Evaluation of Soil Functions

The project PMSoil (Predictive mapping of soil properties for the evaluation of soil functions at regional scale), funded through the National Research Programme NFP68 «Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource», provides an important basis for the digital mapping of soil properties and the evaluation of soil (sub-)functions in Switzerland. Two regional case studies were conducted to test methods of digital mapping and examine whether methods of soil function analysis used in other countries can be applied to the conditions in Switzerland.

Purpose and goal of the project include a systematic description and evaluation of soil functions. This concept of presentation and assessment offers the possibility to illustrate the value of soil and the societal relevance of its ecological and economic services.

Figure: (Main) Soil functions such as production, habitat and regulating functions comprise further sub-functions. This breakdown demonstrates the multi-functionality of soils.

The project evaluates, for example, the extensive regulating function of soil (e.g. nutrient and water balances, filtration and buffer functions), the production function and the habitat function (e.g. habitat for organisms, soil biodiversity). The goal is to create soil function flow charts. Based on positive experience in other countries, such charts are very useful in the spatial planning of land use as they add soil quality data to the considerations. The simplified, systematic illustration should improve the understanding of the significance of soil and thereby support the policy decision process and promote the exchange of expertise among various disciplines.

Figure: Flow chart of the soil function concept in societal decision processes and their feedback effects on the soil.



Project Partner

  • Dr. A. Papritz, M. Nussbaum, Institut für terrestrische Ökologie, ETH Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. M. Schaepman, Remote Sensing Laboratories, Université de Zurich
  • Prof. Dr. A. Grêt-Regamey, PLUS, ETH Zürich