Soil Functions 1990


The UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, adopted the Agenda 21. Therein, the signatory states, including Germany, mandated the sustainable management of soil resources, which was to be guaranteed by an appropriate soil policy and soil policy instruments: “By examining all uses of land in an integrated manner, it makes it possible to minimize conflicts, to make the most efficient trade-offs and to link social and economic development with environmental protection and enhancement, thus helping to achieve the objectives of sustainable development. The essence of the integrated approach finds expression in the coordination of the sectoral planning and management activities concerned with the various aspects of land use and land resources.” [AGENDA 21 1992]. (nach Lahmeyer 2000)

The promotion of a sustainable development of settlement patterns, integrated planning and management of soil resources, the renaturalization of sealed surfaces as well as gentle agricultural soil use have been designated as essential goals. Four soil-protection-relevant tasks of worldwide significance were stressed:

  • Minimization of the land consumption;
  • Renaturalization of sealed surfaces;
  • Rehabilitation of toxic wastes;
  • Gentle agricultural and silvicultural land use. (according to Lahmeyer 2000)

The growing demands and impacts on land sections and their ecosystemic qualities involves Berlin, too – or especially Berlin. For particularly in a city-state like Berlin, a shortage of the resource land due to buildings and sealing has been observable during recent decades – accompanied by a steady deterioration of the efficiency of the soils. In the future, despite the dropping or stagnating total population, increased demands on the use of land for residential development can be assumed for Berlin. (according to Lahmeyer 2000)

It is therefore necessary that land, as a limited, non-growing resource, enjoy a special kind of protection in the city-state of Berlin. The use of land must be restricted to a responsible measure which will also secures an environment worth living in for future generations, while at the same time allowing scope for activities. That “responsible measure” must be defined by a political development of informed opinion, with consideration for what is feasible. (according to Lahmeyer 2000)

Sustainable use is designed to achieve thrifty and gentle management of the resource land, and to avoid or minimize damage and danger to the soil. Present use should reduce future usability of soils as little as possible. In particular, irreversible damage to the natural soil functions must be prevented, given the restricted possibilities for rehabilitation. There is therefore the necessity to more strongly emphasize precautions for the protection of the soils and its ecological functions. (according to Lahmeyer 2000)

With the entry into force of the Federal Soil Protection Law in 1999, the soil, too, has been placed in the public eye as a protection-worthy asset, along with the environmental media water and air, and the living natural environment. Although the protection of the soil from pollution and the decontamination of contaminated soils are central to the stipulations of this law, it is a professed goal of the law to protect the various functions of the soil in general, and to establish appropriate measures to that end.

The federal soil protection law distinguishes the following functions of the soil

1. Its natural functions a

a) the basis of life and a habitat for people, animals, plants and soil organisms,

b) a component of the ecosystem, particularly with its water and nutrient cycles, and

c) a medium for breaking down, compensating and rebuilding material effects due to filtration, buffering and substance-transformation qualities, particularly in terms of the protection of the groundwater;

2. Its functions as an archive of natural and cultural history;

3. Its use functions as

a) a storage-site for raw materials,

b) a place of residence and recreation,

c) a site for agricultural and silvicultural use, and

d) a site for other economic and public uses, such as transportation, supply and disposal.

Sustainable soil protection must safeguard and develop all these functions. Since the natural soil functions and the archival function can be restricted or completely terminated by the use function, however, the protection of natural soil functions is central to approaches for sustainable soil protection.

Targeted measures for soil protection require knowledge of the efficiency, the protection-worthiness and the sensitivity of the soils. In the context of the drafting of a soil-protection concept (Lahmeyer 2000), the extent to which soil functions in Berlin can currently be evaluated on the basis of the data currently available should be investigated and presented. An evaluation of soil functions, i.e. the efficiency of the soils in the ecosystem, should ascertain soils worthy and in need of protection in Berlin, for which measures for the protection and for the development should be adopted (Lahmeyer 2000).