Soils are the basis for our food, a habitat for countless organisms and a prerequisite for biodiversity. As a carbon sink, they also play an important role in the global climate. These vital global functions necessitate soil protection that transcends national borders. The European Soil Partnership is a platform to promote crossborder soil protection in Europe. Jes Weigelt, head of the Global Soil Forum at the IASS, was recently appointed Chair of the European Soil Partnership at the European Soil Partnership Consultation Workshop, which took place at the headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome from 17 to 18 March.

The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) was founded by the FAO in 2012. It aims to promote the protection and sustainable use of soils. In addition to FAO member states, membership of the GSP is also open to civil society organisations. The Partnership’s activities are mainly carried out by seven regional alliances under the GSP umbrella. The European Soil Partnership is one of them. It was founded during the Global Soil Week 2013 following the adoption of the Berlin Communiqué. The European Soil Partnership Consultation Workshop marked the end of the European Soil Partnership’s start-up phase.

Europe will have to surmount many obstacles to protect its soils. “Even in Germany, a country with a shrinking population and a well-developed infrastructure, more than 70 hectares of land are sealed on a daily basis,” explained Jes Weigelt. Contaminated soils are another major challenge for Europe. According to Weigelt, soil contamination and other forms of land degradation impinge on the globally relevant functions performed by soils.

The main aim of the European Soil Partnership is to unite the various soil protection activities of its members. With its third Global Soil Week, the IASS will make a major contribution to the European Soil Partnership in 2015. The Global Soil Week helps to raise awareness of the importance of soils and provides a forum for discussing various aspects of crossborder soil protection in Europe. The programme of the 2015 Global Soil Week can be found here.