Soils, the upper layer of the Earth, is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids and organisms, and a key for life. Including peat and litter, they represent the largest carbon pool on land. It is the substrate allowing plants to grow, a means to water storage and purification, a modifier of the Earth’s atmosphere and a habitat for organisms. Soil processes are impacting ecosystems functioning and food, fibre and timber production. It regulates climate, the hydrological and nutrient cycle and provide resilience against floods and droughts. Several targets of Sustainable Development Goals depend on healthy and functional soils.
Pressure on soils such as climate change, industrialization and urbanization, intensive agriculture and livestock farming, etc. lead to soil degradation (erosion, contamination, loss of organic matter, ….). Careful monitoring of this finite, non-renewable resource is therefore mandatory as stressed by many national and international treaties and policies,e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals, the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality, the RAMSAR Convention, the EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and the Common Agricultural Policy, etc.
Space-based EO systems provide a means to support the monitoring of some soil chemical and physical properties, directly or indirectly, through the interaction of radiance fields with the (mainly upper) soil layer as shown by many research projects. However, space-based EO data together with in-situ measurements and modeling are hardly been used today in an operational manner by national and international organizations with the mandate to map, monitor and report on soils. This may be related to the lack of adequate, available space-borne EO data (spectral and temporal coverage, restricted data access) as well as the lack of available processing capabilities. With the advent of operational EO systems such as the European Union Copernicus Program (including the high priority Copernicus expansion missions), the free and open EO data policies as well as cloud-based access and processing capabilities (e.g. DIAS) an EO based Soil Monitoring System appears feasible today.
Therefore, a user consultation workshop on space-based EO tools for mapping and monitoring soils will take place from 02 - 03 July 2019 at ESA ESRIN, Frascati, Italy with the aim to bring together stakeholders from the policy and user domain with remote sensing experts to discuss the necessary steps to develop such a system.