Saving the ground beneath our feet: Establishing priorities and criteria for governing soil use and protection

Lewis Peake, Cairo Robb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The continual loss and impairment of soil ecosystem services (SES) across the globe calls for a fundamental reconsideration of soil governance mechanisms. This critical synthesis charts the history and evolution of national and international soil law and seeks to unravel certain challenges that have contributed to this failure in governance. It describes and categorizes law and policy responses to different soil threats, and identifies a worrying widespread absence of legislation for oversight and protection of agricultural soils from urbanization, as well as a lack of clear legal mechanisms to determine national priorities for soil protection. A reduction in the world's prime farmland threatens SES, including food security, carbon storage and biodiversity. Falling between the stalls of agricultural and environmental law, the fate of farmland is often left to planners who do not see themselves as responsible for soils. Consequently, legal instruments with the greatest power to affect soil, sometimes irreversibly, are often framed and worded with little or no reference to the soil. Nevertheless, emerging conceptual frameworks might offer positive outcomes. The authors advocate robust holistic policies of soil governance and land use planning that place SES and natural capital at the heart of decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Article number201994
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
Early online date24 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • agricultural land conversion
  • farmland preservation
  • land take
  • soil ecosystem services
  • soil governance
  • soil security

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