SOIL

PATHWAY 1

SOIL

PATHWAY 1

Preservation and sequestration of carbon in soil with a focus on peatlands, moorlands and wetlands

Basic information:

Alpine soils are highly vulnerable – they are strongly affected by threats related to climate change and land use change etc.

An increase of knowledge about Alpine soils and exchange between stakeholders from the Alpine states – especially on the topic of carbon stock – is needed.

Soil is an important carbon pool. The preservation of soil is crucial, because only healthy soils can store the carbon. The sequestration of carbon in soil organic matter is one of the main climate mitigation strategies for removing global-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Soil carbon sequestration is a process whereby CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by vegetation, and stored in the soil’s pool of organic carbon.[1]

“Soil protection is climate protection and vice versa” is a core message. On the one hand there is the need for an awareness raising campaign for soil, especially for C-rich soils like peatland, moorland, wetland in the Alpine area. On the other hand famers, land managers, foresters, spatial planners and decision makers on the international, national, regional and local level shall be coached to protect soils and to give priority to cultivation measures which maintain/restore carbon stock in soils.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/science-update/how-soil-organic-matter-composition-affects-carbon-sequestration

Sequence of implementation steps:

Develop a classification system for soils in the Alpine area, based on a common agreement on soil types (especially C-rich soil types like peatlands, moorlands and wetlands). Alternative options are the integration of Alpine soils characteristic to the world reference base or generating translators of the various national soil classification systems.

Foster the exchange between and mutual enhancement of Alpine initiatives that aim at protecting or rehabilitating soils, with a special focus on the classification system of step 1a Exchange formats can be workshop sessions in an international context as well as small peer group meetings of experts / scientist / people from the administrative level etc. Especially initiatives like the Alpine Soil Partnership and Link4Soils carry great knowledge and experiences.

Start an Alpine wide awareness raising and communication campaign and focus on the message “Soil protection is climate protection and vice versa”. Make use of the workshops of Alpine initiatives (Step 1) to speak with one voice about challenges and need for action to protect soil to protect climate.

Implement a classification system (as developed in Step 1a): Survey to close soil survey gaps, especially at higher elevations and produce a map of Alpine soils, where carbon rich soil types like moorlands, wetlands and peatlands – also potential areas – can be identified. This should be done, in a first step, in at least one cross border region of the Alpine perimeter. Use the Alpine wide initiatives to communicate the results of mapping.

Collect best practices for prevention, protection and compensation measures and define recommendations for the protection, redevelopment and rehabilitation of moorlands, wetlands and peatlands; those prevention, protection and compensation measures should have a clear focus: maintain and restore carbon stock in soil and reactivate peatlands.

Implement a pilot project in a cross border region of the Alpine perimeter (Step 2b) to apply the recommendations (Step 3a).

Further Information:

  • Working Group on Soil Protection of the Alpine Convention
  • EUSALP AG6Stakeholders of the Alpine Soil Partnership/Links4Soils
  • Agents for Soil protection on the international, national, regional and local level (and their networks like ELSA, ENSA, Fachbeirat für Bodenfruchtbarkeit und Bodenschutz – Committee on soil fertility and soil protection)
  • Decision makers at international, national, local and regional level
  • Alpine initiatives for the protection and/or rehabilitation of peatlands, moorlands and wetlands
  • Alliances of farmers, foresters and land managers
  • Scientific community (e.g., University Innsbruck, Boku Vienna)
  • Spatial planners
  • National land mapping institutes like BFW in Austria
  • JRC (Joint Research Centre) of the European Commission
  • Network ALPACA for communication
  • Authorities responsible for Natura2000 implementation
  • Alpine-wide comparable soil classification systems (or integration of Alpine soils characteristic into the world reference base of soils[1]
  • Cross border soil maps in the Alps
  • Comprehensive soil survey, especially in high elevation of the Alps
  • Recommendations for measures to preserve and increase carbon stock in soils and for the protection and/or rehabilitation of peatlands, moorlands and wetlands
  • Alpine wide soil protection network with regular exchange on topics such as preservation and increase of carbon stock in soils and to the protection and/or rehabilitation of peatlands, moorlands and wetlands
  • Alpine wide awareness raising campaign for protection of soils and importance of carbon stock in soil

[1] http://www.fao.org/soils-portal/soil-survey/soil-classification/world-reference-base/en/

  • Alpine wide initiatives to protect or rehabilitate peatlands, moorlands and wetlands (y/n)
  • Pilot actions: Map of carbon rich soil types as defined in step 1
  • One pilot project in a cross border region of the Alpine perimeter to apply the recommendations for compensation measures (y/n)
  • List of recommendations for prevention, protection and compensation measures (y/n)
  • One communication product in each Alpine state that spreads the message “Soil protection is climate protection and vice versa” (y/n)
  • Links4Soils (Stock taking No 77) and Alpine Soil Partnership with the Alpine Soil Platform (website)
  • ALPENHUMUS (German initiative that aimed at detecting effects of current climate change on C-storage in humus layers in the Alps; Stock taking No 87)
  • In depth revision on the topic “Economical use of soil” of the Compliance Committee of the Alpine Convention
  • Activities of EUSALP AG6 (declaration on “Sustainable Land Use and Soil Protection”, toolbox “less land-take”, new work programme in 2020)
  • Climate Communication measures of ALPACA
  • Impuls4Action (“From intelligent Landuse to sustainable municipalities”, cross national project of Alpine states)
  • LUCAS (https://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/projects/lucas)
  • Carbon calculator
  • ACRP Project CASAS (Carbon sequestration in Austrian soils)
  • Rural Development Programmes in the Alpine Countries
  • Literature on soil classification and mapping in the Alps[1]
  • Global Soil Organic Carbon Map (http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/pillars-action/4-information-and-data-new/global-soil-organic-carbon-gsoc-map/en/)

[1] e.g., Baruck et al (2016): Soil classification and mapping in the Alps; the current state and future challenges; Geoderma 264 Part B; 312-331

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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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