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HoliSoils – Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils – is an ongoing Horizon 2020 project (May 2021- October 2025) to develop a harmonised soil monitoring framework. It identifies and tests soil management practices aiming to mitigate climate change and sustain provision of various ecosystem services essential for human livelihoods and wellbeing.

HoliSoils incorporates novel methodologies and expert knowledge on analytical techniques, data sharing, soil properties and biodiversity, and processes with model development. It develops tools for soil monitoring, refines GHG assessment of the LULUCF sector, enhances efficiency of GHG mitigation actions, and improves numerical forecasting of soil-based mitigation, adaptation, and ecosystem services.

The objectives

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Advance knowledge of soil properties

Processes, biodiversity and soil microbiota activity, all of which influence soil-based ecosystem services (wood production, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, water supply, soil nutrient retention, avoidance of land degradation).

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Develop and improve state-of-the-art soil models

Harmonise them into a monitoring framework for estimating carbon and greenhouse gas fluxes, nitrogen and base cation stocks in forest soils, and integrate them into forest ecosystem models.

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Develop standardised sampling and monitoring protocols

For greenhouse gas reporting, harmonise legacy soil data from multiple sources and make them available to end-users via a web portal, and develop and apply digital soil mapping methods to facilitate the scaling-up of the model to European scale.

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Determine the effects of management on soil functionality

biodiversity, nutrient stocks, organic matter quality and stabilisation processes.

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Determine effects of natural disturbances on soil functioning and resilience

identify good management practices for preventing soil degradation, and map soil vulnerability.

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Study the impacts, trade-offs, and synergies

of Climate-Smart Forestry management scenarios for soils and forests on the greenhouse gas balance across Europe and water budget under future climate disturbances.

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Boost collaboration

Between universities, research institutes, and intergovernmental bodies and facilitate the transfer of developed approaches, knowledge, and tools globally to operators within the forest sector via a multi-actor approach.

Who do we work with?

HoliSoils applies a collaborative multi-actor approach, to maximise applicability and impact. The multidisciplinary consortium consists of universities and research institutes from across Europe, with leading expertise on soil analysis and databases, development of advanced analytical techniques, complex system modelling, digital soil mapping, soil ecology, disturbance ecology, forest and GHG inventories, social sciences, and communications.

HoliSoils also involves active engagement with diverse stakeholders, including forest owners and managers, industry actors, forest extension services, a certification body, forest and soils researchers, climate policy support and GHG inventory experts, and policymakers.

Why do we need this project?

Knowledge gaps on forest soil processes and lack of a harmonised soil monitoring limit the EU’s ability to maintain soil related ecosystem services and to reach climate policy targets.

A better understanding of the soil processes and a harmonised approach to manage and integrate data to computational models that are used for decision making is urgently required in order to meet climate and sustainability goals, including the UN’s Agenda 2030 SDGs, the Paris Agreement of Climate Convention, the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, the EU’s LULUCF Regulation, the EU Forest Strategy (2018), and the European Green Deal.

Soil benefits

Forest soils are teeming with life and biodiversity. They enable the growth of trees, berry plants and mushrooms that are essential to human consumption and economy and contribute to mitigation of the climate change by storing carbon and consuming greenhouse gas methane.