SLU news

The new EU soil directive has potential but requires changes

Published: 15 November 2023
Hands holding in soil with plants.

The European Commission's proposal for a directive to protect and restore soil, the Soil Monitoring Law, has the potential to contribute to more sustainable land use. In the long term, it would promote sustainable agriculture and forestry, and be positive for the environment in large. However, there is an opportunity to strengthen the design of the directive, especially in relation to the proposed indicators for soil health, so that Swedish conditions are better taken into account, according to researchers at the Department of Soil and Environment at SLU.

Healthy soils are fundamental for life on Earth. They produce most of our food, provide ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water purification, and provide habitats for billions of species. To maintain and, in some cases, restore these ecosystem services, the European Commission proposed the Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience on July 5, 2023. The aim is to achieve good status in European soils by 2050.

Researchers at the Department of Soil and Environment have contributed to SLU's consultation response to the Ministry of Climate and Enterprise. Here you can read some of the key points of the analysis.

Read more at the Swedish version of this page.


The researchers believe that:

  • It is positive that the Directive pays attention to soil. It is a finite resource that we need to protect and that is often overlooked.

  • The Directive can enable greater coordination of existing and future environmental monitoring programs for soil. This would facilitate data comparison and could lead to a more sustainable management of soil in Sweden and Europe. A common starting point for soil health can benefit soil management.

  • Swedish environmental soil monitoring programs have long time series of great value that need to be maintained. This can be done by coordinating existing and future monitoring programs.

  • Several soil health indicators need to be corrected in order to be viable. These include the organic carbon content of (Swedish) clay soils. It is also unclear whether and how, for example, natural background levels of chemical elements affect the indicators. If adjustments are not made, there is a risk that soils with good status will be classified as unhealthy.

  • Soil health indicators should generally be on a scale, rather than a fixed value. A more flexible measure than the Directive's proposed "one out, all out" for indicators is needed to work for different types of soils.

  • Data management must comply with current legislation. Soil data should be stored nationally and the location of sample points should not be linked to individual landowners.


Johan Stendahl
Head of Department and Researcher, Department of Soil and Environment