Soil is a finite, non-renewable and endangered natural resource. Especially Alpine soils are highly vulnerable – they are strongly affected by threats related to climate change, land use change etc. Preserving and enhancing Alpine soil quality is a key challenge of soil protection in the Alpine area.
Soils are multifold biotopes; among other functions soils can help to protect the climate through carbon sequestration. The Alpine Conference decided to take upon action in the field of soil protection to reach the following goals by 2050: “There is no more additional (net) land-take and land-sealing. Brown field re-development approaches have been strengthened to protect Alpine-specific soils and their services.” (XV Alpine Conference 2019)
Use land in a way appropriate for the soil functions and protect highly functional soils – this is a key factor for enhancing soil quality. In the following 3 steps measures to enhance Alpine soil quality shall be implemented.
Collect information on status-quo of soil quality (as defined in IP_S1, Step 1a) for the Alpine area is a first step that is directly followed by a hot-spot analysis of very productive soils and soils that have a high impact on mitigation. This data collection on the quality of Alpine soils shall be updated regularly to become a monitoring system on Alpine soils.
Soil functioning maps shall be developed to communicate the importance of preserving productive and especially valuable soils. This step is guided by the aim of appropriate land use for each type of soil.
Management recommendations specifically for the Alps intended to protect soils and enhance soil carbon and soil biodiversity shall be formulated. A special focus should be on wetlands, peatland, (riparian) forests, adaptation (e.g., water storage) and good agricultural practice in the sense of climate resilience (e.g., tilling of grassland). To reach this goal, the linking and improving of soil management strategies and approaches is foreseen. Those recommendations shall include agricultural practices to build up humus/soil organic matter.
Alpine soils are highly vulnerable to climate change and at the same time face pressures from land- use, land-take and soil sealing. Soil also has an important role for climate mitigation: It is an important carbon pool. The preservation of soil is crucial, because only healthy soils can store the carbon. All these facts provide a clear and comprehensive view: The preservation of Alpine soils is crucial. Only healthy soils can store carbon and the Alpine area includes many specifically carbon-rich soil types like peatland, moorland or wetland areas. Both quality and quantity of these soils need to be protected by reducing pressures on Alpine soils originating from increasing demand for space for traffic, housing, economy and leisure and at the same time from agricultural and forestry practices which are a threat to soil preservation.
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