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When is agricultural land use sustainable?

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Soil is a scarce resource, and the way we use it determines whether its productivity can be secured in the long term. As part of the BonaRes project, ZALF has developed an assessment platform that provides tools for scientists to evaluate the sustainability of soil management measures. A new video explains how the platform works.

"BonaRes" stands for "Soil as a sustainable resource for the bioeconomy" in German. The focus is on the sustainable use of soil as a scarce resource. However, the sustainability of a soil management measure in a particular case depends on many aspects, such as how it affects food supply, the provision of habitats for animals and plants, or the character of a cultivated landscape. Within BonaRes, the working group "Impact Assessment of Land Use Changes" at ZALF is therefore developing tools, guidelines and indicators for sustainability assessment of soil management.

The results to date have been compiled on the Assessment Platform and simultaneously published as a "Handbook of Soil-Related Impact Assessment". Both the platform and the handbook provide tools to help researchers evaluate the sustainability of different soil management options. The platform is under continuous development, and a second edition of the handbook is also planned.

These tools are particularly relevant with regard to the German bioeconomy strategy. This envisions transforming the current economic system into one based on renewable resources instead of fossil resources. Among other things, this means that the demand for plant-based raw materials for non-food purposes (for example, for textiles, fuel or plastics) will increase, and with it the demand on soils to provide these resources.

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