Friday, 14 July 2006

Evaluation of Urban Soil Quality for Sustainable Urban Planning.

Borut Vrscaj1, Laura Poggio2, and Franco Ajmone Marsan2. (1) Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, Hacquetova 17, Ljubljana, Slovenia, (2) Università di Torino, Di.Va.P.R.A – Chimica Agraria, Via Leonardo da Vinci, 44, Grugliasco(Torino), Italy

The urban sprawl represents one of the major soil-related threats in the world. Cities have limited physical space with the increasing number of inhabitants. Information on soil chemical and physical properties, soil quality, and consequently the functions the urban soils perform should play a more significant role in urban management and planning processes. The aim of the EU Interreg III “Technique of Urban Soil Evaluation in urban areas – Implementation in Planning procedure” (TUSEC-IP) project was to design and test the procedures that can promote a more rational and sustainable use of soil resources in the cities, and help to maintain the soil quality on the acceptable level. The developed procedure of the soil evaluation concept is being tested in the Grugliasco (Torino-Italy) area and in Slovenia. The procedure of the urban soil quality assessment is based on the conclusion that the functions of soils performed in urban areas are altered compared to the agricultural environment - several primary soil functions can be truncated or modified. The soil quality in the procedure is evaluated regarding a) the particular land use; and b) the general environmental soil quality. Main urban land-uses are grouped according to the specific functions and services the soils perform and according to the possible emissions from soils that may affect environmental quality. For each of the land-uses the vital soil functions are determined. They are further used to select an appropriate set of chemical and physical soil parameters that have to be measured and used for further evaluation of the soil quality indicators. In the next step additional data on urban environment and soil quality indicators are inserted in the evaluation procedure to assess the a) soil suitability / soil quality for selected urban land-use; and b) to evaluate the decline/improvement in performance of the soil functions when land-use is changed. The results of the evaluation procedure are a) a numerical index expressing the soil quality for each land-use, b) the comparison of the suitability of the area on the basis of the soil properties for the considered land uses, in order to suggest the most appropriate use of soils and c) the identification of the soil properties / soil quality indicators which do not meet the legislation thresholds or the functional criteria. These indicators can serve the managing authorities as a suggestion for remediation measures. Since the evaluation procedure itself represents a demanding task for non-soil experts (urban planners) it is supported by an evaluation tool (a user-friendly computer application) and a set of accompanying documents: field urban soil description forms, step-by-step description of the procedure, list of required soil data and soil quality evaluation manual. KEYWORDS: soil, urban soil quality, soil evaluation, land use.

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