IEMA has today published new guidance for environmental impact assessment (EIA) practitioners to better assess and manage the effects of development on land and soils, and ensure sustainable outcomes.
A New Perspective on Land and Soil in Environmental Impact Assessment highlights a lack of soil specialists advising on major development projects worldwide.
It recommends a new approach to assessing soil functions, ecosystem services and natural capital provided by land and soils, instead of simply quantifying and financially compensating impacts on agricultural land.
The guidance also highlights and reinforces the importance of soil functions and ecosystems services to wider systems, including carbon and climate, hydrology, food production, biodiversity and ecology.
This will help professionals understand and record the full environmental implications of development on land and soil, embedding sustainable soil management throughout EIA.
“For too long, soil and land considerations have been dealt with inadequately in major infrastructure projects because of a lack of knowledge,” said IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE.
“I am pleased that our experts can help to rectify this and enhance soil health, which is a crucial part of our biodiversity and highlights the need for green skills training in this area.”
The protection of soils is rising up the political agenda after the House of Lords announced last year that a Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPE) for England will be published to restore the health of soils. A consultation on a draft outline is expected in due course.
Lord Goldsmith confirmed that this will be a crucial part of the government’s plan to halt the decline of species by 2030 and meet long-term targets on biodiversity.
IEMA's new guidance has been developed by its Impact Assessment Working Group on Land and Soils, together with key EIA and soil professionals from a wide range of organisations representing practitioners, regulators, academics and stakeholders from across the UK.
The aims are ambitious, but also necessary and timely, according to Impact Assessment Policy Lead, Dr Rufus Howard, (PEIA, CEnv, FIEMA). “The importance of protecting land and soils cannot be overestimated,” he said.
“The vital contribution of soil functions, ecosystem services and natural capital provided by land and soils underpins the healthy functioning of our terrestrial ecosystems on which we all depend.
“I am delighted that IEMA has published the first EIA guidance on this topic to help strengthen the consideration of land and soils in the planning and consenting of development projects."
Image credit: iStock