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The total costs of soil degradation in England and Wales - SP1606

Description
The role played by soils in providing wellbeing to society has been clearly articulated in the recent Soil Strategy for England. The continued provision of benefits from the soil to society is dependent on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil being maintained. However, much evidence suggests that soil degradation, associated with the loss of integrity in these soil properties, results in significant costs, not only to immediate users of soils but also to society as a whole, now and into the future. According to the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (Commission of the European Communities, 2006) degradation processes that threaten soil resources include: i) soil erosion, ii) organic matter decline, iii) compaction, iv) salinisation, v) landslides, vi) contamination vii) soil sealing, and viii) loss of biodiversity. Whilst not all these are necessarily significant in England and Wales, or lie outside the aim of this project, estimates for the UK put the total marginal cost of soil degradation at between £206-315 million per year. Evidence suggests that these costs are incurred in many different ways, affecting diverse ecosystems and stakeholders, over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

The links between soil degradation and its impact on society in terms of welfare loss can be articulated within an ecosystems framework. In addition, given Defra’s adoption of an ecosystems approach to decision-making regarding the environment, through PSA 28, it seems appropriate to use an ecosystems framework to assess the wide range of social welfare costs associated with soil degradation. Our approach draws on literature on environmental valuation, on applications and guidance on these methods (including Defra’s An Introductory Guide to Valuing Ecosystems Services), as well as the methods used to classify and value ‘final ecosystem goods’ in the new UNEP-UK National Ecosystem Assessment to which we are contributing, in terms of both soils and economic valuation components. We propose also to draw on the resources contained within the National Soils Resources Institute and our experience from ongoing related Defra projects. These, for example, include the “Soil functions, quality and degradation” project (CTE0939) that is investigating the impacts of soil degradation processes on soil functions, the costs and benefits of mitigation measures to control soil erosion, and the impacts of climate change on soil processes, functions, and biota.

Given our broad research aim, we propose a series of linked objectives, to include:
1. Identifying and defining the characteristics of soil degradation, which occurs through deterioration of physical, biological and chemical properties. The Soil Strategy for England identifies degradation as occurring for example, through erosion by wind and water, compaction, decline in organic and biotic matter and other structural and physiochemical changes, in some cases associated with subsurface soil water processes. Although contaminated land is excluded here, we will include loss of value resulting from diffuse contamination of soils associated with, for example, atmospheric deposition, flood events, and fertilisers.
2. Constructing and applying a classification framework to link soil quality and ecosystem services and, through appropriate valuation metrics, the marginal value of final goods provided by soils.
3. Identifying the actual or potential risk of soil degradation in England and Wales which provides the basis for changes in soil services (and subsequently, along with economic values, estimates of damage costs). This will be undertaken through a review of existing literature, reports, and databases, as well as using our own expertise in soil science and the tools and data we have available through the National Soil Resources Institute.
4. Identifying and applying the relevant economic data, both market and non-market, derived from valuation research, that can be used to value the change in service provision, and hence in the ‘final goods’ resulting from soil degradation. Methods of assessment here include adjusted market prices, productivity impacts (including mitigation/defensive expenditure), revealed preference, and stated preference methods, using the technique of benefit transfer where appropriate. We will develop and apply these methods using selected exemplar cases. We will also explore selected cases to address particular gaps in evidence.
5. Compiling the above to produce aggregate estimates, classified by typologies of soils/ecosystems, of likely marginal damage costs. The spatial pattern of different types and extents of soil degradation is complex, being dependent on soil type, landscape attributes and land management. It follows that the costs of soil degradation also vary spatially. This leads to two challenges: firstly, the confidence in estimating total degradation costs across England and Wales should be better if the land area is stratified and estimates are made for different strata; secondly, development and implementation of policy will be better informed if damage costs are available for different regions (not least for Wales separately from England). We will explore options for stratifying England and Wales into a small number of distinct soil/ ecosystem types and adopt one of these typologies to allow a spatially explicit estimation of degradation costs in different landscapes and regions as well as an improvement in the confidence of estimates of total damage costs.
6. Lastly, we will identify major sources of uncertainties, gaps in knowledge and recommendations on how these might be addressed.
Objective
The overall aim of the project is to produce an estimate of the total economic cost of soil degradation in England and Wales. The broad purpose is to support future policy on soils, informing priority areas, including protection of agricultural soils, avoidance of soil pollution and enhancing the resilience of soils to climate change. The project will do this by addressing a number of objectives which are presented here as questions to be answered, together with a brief statement on how they will be met.

