Each year, the 5 December is dedicated to soil, the earth we walk on, build on, depend on for food, and all the other uses we have for this important resource – of which we are often not even aware. This year, the official theme of World Soil Day is soil salinisation under the campaign “halt soil salinisation, boost soil productivity”. This issue is a major threat to ecosystems, food production and sustainability in many parts of the world. Salt-affected soils negatively impact soil functions, reducing agricultural productivity, leading to deteriorating water quality, soil biodiversity, and more soil erosion.
While soil salinisation is not (yet) such a pressing issue in the Alps, with the warming climate, it is likely to become another threat to this precious resource. Soil degradation is still one of the biggest challenges for the Alpine region, particularly as land and the area suitable for construction and agricultural use is limited due to the specific topography of the region. To address this topic, the Alpine Convention has a dedicated Soil Protection Working Group. Its mandate aims to promote soil issues at Alpine level and focus on site-appropriate and sustainable soil management.
Adopting a strategic approach based on cross-sectoral and transboundary cooperation is the best way to ensure the sustainable management of our soils. The Alpine Convention and the Alpine Soil Partnership work together with many partners to promote cooperation on soil matters. The recent Alpine Soils Newsletter, available here, illustrated how these partners and institutions work to connect governance, science, and practice, as well as outlining some of the main activities and events going on in the soil space.
Meanwhile, at the European level, the EU Soil Strategy was published in mid-November. The Strategy sets a framework with concrete measures for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of soils in the European Union. The aim is to increase the soil carbon in agricultural land, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, and ensure that by 2050, all soil ecosystems are in a healthy condition.
A number of other international conferences, events, and networks such as the EuroSoil Congress and EU Soil Observatory Stakeholders Forum, to name just two, have been busy promoting soil issues this year.
Working across borders and sectors is fundamental for sustainably managing and protecting our soils, as the earth beneath our feet is not contained by administrative borders. The Alpine Convention looks forward to another year of working together on common ground!