UN Enviroment Programme

Chapter 1. Setting the scene

Report outline

The report is organized in fourteen chapters. This first chapter describes the scenario on which this development was based, and the methodology followed for preparation.

Chapter 2 introduces the main groups of soil contaminants and their characteristics that will determine their fate in the soil. Chapter 2 also describes the main soil properties involved in the filtration, buffering and degradation capacity of contaminants.

Chapter 3 discusses the main sources of soil pollution and relates them to the major contaminants emitted by these sources. Natural sources such as volcanoes, forest fires, and different types of rock and parent material, agriculture, different industrial sectors, urban and industrial wastes, transportation, and armed conflicts are discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 4 discusses the impact of soil pollution on the provision of soil ecosystem services, and reviews synergies and trade-offs. The changes and impairments that soil pollution causes to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the risks to food security are also presented. This chapter also details the effects on human health of the different groups of contaminants. Finally, Chapter 4 includes an analysis of the socioeconomic impacts of soil pollution and how it jeopardizes the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the international community.

Chapter 5 discusses the current global status and trends of soil pollution that threaten ecosystem services, with a focus on diffuse pollution by different contaminants. The main mechanisms of mobilization and transport of soil contaminants on a global scale are presented here. International regulatory frameworks as well as voluntary agreements are also discussed in this chapter since, although they do not specifically address soil pollution, they do contribute to its prevention and control.

The regional assessments in Chapters 6 to 12 follow a standard outline: after a brief description of the main biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics of each region, the status and trends of soil pollution associated with the main sources of contaminants are analysed. The organization of the regions in this report follows the distribution of the GSP Regional Soil Partnerships (RSPs), with the difference that the Asia and the Pacific RSPs have been merged into a single chapter and that the Eurasian sub-region has been separated from Europe because of its different industrial, legislative and management history. Each chapter includes an analysis of the national, regional, and international legislative frameworks and ends with an analysis of the main barriers to curb the complete cycle of soil pollution, from prevention, to quantification, monitoring, management and remediation and the related uncertainties.

Chapter 13 aims to reflect the most common soil pollution remediation and management techniques and includes successful case studies provided by various national experts and remediation companies.

Finally, Chapter 14 presents the conclusions and recommendations derived from the information gathered, the opinions of the experts who contributed to the preparation of this report, and the responses of the national representatives to the questionnaire prepared for this report. These recommendations should help national authorities and international organizations to design a joint global agenda against soil pollution.