Flagship Report

World in Transition: The Threat to Soils

Soils form an essential basis for humanity, but have received too little attention to date.


In differing respects, human activities lead in many parts of the world to various levels of soil degradation, from declining fertility to irreversible destruction. Many local processes cumulate to form a global environmental trend that must be counteracted with political action as a matter of urgency.

The fact that the slow destruction of soils is a process barely perceptible to human senses has meant in turn that this topic is dealt with in the environmental debate as a somewhat marginal issue. Therefore, the threat to soils must be accorded much greater significance on the environmental agenda - improved legal frameworks must be created, both nationally and internationally, for soils as an environmental asset.

The 1994 Annual Report of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen, WBGU) is divided into two sections. The first section (standard section) presents and comments on new developments in various fields of Global Change. The second section of the Report (focus section) deals with the global threat to soils.

The Council emphasises that, in view of the seriousness of the soil problems outlined in this Report, a new efficient institutional framework should now be established. For this reason the German Federal Government should decide in principle whether a differentiated "Soil Declaration" suffices or whether a global "Soil Convention" has to be striven for. This Report provides the relevant arguments for both instruments. Global soil protection must obtain a similar attention on the international agenda as has been achieved for climate policy.

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Welt im Wandel – Die Gefährdung der Böden

World in Transition: The Threat to Soils