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

Lead partners :

Participants :


Description of work


The team developed a comprehensive science-based framework for understanding and quantifying each of the five soil functions in relation to soil properties, land use, climate and soil management at the three spatial scales. As such, it connects the state-of-the-art data (WP2) and knowledge learnt (WP1) in applied soil science  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 developed:

  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 have been 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.

The work of this work package directly feeds into the final outputs of the three pillars (which is finalised in WP5). Therefore there was a strong connection between the pillar teams and WP teams.

What we delivered

Each soil function has a definition and it is described by a set of attributes visually represented by a DEXi model:

Colour code Soil functions Definition (LANDMARK glossary Deliverable 1.1)   Open access scientific papers for each soil function (Deliverable 3.6)
bullet_box_white Primary productivity The capacity of a soil to produce plant biomass for human use, providing food, feed, fiber and fuel within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries

DEXi Tree
•Trajanov, A. et a. (2018)  Using data mining techniques to model primary productivity from international long-term ecological research (ILTER) agricultural experiments in Austria and its publication tree

Development of an Agricultural Primary Productivity Decision Support Model: A Case Study in France

 bullet_box_blue Water purification and regulation The capacity of a soil to remove harmful compounds from the water that it holds and to receive, store and conduct water for subsequent use and the prevention of both prolonged droughts and flooding and erosion  

DEXi Tree
bullet_box_black Climate regulation and carbon  sequestration The capacity of a soil to reduce the negative impact of increased greenhouse gas (i.e., CO2, CH4, and N2O) emissions on climate  

DEXi Tree
bullet_box_green Soil biodiversity and habitat provisioning The multitude of soil organisms and processes, interacting in an ecosystem, making up a significant part of the soil’s natural capital, providing society with a wide range of cultural services and unknown services  

DEXi Tree
bullet_box_purple Provision and cycling of nutrients The capacity of a soil to receive nutrients in the form of by-products, to provide nutrients from intrinsic resources or to support the acquisition of nutrients from air or water, and to effectively carry over these nutrients into harvested crops

DEXi Tree
 •Schröder,J.J., et al (2017) The elusive role of soil quality in nutrient cycling: A review and its publication tree