Understanding soil functions: from data and knowledge to proxy-indicators

Lead partners :

Participants :


Description of work

Work Package 3 has four objectives:

The team is developing a comprehensive science-based framework for understanding and quantifying soil functions in relation to soil properties, land use, climate and soil management. As such, it connects the state-of-the-art data and knowledge in applied soil science (WP2) to a quantitative indicator framework ready and fit for use in soil and land use management systems and policy (WP4 and WP5).

To meet this objective we are developing:

  1. A conceptual framework for understanding the five predetermined soil functions, based on literature, expert knowledge and data mining on existing datasets. Experimental efforts to fill apparent gaps are considered.
  2. A statistical and mathematical framework for quantifying these soil functions, ultimately delivering sets of nested ‘proxy-indicator systems’ for these functions on different spatial (and temporal) scales.
  3. An operational framework for scaling and weighting information of different soil functions in the form of policy-oriented decision support tools, farmer oriented soil management tools, and infographics.


How are we doing in our first 18 months?

WP3 utilises the knowledge learnt from WP1 and data collated from WP2 to provide a comprehensive science-based framework for each of the soil functions at the three spatial scales. This starts to directly feed into the final outputs of the three pillars (which is finalised in WP5). Therefore there is a strong connection between the pillar leaders and WP and Task leaders of WP3. Within WP3, definitions of the five soil functions have been developed and initial models of the functions derived.  WP3 is currently testing a variety of models for the various soil functions at the three different spatial scales of the pillars. Already a paper has been published in the journal Soil Use and Management from Task 3.6 describing the role of nutrient cycling in soil quality, Schroder et al., 2016. The next steps will be to finalise first drafts of the models for Pillar 1 and discuss the requirements for Pillar 2 and Pillar 3 (WP4).