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Soil contamination

Europe's natural capital is essential for its economic and societal prosperity. Land degradation together with fragmentation and unsustainable use of land are recognised to jeopardise the provision of ecosystem services in Europe and other parts of the world. Investments in responsible land management and the monitoring of progress are needed. A system for coherent reporting by the EU and the EU member states on the state and trends of land degradation and potential and options for improvement could support monitoring progress on Land Degradation Neutrality and on land objectives in the Soil Thematic Strategy, the 7th Environmental Action Plan and the Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe [ETC-ULS, 2017].

Land degradation is mostly described in terms of a long-term loss of functionality and productivity of land or land-based ecosystems. Examples of forms of land degradation are erosion by water and wind, soil pollution and fertility decline, soil compaction, decline of water quality, vegetation and loss of habitats, or soil sealing due to urbanization and construction. The assessments of land degradation in Europe referred to above differ with regard to the forms of land degradation signalled as most pressing, but the most frequently mentioned include soil sealing, the contamination of soil and water, soil compaction and the loss of organic matter in soils, loss of biodiversity, nutrient imbalances, habitat fragmentation and the invasion of alien species.The land degradation phenomena observed in Europe must be considered in the context of global changes in land use and land quality: global demands on land for food, materials, biofuel, freshwater and environmental services underpin our economies and societies, but many production systems sourcing food and materials from other parts of the world appear to be unsustainable.


Explore how to map Ecosystem Services as indicators for land degradation neutrality taking the UNCCD sub-indicators land cover change, land productivity change, above-and below ground carbon stock change as starting point.


Representatives from the European Commission (DG-ENV, EEA, JRC), representative from UNCCD, soil scientists and ecosystem service experts from across Europe and GIS experts.

Habitat fragmentation


3 workshops were organised: i) preparatory objective setting with a broad group of (roughly) 25 participants from the political, networking and scientific community (2 days); ii) testing mapping workshop with 6 participants from the political and scientific community (1 day) and; iii) exploratory mapping workshop with (about) 20 participants from political, networking and scientific community (1.5 days).


Europe (covering the EEA countries) at 1 km2 resolution: land use intensity on crop lands, wood production, land use change trajectories, landscape fragmentation, imperviousness change, regionalised water exploitation index, drought frequency intensity, grazing cattle, farm typology, soil erosion by water, wind erosion susceptibility, landslide susceptibility, heavy metals in agricultural soils, eroded organic carbon, saline and sodic soils, natural susceptibility to soil compaction, drought vulnerability, numebr of agrcultural related arcticle 17 habitats, land productivity dynamics, potential threats to soil biodiversity, soil biodiversity potential, soil types, soil depth, soils texture, topsoil organic carbon, soil pH, available soil water capacity, soil chemical quality, soil biomass productivity, irrigation, equilibrium groundwater table depth, vegetation cover, population density, urban night light, internet connectivity, land system archetypes, dominant land cover flows, administrative units (NUTS), catchments, environmental startification, biogeographical regions, EUNIS ecosystem types


  • Verzandvoort, S., Hessel, R., Wösten, H.,2017, Methodological approaches for land degradation, ETC-ULS report for task
  • Verweij, P., van Eupen, M., Ivits, E., Aksoy, E., Verzandvoort, S., Wösten, H., 2016, Hands-on mapping workshop - indicators for land degradation, ETC-ULS



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