Land degradation and environmental change

Land degradation is considered as a major global environmental issue of this century. It is happening at an alarming pace, threatening food security and environmental quality. The effects of land and effectively soil degradation involve a complex interplay of environmental and socioeconomic–political factors acting at different spatial and temporal scales.

Land resources (i.e. soil, water, and biodiversity) are largely determined by the management practices, governance systems, and environmental changes. Unsustainable farming practices contribute not only to soil degradation at a local level, but also to increased carbon emissions, reduced biodiversity, and diminished rainfall on regional and global scales.

The SIEUSOIL project which is supported by the EU Research and Innovation programme HORIZON 2020, aims to develop sustainable and holistic soil management practices based on a harmonised land information system suitable for diverse climate and operation conditions along different EU and China locations. A research platform consisting of advanced crop and soil sensing tools, modelling and data fusion, digital soil mapping and farm management information systems will be developed to maximise land productivity and socio-economic benefits, while minimising the environmental impacts.

By developing a platform that will provide Open Linked Data to monitor status and threats of soil and assist in decision making for sustainable support of agroecosystem functions SIEUSOIL aims to:

  • support sustainable management of soil
  • increase land productivity sustainably
  • reduce crop yield variability across time and space
  • support the policy formulation process.

VITO leads a work package on limiting factors to optimal soil/land quality and productivity, which encompasses the characterisation of spatial variability of agricultural yields and yield potential in relation to soil and land resources quality at different levels of aggregation and decision making. In addition, VITO is responsible for a pilot study on sustainable soil productivity and soil health management in a changing climate and under high land pressure.