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Managing soil functions for a sustainable bioeconomy – assessment framework and state of the art

Bioeconomy strategies have been adopted in many countries around the world. Their sustainable implementation requires a management of soils that maintains soil functions and avoids land degradation. Only then ecosystem services can be maintained and resources used efficiently. We present an analytical framework for impact assessment that links policy and technology driving forces for soil management decisions to soil processes, soil functional changes and their impacts on ecosystem services and resource use efficiency, both being targets that have been set by society and are anchored in bioeconomy policy strategies and sustainable development goals.

While the resource use efficiency concept has a long‐term tradition, most studies of agricultural management do not address the role of soils in their efficiency assessment. The concept of ecosystem services has received increasing attention over the last years; however, its link to soil functions and soil management practices is still not well established.

This study is the first to conceptually link the socio‐economic processes of external drivers for soil management with the natural processes of soil functions and connect them back to impacts on the social system. Application of the framework helps strengthen the science‐policy interface and to systemically assess and compare the opportunities and threats of soil management practices from the perspective of goals set by society at different spatial and temporal scales.

Insights gained in this way can be applied in stakeholder decision‐making processes and used to inform the design of governance instruments aimed at sustainable soil management within a bioeconomy.

Managing soil functions for a sustainable bioeconomy – assessment framework and state of the art