Saturday, 15 July 2006

Volcanic Soil Resources of Europe: an EU funded research co-operation.

Olafur Arnalds, Agricultural University of Iceland, Keldnaholt, Reykjavik, IS-112, Iceland, Francois Bartoli, Centre de Pédologie Biologique, CNRS Université, NANCY, France, Peter Buurman, Laboratory of Soil Science and Geology, Wageningen University, WAGENINGEN, Netherlands, Paul Quantin, -, 5 rue Boileau, DIJON, France, Georges Stoops, Department of Geology and Soil Science,, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium, and Fabio Terribile, Instituto per lo studio dei problemi agronomici dell'Irrigazione nel, Mezzogiorno CP 101 S. sebastiano al Vesuvio, Napoli, Italy.

A group of European soil scientists participated for six years (1998-2004) in an European Union funded research co-operation titled Soil Resources of European Volcanic Systems (COST-622).  This activity was a part of the European COST Action programs.  The EU COST program is one of the longest-running instruments supporting co-operation among scientists and researchers across Europe, involving a wide range of research and technological activities (see

The COST-622 Action consisted of 5 working groups (1) Pedogensis; (2) Soil physics; (3) Chemistry and pollutant binding; (4) Land use.  The Action was chaired by Francois Bartoli (France).  During the action, both workshops and small group meetings were held at various locations in Europe, including in Iceland (twice), Azores and Lisboa (Portugal), Napoli and Sicily (Italy) Santorini (Greece), Germany, France, Hungary, Wageningen (the Netherlands), and Tenerife (Spain).  Guests from outside of Europe were invited to the many of the meetings.   By the end of this activity, researchers from 12 European countries had joined in program.  

Sampling and analysis

  A unique aspect of the work was the joint sampling of soils of volcanic regions in Europe, with 20 sampled European Reference Pedons of the COST-622 Action.  Samples from these pedons were distributed among the participating researchers and their laboratories.  Therefore, an unusual range of laboratory analysis and experiments have been performed on these soils.  The soils represent also an unusual range of environmental conditions, from Slovakia in the east to Germany and France in the west, and from the Mediterranean and tropical Atlantic to sub-arctic Iceland, from lowlands to high elevations on the slopes of volcanoes. All of this gives an unique opportunity to re-examine the principles of development of soils in volcanic regions and their classification. Analyses include organic matter research, biological properties, a range of grain size and colloid characteristic investigations, pollutant behavior, a variety of both conventional and recently developed chemical, physical and micromorphological analysis, extractions, soil genesis and land use considerations.  

Results and references

  Andosols occur in patches in the Carpathian basin from Romania to Slovakia, in Hungary and in Germany.  A large area is in the Massif Central (France), and in both Canary and Azores Islands, in volcanic areas in the Mediterranean regions, mostly in Southern Italy, while the largest area is found in Iceland (50-80 000 km2).  The action has brought a new light on the unique properties of volcanic soils, their formation, distribution in Europe and classification.  Available publications resulting from the COST-622 research co-operation include (see www.rala/andosol for further details): Soil Resources of Euorpean Volcanic Systems. Mainzer Naturwissenshaft Archiv 40 (2002).

Bartoli F, P Buurman, B Delvaux, and M Madeira 2003.  Volcanic Soils: Properties and Processes

     as a Function of Soil Genesis and Land Use.  Geoderma 117(3-4).  Special issue.  Elsevier.

Arnalds O and K Stahr 2004.  Volcanic Soil Resources: Occurrence, Development and Properties.

     Catena 56 (1-3). Special issue, Elsevier.

Arnalds O and H Oskarsson 2004.  Volcanic Soil Resources in Europe, COST Action 622 final

     meeting. Abstracts.  Rala Report no. 214.  Available at

Arnalds O, F Bartoli, P Buurman, E Garcia-Rodeja, H Oskarsson, G Stoops. Soils of Volcanic

     Regions in Europe.  Springer.  In preparation.

Buurman P et al.  European Soil Science, thematic issue. In preparation.


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