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Why soil protection is vital


Photo: Hilde Olsen

Soil protection is a matter of national food security, microbiology and carbon storage, climate adaptation and much more. Everything must be taken into account to ensure sustainable development.

In 2015 Norway’s first soil protection strategy was adopted by the Storting. It was updated in June 2021. NIBIO was commissioned in advance to prepare a new knowledge base for the government’s revision of the strategy. Updating facts and discussing connections between soil protection and sustainability were central to the task.

The goal of soil protection is to safeguard food security and the diverse functions of topsoil for the future.

“The UN's sustainability goals cannot be reached without stopping the degradation and loss of land used for food production. We should also produce more of our food in Norway, to improve our self-sufficiency” says Special Adviser Arne Bardalen of NIBIO. He led the work on the report Reasons for Soil Protection.

Soil protection entails protecting both land and the many functions of soil. Soil’s ability to store water is one such function. It is weakened by the use of heavy agricultural machinery. If the ground is covered with asphalt, there can be an increased risk of flooding as the water runs off the surface more quickly.

A quarter of the world’s species are thought to live in the soil. Land degradation and loss harm biodiversity. Life forms in soil, as well soil’s ability to store water and carbon, are of great importance to a soil’s productivity and the farmer’s yields.

Land degradation and loss impair food security in Norway, both now and in the future. Unfortunately, we are building down the land which has the best topsoil and climate.

By developing a sustainable food system based on optimal use of Norwegian resources to produce food for our own population, we are also in solidarity with people in countries where access to food is limited. This is sustainability at a local, national, and global level.