Berlin Environmental Atlas

01.12 Soil Functions (Edition 2009)

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With the Federal Soil Protection Law in 1999 (BBodSchG), the soil has come under the protection of a specific law of its own, as had previously been the case for the environmental media water and air, and for the conservation of nature. The purpose of the law is to "permanently safeguard or restore the functions of the soil. For this purpose,... precautions against adverse effects upon the soil [are] to be undertaken. In case of measures which impact upon the soil, impairment of its natural functions and its function as an archive of natural and cultural history should be avoided to the extent possible." (BBodSchG § 1) The Federal Soil Protection Law distinguishes the following functions of the soil:

  1. Natural functions, including
    1. Provision of basic living conditions and habitat for people, animals, plants and soil organisms
    2. Serving as a component of the ecosystem, particularly with its water and nutrient cycles filtration,
    3. buffering and metabolic qualities, in particular, too, for the protection of the groundwater.
  2. Functions as an archive of natural and cultural history
  3. Utility functions, including:
    1. Raw-materials storage
    2. A location for residence and recreation
    3. A location for agriculture and forestry
    4. A location for other economic and public uses, such as traffic, supply and waste disposal.

Since the natural soil functions and the archival function can be restricted or completely blocked by the exploitation of the utility functions, the protection of the natural soil functions is central to efforts for sustainable soil protection (link to German page).

Targeted soil protection measures presuppose knowledge of the efficacy, protection-worthiness and sensitivity of soils and their functions. The present evaluation of the soil functions, i.e. the efficacy of the soils in the ecosystem, will describe those soils in Berlin which are to be protected as a matter of priority.

The selection of the functions shown in Maps 01.12.1 through 5 has been carried out with a view of the functions listed in the Federal Soil Protection Law, as listed in Table 1:

Tab. 1: Soil functions as per the Federal Soil Protection Law (BBodSchG) and their evaluation in terms of their specific functions for Berlin
Soil function as per § 2 BBodSchG Specific soil functions
(Environmental Atlas map no.)
Criteria for concrete implementation in Berlin
A. Foundations of Life and Habitat
For humans: Pollution Due to lack of comprehensive date, this cannot be evaluated here
For animals: Closely correlated with vegetation; no separate evaluation  
For plants: A. Habitat for rare & near-natural plant communities (Map 1.12.1)
B. Yield function for cultivated plants (Map 1.12.2)
Near-natural and locally typical special extreme sites
Water supply and nutrient storage capacity
For soil organisms: Cannot be evaluated at present, for methodological reasons
B. Component of the Ecosystem
Water balance: Regulatory function for the water balance (Map 1.12.4) Exchange frequency of the water in the soil
Nutrient balance: Close connection to the habitat for plants (natural soil fertility); shown there already.
Decomposition, compensation and construction function: Buffering and filtration function (Map 1.12.3) Substance-binding capacity and depth to groundwater
C. Archival Function
For natural history: Archive function for the natural history (Map 1.12.5) Special local natural peculiarity and regional rareness
For cultural history: No relevance for Berlin
Tab. 1: Soil functions as per the Federal Soil Protection Law (BBodSchG), in terms of their specific functions for Berlin

The evaluation of the efficacy of the soils is an important criterion for preventive soil protection in urban-construction planning (link to German page).

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