Finding and sharing solutions to

protect our soils

Europe's soil research hub

Who is RECARE-Hub for?

Farmers & Forestry

RECARE-Hub contains the latest information on preventing soil threats, and cost-benefit analysis on proven remediation techniques.


Discover innovative sustainable land management measures that can combat threats to key soil functions.

Policy makers

Find out more about land care strategies relevant to your region and our integrated assessment of existing soil related policy.


Access a wealth of European research data on soil threats and the efficacy of land care strategies.

Teachers & environmentalists

Whether you're a teacher or a concerned environmentalist, find out why Europe's soils are under threat and what researchers are doing to help combat the problems.

Resources designed for you


The soil that underpins Europe's agricultural systems faces numerous threats.

If you are interested in learning about specific soil threats, you can explore the individual threats below. If you want detailed guidance for assessing soil degradation or learning about management measures to prevent and remediate against soil degradation, you might want to head straight over to RECARE's resources.



Living in a polluted world – Europe’s ‘most polluted town’

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 project - SOIL POLLUTION IN ROMANIA (English subtitles) from Soil Physics & Land Use PROJECTS on Vimeo.

Find more about the RECARE trials at Copşa Mică here- or contact Mihail Dumitru This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Case Study Sites

 Click on the map below to find out more about RECARE's case study sites
Case Studies

Project Partners


RECARE was a multidisciplinary research project of 27 different organisations that assessed the threats to Europe's soils and identified innovative solutions to prevent further soil degradation.  The project ran from 2013 - 2018.

Academic Contact
Professor Coen Ritsema 
Wageningen University
E: coen.ritsema[AT]

Media Contact
Dr Matt Reed
E: mreed[AT]


Funded by the European Commission FP7 Programme, ENV.2013.6.2-4 ‘Sustainable land care in Europe’.

EU grant agreement: 603498.

Project officer: Maria Yeroyanni.

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