Soil indicators: Soil indicators for sustainable spatial planning

Soils are a key resource in spatial decision-making. They provide various services to humans, who are increasingly competing for their uses. To allow consideration of the multitude of benefits provided by soil in decision making, two soil quality indices were developed that allow quick and comprehensive assessement of soil functions and their services for human well-being.

  • Background (completed research project)

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    Although there exists considerable knowledge on soils, soil is often marginalized as a surface in spatial development. The most prominent reasons are limited accessibility and availability of soil data and, thus, limited communicability of soils’ value and lack of indices specifically developed for application in spatial planning.

  • Aim

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    The goal of this study was (1) the adaption of an existing German soil quality index specifically developed for steering Swiss spatial development (named BOKS), and (2) the development of a soil quality index taking into account the various services soil provides to humans (ecosystem services) and capable of reflecting diverse stakeholder preferences to enable cross-sectoral cooperation and facilitate communication of the value of soils (named SQUID).

  • Results

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    Both developed soil quality indices, the BOKS as well as the SQUID, are capable of revealing the spatial distribution of soil quality hot and cold spots. Beyond that, the indices have different advantages and disadvantages: The BOKS excels an easy implementation and clear differentiation between soil quality levels, offering good strategic overview and supporting quick decision-making. The SQUID, on the other hand, reveals the spatial distribution of soil-based ES provision, bridging the gap between demand and supply, and can deal with a wide range of stakeholder preferences, fostering comprehensive deliberation about soil uses, thus promoting a more sustainable spatial development.

  • Importance for research

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    To our knowledge, this study presents the first index based on soil-based ecosystem services. SQUID index is the first soil quality index allowing to consider and weight various stakeholder preferences on soil uses and thus facilitating the communication of the multiple values of soils in a easy to understand manner.

  • Practical significance

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    Both soil quality indices can inform spatial development on the distribution, allocation, and availability of bad to good soil qualities. In addition, the SQUID can provide information on soil-based ecosystem services supply and allows to relate that information to ES demand by incorporating stakeholder preferences. Moreover, both soil quality indices can serve as basis for new instruments designed to steer spatial development.

  • Original title

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    Developing of soil indicators for sustainable spatial development