Burden balancing : Sustainable soil use through balancing of economic and ecological gains and losses

In order to balance the economic and ecological gains and losses of soils, effective burden balancing instruments will need to be implemented at various levels.

  • Background (completed research project)

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    Spatial planning and soil protection measures often create economic and ecological gains and losses, for example by changing the designated use of land or through use restrictions on contaminated soils. More sustainable management of soil can be achieved if we adopt compensation mechanisms that balance these gains and losses. This applies both in terms of quantity (urban sprawl versus urban intensification) and of quality (maintaining soil functions).

  • Aim

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    The project aimed to explain the role and impact of the mechanisms generating economic and ecological gains and losses. It sought ways of balancing them by adopting targeted measures in the areas of spatial planning and soil protection. In addition, the team intended to analyse the past and future effects of existing or planned burden balancing instruments.

  • Results

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    One of the aims of sustainable spatial planning and soil protection is to coordinate strategies and, in particular, to bring together the instruments of the Spatial Planning Act (RPG) and the Ordinance on the Pollution of Soil (SoilPO). The results show that various obstacles need to be overcome before a balance between economic and ecological gains and losses can be achieved. Economic gains and losses can be balanced by using different instruments in a similar way at various spatial levels. However, balancing or protecting ecological gains and losses - measured in terms of ecosystem services - may call for more specific measures that differ between locations.

    An analysis of the spatial planning strategies implemented in the last 30 years shows that the authorities, particularly at municipal level, have come up with innovative strategies to compensate for the fact that they are in a structurally weaker position than the landowners.

    The study focused on emerging land improvement cooperatives (Flur- und Raumplanungsgenossenschaften) at several locations in the canton of Vaud. They are promising because they make it possible to transfer the right to develop land in periurban areas to suburban areas where greater density is desirable.

  • Implication for practice

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    The researchers developed various instruments that are effective at different levels with the aim of balancing economic and ecological aspects. In this context, land improvement cooperatives in various locations appear to offer an ideal solution for the future.

  • Original title

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    Towards a more sustainable management of soil resources by redistribution of economic and ecological added and reduced values