pressure factors were included in the calculation of the new indicator map of potential threats, including land use change, habitat disruption, intensive human exploitation, invasive species, soil compaction, erosion and pollution.

The map indicates an evaluation of the potential risk of soil biodiversity decline – with respect to the current situation – and is not a representation of the actual level of soil biodiversity. The results show that the risk of decline in soil biodiversity due to human induced pressures tends to be highest in areas of high population density and/or intense agricultural activity.The JRC’s atlas also introduces the reader to “life below ground”. It brings to the public view the whole range of life in the soil and the crucial role it plays in maintaining other ecosystems. It includes new research results on current threats to soil biodiversity.

This 128-page atlas is the result of collaboration between departments of the European Commission and partners from academia, industry and organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Each section is written by leading world experts and presented in a way accessible to non-specialists.

Visit the website  for more information.