The linkage between impacts of soil management and societal targets has only recently gained attention in scientific and policy debates. For achieving a sustainable bioeconomy, assessing impacts of different soil management options is a necessity. However, to the best of our knowledge, no systematic approach to an impact assessment of soil management and soil functions on societal targets has yet been developed.
The BonaRes Assessment Framework links driving forces and management decisions to soil reactions, soil functions changes and their impacts to societal targets. Because the multitude of such targets makes it impossible to assess all potential impacts, it is necessary to limit assessments to specific assessment perspectives. In the BonaRes Assessment Framework, we analyse impacts within the categories resource use efficiency and ecosystem services. These two perspectives are considered complementary, and they strongly correspond with requirements of the German bioeconomy strategies. Furthermore, they are related to a number of targets under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Ecosystem service perspective: The concept of ecosystem services aims to demonstrate the value of nature to human societies and specifically refers to the ‘final’ outputs of ecological systems, i.e., the goods and services directly consumed or used by people. The importance of managing soil functions to support ecosystem services is widely acknowledged. However, the operationalisation of linkages between soil management, soil functions, and ecosystem services remains a challenge, e.g., where studies use un-linked single indicators.
Resource use efficiency perspective: Resource use efficiency can generally be defined as the ratio of benefits (generated by a product or process) divided by the amount of (scarce) resources used for that purpose (di Maio et al., 2017). Within the context of research for sustainable bioeconomies, it is necessary to determine how soil functions affect resource use efficiencies and additionally, to what degree soil management can increase efficiencies independent from soil functions.
Currently, only few assessments documented in the literature explicitly address the role of soils, although assessment results often implicitly reflect changes in soil functions due to the fundamental role of soils for crop growth. In contrast, the focus of the BonaRes Assessment Framework is explicitly on soils. Its application will help to systemically assess and compare opportunities and threats of (current and novel) soil management practices at different spatial and temporal scales. Insights gained in this way will help to strengthen the science-policy interface. They can be applied in stakeholder decision-making processes and used to inform the design of governance instruments aimed at sustainable soil management within a bioeconomy.