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Strengthening soil networks in the Eurasian region

Nowadays, land and soil degradation are recognized as one of the major global challenges threatening our planet.  There are many different human threats and pressures affecting soil resources in Eurasia, threatening food security in the region and having a major impact on climate change due to the presence of carbon-rich soils in many of these countries that are suffering unsustainable management, thus releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. The Eurasian region is characterized by large areas devoted to agriculture, which has a great impact on soil health. In many countries, irrigation with low-quality water has produced secondary salinization; the use of heavy machinery has led to severe compaction of otherwise highly fertile soils; ploughing often in favour of slopes is causing severe soil erosion processes; practices involving leaving the soil surface bare in regions highly susceptible to wind erosion; and the application of agrochemicals to try to curb this loss of fertility, often in inadequate quantities and at inadequate intervals has led to a worrying loss of this valuable resource.

Additionally, the lack of updated research in the field of soil erosion, absence of stable soil monitoring systems as well as complicated institutional structures, slow down the development of approaches aimed to combat land degradation at the national and regional levels. Thus, despite numerous emergent activities, soil resources are still seen as a secondary priority in the region. However, voices have emerged to halt soil degradation and to promote sustainable soil management in Eurasia.

15/10/2019

The week of 30 September to 5 October was very active and positive to the soil science community in Eurasia. On the occasion of the celebration of the International Scientific Conference “Eastern European Chernozems – 140 Years after Dokuchaev”, in Chisinau, Moldova, the Global Soil Partnership organized three back-to-back to meetings, the Fifth Plenary meeting of the Eurasian Soil Partnership (EASP), the launch meeting of the Soil Laboratory Network for Europe and Eurasia (EUROSOLAN) and the second workshop of the International Network of Black Soils (INBS).

The EASP was created in 2013 in the framework of the GSP and since then have been working on strengthening soil science networks and on the promotion of the implementation of sustainable soil management practices at a wider scale in the region. The INBS acts as a united national platform, which facilitates dialogue and cooperation among interested stakeholders from countries with black soils to propose conservation and sustainable management practices. The Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN) facilitates networking and capacity development through cooperation and information sharing between soil laboratories with different levels of expertise. GLOSOLAN is composed by regional sub-networks (RESOLANs) involving laboratories in the same region, which often have many similarities in terms of capabilities and methodologies. The goals of GLOSOLAN and RESOLAN are to strengthen the performance of soil laboratories using standardized methods and protocols; promote the harmonization of soil analysis methods; and promote the improvement of national capacities through technical cooperation.

Around 100 participants attended the various meetings, demonstrating the great interest in this topic in the region and the willingness to strengthen soil science networks, including professionals, policy-makers and other stakeholders, and to support the creation of regional inter-institutional capacity to create a unified and recognized voice in favour of soils and to avoid fragmentation of efforts and waste of resources.

As a result of the hard work done by the participants during this intense week, three main results were developed:

  • Agreed work plan for the Eurasian Soil Partnership for the period 2019-2023, which will focus on the promotion of sustainable soil management as a way to address the main environmental challenges affecting the region, such as droughts, salinization, soil pollution and loss of productivity through mismanagement.
  • Renewed organization of the INBS with a new Chair and Vice-chair and a work plan for the next two years which includes the preparation of a scientifically sound definition of black soils and the assessment of the status of black soils worldwide.
  • Establishment of EUROSOLAN and preparation of a work plan for the next two years.