Friday, 14 July 2006

Soil Non- Monetary Values.

Edoardo A.C. Costantini, CRA-ISSDS, Piazza D'azeglio 30, Florence, 50121, Italy

Soils have monetary value. Non-residential traits of land are generally sold and bought according to their agricultural or silvicultural value, estimated on the basis of the potential crop yield. The soil loss by sealing, erosion, and contamination can also be estimated according to the decrease in agricultural production, or the damages caused by the sediments. In places, soils can be quarried for raw materials, like peat, sand and ores. In addition, increased production of sewage and waste has directed attention to soils which are suitable for recycling, giving them the value of “natural depuration plant” and providing compensation for the landowner in return for this service. More recently, the ever more frequent phenomenon of flooding, and to an even greater degree, the amount of damage caused by it, has prompted land planners and policy makers to turn their attention to the function of soil as a regulator of water fluxes in the watersheds. The monetary value of soil is thus evaluated as an equivalent in cubic meters of a flood retarding basin. But soils also have non monetary values. The EU acknowledges the value of soil as biological habitat and gene reserve, as geogenic and cultural heritage, forming an essential part of the landscape, concealing and protecting paleontological and archeological treasures. The non monetary value of Paleosols, in particular, is usually greater than its monetary value. Although they often limit agriculture, they are always of scientific interest, because they are witnesses to past environmental conditions and processes. They may also possess scenic attraction, rarity, ecological importance, and didactic value. The areas where they are present should be protected, because they constitute an “open air” natural history museum, which must be handed down to future generations. In this work, some experiences dealing with the cultural value of soils in Italy are presented.The first one is the implementation of soil information related to paleosols in land planning. The study area was the Po river plain and moraine hills of the Lombardy region of Italy. A wider scale application concerns the first approximation of a map of the "pedological heritage" of Italy. A distinction is made between the “soil profile" and the soils as "parts of the landscape". Soil profiles as cultural heritage are: i) paleosols, ii) soils of the archaeological and palaeonthological sites, ii) soil profiles displaying natural or anthropic processes belong to sequences and also "type" soils of classifications. Sometimes these aspects of soil profiles may coincide in a single pedosite. Soil-landscapes as cultural heritage are: i) soil-landscapes where soil features, production potential and agricultural landscape are interrelated factors, ii) soils forming a part of the panorama, iii) soils occurring in a delicate environmental balance, iv) soils that can be related to specific biotopes. Finally, the work illustrates how paleosols can arouse emotions in ordinary people, and how these emotions can be recognized and stimulated in open air tourism and recreation, with the aim of enhancing respect for the soil itself and of increasing awareness in the population of the value of the land where they live.

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