Objective 1: What is soil degradation, its causes and it effects on soil properties?
This objective will be addressed by identifying and defining the characteristics of soil degradation, which occurs through deterioration of physical, biological and chemical properties. The Soil Strategy for England identifies degradation as occurring, for example, through erosion by wind and water, compaction, decline in organic and biotic matter and other structural and physiochemical changes, in some cases associated with subsurface soil water processes. Although land contamination is excluded here, loss of value resulting from diffuse contamination of soils associated with, for example, atmospheric deposition, flood events, and fertilizers is considered.

Objective 2: What are the links between changes in soil properties due to degradation, soil related ecosystem services, and benefits and costs society?
This objective will be addressed by constructing and applying a classification framework to link soil quality and ecosystem services. Subsequently, through appropriate valuation metrics, the values of final goods provided by soils will be ascertained, together with estimates of how these change as a result of soil degradation, that is, the marginal costs of degradation.

Objective 3: What is the actual occurrence or probability of soil degradation in England and Wales?
This objective will be addressed by identifying the actual or potential probability of soil degradation in England and Wales which provides the basis for changes in soil services (and subsequently, along with economic values, estimates of damage costs). This will be undertaken through a review of existing literature, reports, and databases, as well as using our own expertise in soil science and the tools and data we have available through the National Soil Resources Institute.

Objective 4: What data are available and what methods can be used to determine the economic costs of soil degradation for dominant soil type and landuse situations?
This objective will be addressed by identifying and applying the relevant economic data, both market and non-market, derived from valuation research, that can be used to value the change in service provision by soils, and hence in the value of ‘final goods’ resulting from soil degradation. Methods of assessment here include adjusted market prices, productivity impacts (including mitigation/defensive expenditure), revealed preference, and stated preference methods, using the technique of benefit transfer where appropriate. We will develop and apply these methods using selected exemplar cases. We will also explore selected cases to address particular gaps in evidence.

Objective 5: What are the total economic costs of soil degradation in England and Wales
This objective will be addressed by producing estimates of the aggregate costs of soil degradation, classified by typologies of land uses, landscapes, soils and ecosystems. This will allow for the spatial pattern of different types, extents and costs of soil degradation, ranked according to major sources of costs. Attention will be paid to the extra costs or benefits of more or less soil degradation respectively, in order for inform policy priorities, as well as cumulative and long-term effects and vulnerabilities.

Objective 6: What are the main uncertainties in the estimates and gaps in the knowledge
This objective will be addressed through a systematic review of major sources of uncertainties, gaps in knowledge and recommendations on how these might be addressed.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : SID5 Cost of Soil Degradation final draft aug 18   (3237k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix A What is soil degradation, its causes and its effects on soil properties   (43k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix B What are the links betwen soil degradation and ecosystem goods and services   (41k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix C Occurance or probability of soil degradation in England and Wales 1   (46k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix D Economic framework for soils   (219k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix E Development of soil type landuse categories 1   (601k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix F Development of England and Wales production model   (48k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix G Cost of erosion 1   (259k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix H Cost of compaction 2   (1107k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix I Cost of organic matter loss 1   (49k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix J Diffuse contamination   (31k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix K Soil biota   (201k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix K Soil biota   (201k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix L Case Study MK 1   (501k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix M Case study Brecon Beacons 1   (24k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix N Case Study Parrett   (32k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix O Case study lowland peats in England   (266k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix P References   (44k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2011

Cost: £79,687
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Cranfield
Keywords
Environmental Protection              
Land              
Soils