Existing overviews soil policy instruments

In the scientific literature (peer-reviewed articles, reports etc.) numerous overviews of soil policy instruments on national and EU level can be found. Here, we provide a commented list of recent examples with different foci: 

Frelih-Larsen, A.,  Bowyer, C., Albrecht S., Keenleyside, C., Kemper, M.,  Nanni, S. Naumann, R., Mottershead, D., Landgrebe, R., Andersen, E., Banfi, P., Bell, S., Brémere, I., Cools, J., Herbert, S., Iles, A., Kampa, E., Kettunen, M., Lukacova, Z., Moreira, G., Kiresiewa, Z., Rouillard, J., Okx, J., Pantzar, M., Paquel, K., Pederson, R., Peepson, A., Pelsy, F., Petrovic, D., Psaila, E., Šarapatk, B., Sobocka, J., Stan, A.-C., Tarpey, J., Vidaurre, R., 2016. Updated Inventory and Assessment of Soil Protection Policy Instruments in EU Member States. Final Report to DG Environment. Berlin: Ecologic Institute. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/soil/pdf/Soil_inventory_report.pdf

The inventory gives a comprehensive overview of existing soil protection policies and measures at the EU and member state level with the aim of identifying strengths and weaknesses. A web platform called Soil Wiki was established that covers 35 EU level policies and 671 instruments across the 28 EU member states. Most instruments (74%) are regulatory instruments and a majority (61%) are obligatory. Other instruments included in the inventory are e.g. monitoring, funding and awareness-raising schemes. Nearly half of all instruments in the member states are related to EU legislation. A cross-policy analysis has shown different strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand EU policy measures are strong in protection and offer opportunities in improving current legislation and policy, e.g. the 7th Environment action programme, the climate and energy package for 2020-2030 and the Common Agricultural Policy. But the benefits for soil protection depend on the integration from soil issues into policies. Moreover, there is a significant lack of a strategic policy framework, strategic coordination and integration. Another deficit is that soil protection is mostly an outcome of other environmental protection programmes. Some important key policies are non-binding and land protection may not equate to soil protection. Soil functions are limited prepared in EU legislation and historic contamination is not addressed in EU law, too.

Ronchi, S., Salata, S., Arcidiacono, A., Piroli, E., Montanarella, L., 2019. Policy instruments for soil protection among the EU member states: A comparative analysis. Land Use Policy 82: 763–780. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.01.017

Ronchi et al. (2019) use the Ecologic inventory to conduct a cross-country comparative analysis of soil protection policies in the EU. Their analysis reveals that the absence of a common EU strategy to address soil protection and the inefficacy of the subsidiary principle in the sustainable management of soil resources especially in the view of addressing the Sustainable Development Goals achieving the targets by 2030. The lack of a Soil Framework Directive has weakened the possibility to have strong coordination among the member states for soil protection. The multitude of autonomous, country-specific legislative frameworks reveal large heterogeneity and incoherence.

Vrebos, D., Bampa, F., Creamer, R.E., Gardi, C., Ghaley, B. B., Jones, A., Rutgers, M., Sandén, T., Staes, J., Meire, P., 2017. The Impact of Policy Instruments on Soil Multifunctionality in the European Union. Sustainability 9: 407–424. doi:10.3390/su9030407


Vrebos et al. (2017) analyse different European, national and regional legislations from across Europe for their impacts on five different soil functions in agricultural land. The soil functions are production of food, fibre and (bio)fuel; water purification and regulation; carbon sequestration and climate regulation; habitat for biodiversity; recycling auf nutrients and agro-chemicals. Regulations, directives, decisions, recommendation, communication and opinions are analysed for Belgium (Flanders), the Netherlands, Italy (Emilia-Romagna) and Austria (Upper Austria) as well as at the EU level. Most instruments have a direct impact on at least one soil function, but there is no clear relationship between a specific policy domain and the functions directly affected.

Turpin, N., ten Berge, H., Grignani, C., Guzmán, G., Vanderlinden, K., Steinmann, H.-H., Siebielec, G., Spiegel, A., Perret, E., Ruysschaert, G., Laguna, A., Giráldez, J.V., Werner, M., Raschke, I., Zavattaro, L., Costamagna, C., Schlatter, N., Berthold, H., Sandén, T., Baumgarten, A., 2017: An assessment of policies affecting Sustainable Soil Management in Europe and selected member states. Land Use Policy 66: 241–249. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2017.04.001


Turpin et al. (2017) analyse soil-related policies in Europe and in selected member states (Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland) and regions (Lower Saxony, Thuringia, Andalusia, Flanders) are analysed. Policy packages at European, national and regional level are broken down into strategic objectives, operational objectives, policy measures and expected impacts. The relationship between these elements and “soil stakes” (public and/or private interests affected by the management of agricultural soils) is evaluated. Many different factors are found to influence the presence and coverage of soil stakes in policies.

Glæsner, N., Helming, K., de Vries, W., 2014: Do current European policies prevent soil threats and support soil functions? Sustainability 6: 9538–9563. doi:10.3390/su6129538


At the moment there is no legislation at European level that focuses specifically on soil conservation. Glæsner et al. (2014) conduct a cross-policy analysis of 19 legislative policies to identify gaps and overlaps in existing EU legislation related to soil functions and soil threats. Not all soil threats are found to be addressed by any of the policies. Soil functions are found to be covered by existing legislation but only with a few directives for improving them. Most directives focus on preventing the decline of soil functions. Addressing soil functions individually fails to represent the multifunctionality of soil. Because of increasing soil degradation in Europe, a European Soil Framework Directive would increase the effectiveness of protecting and improving soil functions.

Prager, K., Schuler, J., Helming, K., Zander, P., Ratinger, T., Hagedorn, K., 2011: Soil degradation, farming practices, institutions and policy responses: An analytical framework. Land Degradation and Development 22: 32–46. doi:10.1002/ldr.979


Prager et al. (2011) analyse the institutional settings surrounding agricultural soil management in ten European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom) based on the Institutions of Sustainability (IoS) framework. The focus of the analysis is on the main soil degradation types in Europe, which are found to be addressed by a broad range of mandatory and incentive policies. The measures of policies, institutions and governance structures to support soil conservation are distinguished in mandatory, voluntary and advice and awareness-raising measures. The communication and cooperation between the different actor groups is found deficient.