RECARE – Preventing and Remediating Degradation of Soils in Europe through Land Care
RECARE Policy Conference, 27 September 2018 in Brussels
Soils in European Union are a vital environmental resource in need of better protection. Despite the wide recognition of the importance of soils, soil protection efforts in European Union have been partial, fragmented and insufficient to halt their degradation. Calls for improving this situation have increasingly come from scientists, policymakers, non-governmental organisations and citizens. The discussions and negotiations around the design of European policies for post-2020 period offer the opportunity to improve the current situation.
What is the best way forward for soil protection in the EU? How can we improve EU policies to secure the delivery of soil ecosystem services?
These questions will be at the core of the Final Conference of the RECARE project to take place on 27 September 2018 in Brussels, presenting project findings on:
- effective strategies for prevention and remediation of soil threats and their uptake among land managers
- the impacts of European policies, and
- options for future policy responses
The event will offer an opportunity to discuss how RECARE results can influence the design of future European policies on soil protection.
The conference agenda is available here.
The conference will take place at:
Les Ateliers des Tanneurs
Rue des Tanneurs 60A
Please click here to locate the conference venue on Google Maps.
To register for the conference, please, fill in our registration form:
The sixth RECARE newsletter is now available and can be downloaded here. This issue covers:
1. Impact of soil remediation measures on Ecosystem Services
2. Integrated Assessment Modelling
3. Soil Threat Feature: Soil Contamination
4. RECARE meeting in Romania – dealing with heavy metal contamination
5. RECARE work in Guadiamar, Spain – 20 years after a catastrophic pollution incident
6. New publications
7. New videos
by Matt Reed
I've just been to ‘the most polluted town in Europe’, and, at first sight, it didn't look that bad, I've been to grimier, grittier places than the rural valley of Copşa Mică, Romania. It is both a legacy of the past and also a promise to the future. The massive, black chimney linking the blue sky to the dark mounds of waste was the clue, but away from that site, the damage took a trained eye to notice. Fortunately, I'd come in the company of literally a coach load of some of Europe's leading soil scientists and they saw the damage very quickly.
From the late 1930s onwards, the huge tower was part of a metal smelting factory that spewed out not just steam and smoke but heavy metals that polluted the surrounding land and people. The cadmium, lead, copper and zinc spread out across the area, and people; these are the heavy metals that need to be kept out of your body and food system. The factory is now closed, leaving many residents without work, and nostalgic for a time when they at least had a job, however dangerous and damaging it might have been. Agriculture, the other significant employer in the area, could be severely restricted if the pollution is left uncontained
As our hosts, Mihail Dumitru and Nicoletta Vrinceanu from the National Research and Development Institute for Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Environmental Protection, explained, the pollution has damaged the soil; it has made the soil more acidic and lessened the biodiversity essential for a healthy below ground ecosystem. This damage has left the soil more prone to erosion, as rainwater sheers it away from the hillsides, and more compacted as the structure has weakened. Other sites facing this problem have seen remediation through plants taking up the pollutants or at the most extreme the soil being removed. These options are not technically or financially feasible in Copşa Mică. It would cost €16,000 to remediate 1 hectare of land which is valued at €1,000 per hectare. Instead, scientists are working with local farmers to trial ways in which the pollutants are immobilised in the ground and are not taken up by plants, so do not enter the food chain either through plants or animals.
|RECARE trial plots (Photo: Jane Mills)||Soil amendments trial (Photo: Jane Mills)|
This approach appears to be counter-intuitive, our reactions to pollutants are to expel them and to contain them away from us; to clean up and tidy it away. As we start to realise the scale and scope of the pollution we have released into our shared ecosystems, be that plastics, carbon into the atmosphere or heavy metals into the soil, adaptation starts to become a more pragmatic, although uncomfortable, approach. The test squares of trials of grasses and amendments we gathered around, gazing back at the tower, are the way in which this approach is being worked out. It doesn't offer an answer to those who are looking for work now, but it does suggest a way forward that is sustainable for some of the residents. This limited, pragmatic and evidence-based approach to how we might live with dangerous pollution is a social as well as a scientific trial.
This RECARE fim provides more information pollution issues in Copşa Mică.
RECARE colleagues from the Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla (IRNAS), CSIC in Spain have recently published a paper in Science of the Total Environment. The paper - Soil-plant relationships and contamination by trace elements: A review of twenty years of experimentation and monitoring after the Aznalcóllar (SW Spain) mine accident – focuses on a RECARE Case Study area in the south of Spain where severe soil contamination was caused by the Aznalcóllar mine accident in April 1998. The paper reviews the main results of research conducted in the affected area over the last 20 years, focusing on the soil-plant system. The reclamation techniques included the removal of sludge and soil surface layer and use of soil amendments. The effects of different types of amendments at different spatial scales and their effectiveness with time are reviewed. Monitoring of trace elements in soil and their transfer to plants (crops, herbs, shrubs, and trees) are evaluated to assess potential toxicity effects in the foodweb. The utility of some plants (accumulators) with regard to the biomonitoring of trace elements in the environment are also evaluated. Retention of trace elements by plant roots and their associated microorganisms has been used as a low-cost technique for trace element stabilization and soil remediation. The authors also evaluated the experience acquired in making the Guadiamar Green Corridor a large-scale soil reclamation and phytoremediation case study.
Two presentations on the RECARE project were given at the BonRes 2018 Conference: Soil as a Sustainable Resource, which took place in Berlin 26th-27th February 2018. Gudrun Schwilch, gave a keynote presentation about the RECARE Ecosystem Services Framework for Soil titled "Sustainable Soil Management Through a Transdisciplinary Assessment and Validation of Ecosystem services" Jane Mills presented review work undertaken within RECARE on farm advisory systems for soil entitled "Are advisory services 'fit for purpose' to support sustainable soil management? A review of advisory capacity in Europe"