EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

An outlook on the state of soil health research

Fabio Terribile1, Angelo Basile2, and Antonello Bonfante2
Fabio Terribile et al.
  • 1Università di Napoli Federico II, CRISP Reserach Centre and Department of Agriculture, Portici (Napoli), Italy (

Looking to research databases (e.g. WoS), it is self-evident that (i) in the last 5 years there is an exponential increase of papers having a Soil Health (SH) focus (« soil health » in the title), (ii) most of these papers are produced after USA and Asian countries while Europe is well behind (less than 1/3 of USA production), (iii) most of this scientific production is sustained by public authorities (e.g. USDA in USA).

It is also well known that Soil health has become a key topic for policy due to the contribution of the EU Soil Mission. Thanks to this effort, in EU we have an important direction towards its definition since Soil Health needs to deliver a specific list of ecosystem services (after             the Soil Thematic Strategy policy instrument).

Then how to measure soil health? If we look the scientific work on SH, there are plenty of indicators based on soil parameters, soil properties and soil functions, but almost no or minimal ecosystem services evaluations.

The most widespread approaches in scientific literature is to evaluate SH are based on empirical approaches. But if SH has to evaluate ecosystem services and if SH requires approaches easy to be transferable to new areas then it is of paramount importance to stress the need and importance of mechanistic models versus empiric models. In fact decades of research have proved that empirical approaches require much larger calibration dataset and they have also much lower transferability as compared to mechanistic models. Consequently, not all models are the same especially in view of their implementation in operational Decision Support Systems.

This approach it will enable adaptation to every specific region and their related ecosystem services.

What is now required from the research community are: (i) Operational procedures to assess multiscale ecosystem services and the role of soils in contributing to such services and (ii) effective way to communicate results to end-users and stakeholders.


How to cite: Terribile, F., Basile, A., and Bonfante, A.: An outlook on the state of soil health research, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6939,, 2023.