60-70% of soils in Europe are currently considered unhealthy. BENCHMARKS supports the European Commission on its mission to reach “75% of European soils as healthy or significantly improved by 2030” (SH&F mission).
Conventional soil monitoring systems measure chemical parameters but disregard a wide range of biological and physical parameters essential to soil health. One-size fits all minimum dataset approaches are often applied in monitoring, which do not account for climatic and land use differences across Europe for soil health assessment.
The BENCHMARKS’ objective is to build a European network that creates a shared understanding of soil health assessment across a range of land uses and climatic conditions. BENCHMARKS will define how to measure soil health and provide context and spatial scale relevant measurement techniques from field to European scale. Working with multi-stakeholder partnerships, BENCHMARKS aims to contribute to and empower land-use systems, side-by-side with land managers, that promote soil health.
Through a multi-scale (local, landscape, national, Europe) and multi-stakeholder process across different land-use types (urban, forestry, agriculture), BENCHMARKS aims to:
1) Provide a clear, easy-to-use tool for evaluating soil health, that is transparent, harmonized, and cost-effective.
2) Define appropriate indicators that are relevant to the assessment of soil health for a range of land uses and climatic zones across Europe.
3) Develop a soil health dashboard appropriate for use at a range of scales (field to European) for agricultural, forestry, and urban settings.
4) Contribute to improving existing European policies and regulations related to soil health.
BENCHMARKS uses innovative participatory approaches to address the soil health requirements of multiple stakeholders such as land managers, advisors, policymakers, scientific and educational communities and the private sector. Throughout 2023, a series of workshops will take place in 24 landscape case studies across 13 countries in Europe. They will bring together land managers at the local level and diverse stakeholder groups at regional, national and European levels.