Published February 17, 2023 | Version v1
Project deliverable Open

Knowedge needs and gaps on soil and land management


Soil health is vital for many ecosystem services. The Horizon Europe (HE) Mission “A Soil Deal for Europe” aims to accelerate the transition to sustainable soil and land management and healthy soils through an am-bitious transdisciplinary research and innovation (R&I) programme, largely based on actor engagement, Liv-ing Labs and Lighthouses. The H2020 Soil Mission Support (SMS) project supported the implementation of the HE Mission, and aimed to improve the coordination of R&I on sustainable soil and land management. Through a co-creation process together with actors, SMS collated available knowledge, actors R&I needs and identified R&I gaps that need to be addressed for successful transition towards sustainable soil and land management.
The first step was to identify existing R&I knowledge through a keyword-based analysis of scientific literature published and peer reviewed, related to sustainable soil and land management. The literature analysis ad-dressed the full range of societal challenges, soil health objectives, land use types and knowledge domains necessary to capture the socio-ecological complexity of soil health. Covering some 15,700 scientific articles, this literature analysis represents the current peer reviewed knowledge stock on sustainable soil and land management. A textual analysis using the digital platform CorTexT was undertaken to explore the identified literature and submitted to project consortium internal experts, who analysed and processed the collected information of their respective area of expertise (Annex III). The literature analysis revealed that the societal challenges “reduce soil degradation” and “improve disaster control” have been studied extensively. Con-versely, the societal challenges “mitigate land take” and “increase biodiversity” and the knowledge domains “science-based policy support” and “awareness, training & education” are less discussed. Factsheets present-ing the results of the literature analysis per societal challenge were developed and can be found in Annex VIII. Note that as the key-word based literature search was limited to Scopus-indexed scientific journals, other publishing formats such as conference papers, books, book chapters, non-digitalized articles, grey literature, reports, patents, etc., may be underrepresented or not included in the used data base. The exclusive use of Scopus-indexed scientific articles provided quality insurance of the material through the publication peer-review system. Nonetheless, important documents and knowledge have been incorporated by the consor-tium experts when analysing the collected literature.
The second step was to consult actors through online workshops and surveys in order to gain a practice-oriented ‘real-life’ picture of current knowledge and R&I needs for swift implementation of sustainable soil and land management. This step was seen as complementary of the published and peer-reviewed literature.
Finally, after exploring our stocktaking of R&I from existing knowledge evidenced by literature review and the actor’s knowledge needs identified from actor consultations, we identified R&I gaps. The main knowledge gaps across all Mission Objectives were of socio-economic nature: drivers and causes of land degradation, knowledge management, governance and policies for inciting improved management, and interaction with other sectors are not sufficiently understood. Second, the HE Missions’ focus on improving soil literacy was supported by the literature analysis and by the actor consultation, which both revealed knowledge gaps re-lated to education and capacity building in all land use types and domains affecting soil health: production, consumption, trade, policy and governance. Thirdly, there is a gap in the long-term implementation of a new mode of knowledge co-design, where researchers and practitioners together develop solutions for sustaina-ble soil and land management in a real-world context. The HE Missions’ focus on Living Labs and Lighthouses has the potential to close this gap. Finally, there is a need to define several concepts (e.g. soil health, soil degradation, footprint). Such definitions should be shared and will be a basis to identify relevant indicators and respective thresholds, and to develop guidelines to support monitoring programmes in order to translate knowledge into evidence for decision making.
The outcome of the deliverable is a list of validated R&I gaps across all Mission Objectives which will feed into the SMS roadmap and the HE Mission.


SMS Deliverable 2_4 - Knowledge needs and gaps on soil and land management.pdf

Additional details


SMS – Soil Mission Support: Towards a European research and innovation roadmap on soils and land management 101000258
European Commission