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ESSEM COST Action 622
Soil resources of Europe volcanic ecosystems

Soil belongs to most valuable natural resources and they are much more vulnerable to environmental hazards than air or water resources. Although the soil degradation is usually a rather slow process and it does not have direct effect on human health, its impacts are long lasting and often practically irreversible in time scale of man’s life. Due to their more dynamic character, air or water can be contaminated quickly. In turn, they can also be cleaned up quicker than soil when the polluting factor is eliminated. The cleaning of contaminated soils usually needs many decades and the remediation of soils destroyed by processes such as erosion and salinisation is normally almost impossible. Millions of hectares of soils have been completely destroyed and abandoned by man during the relatively “short” history of human civilisation. This catastrophic process especially affected the Middle East and Mediterranean Region and, thus, it is one of the most important environmental problems affecting the EU. Soils of volcanic areas are those most endangered by degradation, due to their unique characteristics. On the one hand, they occur in mountainous areas, on the other hand they are very fertile and intensively utilised even if located on slopes where forests would usually occur in non-volcanic areas.

Soils result from very complex and long lasting developments in which many processes take part with many mutually interfering factors. As a result, soils are geographically very variable. This variability was not fully understood as many countries in Europe still use national and locally based soil classifications. It enables them to express the local soil variability much better than any international classification, but on the other hand it makes international comparison difficult. The understanding of volcanic soils is even more difficult as the volcanic areas are isolated and each such region has very unique conditions. Thus, land management of volcanic areas is one of the most crucial problems of land management in many European countries. COST Action 622 was a very important initiative at this field. It started from basic research and elementary understanding of the volcanic soils at the level of soil morphology, soil genesis and soil classification, continued with applied aspects of land evaluation, vulnerability and risk assessment, conservation and amelioration measures and finished with overall land management strategy and practical recommendations for policy makers. The main scientific output of the COST Action 622 is the first international inventory of the knowledge on volcanic soils at a European level, transforming the national information to a compatible form with verification of its validity. This inventory of knowledge will be presented in a book “Volcanic soils in Europe” which is in preparation and will be published by Springer Verlag. Another important output is the first map of volcanic soils of Europe. Two special issues of the international journals Catena and Geoderma provide the results presented at workshops of COST Action 622 (in total 24 scientific papers) and many other papers with international authorship emerging from the network of COST Action 622 were published in the scientific literature. Finally, a land management strategy for volcanic areas with practical recommendation for land use policy which will be published as a comprehensive guidebook.

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General Information*

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Action Fact Sheet

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Memorandum of Understanding

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Evaluation Report

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Final Report

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Last updated: 02 May 2011 top of page