The assessment of soil information – be it through classical soil mapping or in the framework of monitoring programmes – is the first link in a long value chain. Scientifically sound soil information offers many benefits to researchers, administrators and policy makers. The National Soil Information System NABODAT (link to project) intends to compile soil data from various sources, harmonise them and provide them for further needs and studies. NABODAT has been operating as a joint special application of the federal government and the cantons since 2012, after a multi-year development phase.
With the information system NABODAT, harmonised soil data are available to address various questions and problems. First and foremost, NABODAT serves the cantonal soil protection agencies in the daily execution of soil protection. Reliable soil information is also important for studies on increased soil sealing, on climate change, on natural hazards in general and flood control in particular and on securing food production; furthermore, it is important for measures in soil risk prevention (erosion, soil compaction, etc.) and maintenance of soil functions (link to project).
The soil data inventory of Agroscope contains more than 10'000 soil profile sheets. The assessments originate from over 300 soil mapping projects that were conducted between 1956 and 1996 in Switzerland. In 2014, the inventory and the digitisation were finished. The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) and the cantons jointly financed the project.
The federal government and the cantons analyse and manage the digital soil data of Switzerland in the National Soil Information System NABODAT according to a standardised model. For the spatial analysis, the database is linked with a geographic information system (GIS). Thus, the soil information data in NABODAT are easily available for various questions and various professional disciplines, and promote collaboration among cantons and between federal government and cantons with regard to soil protection issues.
Soil has critically important economic and ecological functions. Of fundamental importance are its role as the central interface in the ecosystem and its interactions with the climate, biosphere and hydrosphere. As these properties are often neither directly noticeable nor otherwise evident to the public, an evaluation of soil functions can help convey this information. The NABO and the ETH Zurich jointly study and develop suitable methods with which to evaluate basic ecological soil functions and deliver this knowledge comprehensibly to other professional disciplines and to the public.
What types of soil information and tools are necessary to meet future needs in politics? What is the benefit of soil information to society? How can we close the enormous data gaps in soil data of Switzerland in the future? How can we demonstrate the added value of soil mapping? These are some of the essential questions that are addressed in the partial thematic synthesis in project NFP68 ‘Soil Data, Methods and Tools’.