Soil Protection Working Group
Healthy soils are key to mitigating to climate change, preserving biodiversity, and achieving food security. However, vast quantities of healthy soils are lost every day. This loss is not only caused by natural hazards but is largely driven by human soil consumption. This is particularly crucial in the Alps, where the availability of soil is especially limited. Soil fertility and avoiding degradation are basic preconditions for a high quality of life.
Thus, the Contracting Parties of the Alpine Convention have committed to “reducing quantitative and qualitative soil damage, in particular by applying agricultural and forestry methods which do not harm the soil, through minimum interference with soil and land, control of erosion and the restriction of soil sealing” (Framework Convention Art. 2, 2d). In the Soil Conservation Protocol of the Alpine Convention, the Contracting Parties agreed on more details for the implementation of the topic.
The XV Alpine Conference noted that the Parties should cooperate more closely in the field of soil protection because of the increased pressure on the use of soils in the Alpine region and the increased risks, for example from climate change. They therefore established the Soil Protection Working Group in 2019.
The Working Group contributes to the protection and improvement of the condition of Alpine soils. Building on the results of the previous mandates (2019-2020 and 2021-2022), the Working Group should promote activities defined in the “Long-Term Action Plan for the implementation of provisions and declarations on soil protection in the specific context of the Alpine region”. The focus in the current mandate phase is on an economical and prudent use of soil in the Alps, moor protection, comparable soil data, soil literacy, awareness raising, and exchange.
In view of the current crises, such as the climate crisis, the pandemic, and most recently the war in Ukraine, greater self-sufficiency in regionally produced food and fodder, the transition to renewable energy sources, and the continuous land take demand for living, work, tourism, and trade are proceeding at an even faster pace. These developments massively affect the soils of the Alpine region and will intensify different land use interests as well as resulting conflicts.
Christian Steiner, Lower Austrian Agricultural District Authority
Overview of activities, documents and results
- Mandate until the XVIII Alpine Conference
- Long-Term Action Plan for the implementation of provisions and declarations on soil protection in the specific context of the Alpine region
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (German and Slovenian versions co-published by the FAO and the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention)
- Alpine Soil Newsletter (3 editions)
- Summary of statements from the Alps on LUCAS Soil 2022 by the Soil Protection Technical Working Group
- Soil functions and spatial planning in the Alps - Workshop documentation (2022)
- Activity report 2019-2020
- Report “Economical and prudent use of soil in the Alps”
- Stock-taking summary of permanent soil monitoring areas in the perimeter of the Alpine Convention (Annex 1, Annex 2)
- Cooperation with the JRC regarding the Soil Conservation Protocol Articles 20 and 21: Harmonized Databases and Soil Monitoring
- Stock-taking of institutions, projects and networks relevant for soil protection in the Alps
- In-depth report on economical use of soil of the Compliance Committee - available in German, French, Italian and Slovenian
- Quo vadis soil protection in the Alps? Final report of the UFOPLAN project: Assessment of the Alpine Convention Soil Conservation Protocol and preparation/implementation of an international conference
- Conference Report Alpine Soil Symposium “Soil Conservation Protocol of the Alpine Convention – between demand and reality”