HoliSoils researchers urge EU to take forest soils into account in new Soil Monitoring Law

The importance of soils for our future is increasingly recognised at international level, with the European Union preparing a Soil Monitoring Law to protect and restore soils, while ensuring their sustainable use. HoliSoils’ researchers are engaged in these efforts, by offering their scientific contribution to the development of the law. In a new opinion paper, various scientists involved in the project highlight the need for this new law to appropriately address the particular conditions of forest soils.

Soils in forests have different characteristics to agricultural soils, both in terms of physical and chemical properties and of biogeochemical dynamics. Consequently, these soils also face different challenges in maintaining and restoring their health, while facing threats such as soil acidification, eutrophication by atmospheric deposition, responses to climate change, and loss of biodiversity.

The paper, therefore, recommends that the planned EU Soil Monitoring Law should include specific health descriptors and thresholds for forest soils. These tailored benchmarks should be defined on the basis of the insights gathered from existing long-term forest soils monitoring programmes, such as the United Nations International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests). By using these established tools, national forest inventories, and a harmonised sampling design, the Soil Monitoring Law is better equipped to build a soil monitoring system that will help to achieve the goals set by the EU Soil Strategy, while making the law more acceptable to Member States and stakeholders on the ground. Use of ICP-Forest data for SML allows also to link forest data with soil data, ensuring that it possible to study for example how soil health links with tree health.

This is the second paper from the HoliSoils project contributing to the development of the new law. In a study published in January 2024 in collaboration with the Benchmarks project, researchers found that one of the proposed indicators for soil health is not fit for purpose. The ratio of soil organic carbon to clay (SOC:Clay), proposed as part of the new law to measure soil carbon loss, is not a reliable indicator for soil health as it does not adequately reflect the diversity of European soils.

If the proposed Soil Monitoring Law can be successfully implemented, the authors of this new paper are convinced that it will “provide important data for evaluation to enhance soil health and bring the European soil monitoring to a new era”. HoliSoils researchers are committed to working to ensure this new law benefits from their latest research.

Read the full publication!


Wellbrock, N., Cools, N., de Vos, B. et al. There is a need to better take into account forest soils in the planned soil monitoring law of the European Union. Annals of Forest Science 81, 22 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13595-024-01238-7