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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N030532/1
Title: Soil-Value: Valuing and enhancing soil infrastructure to improve societal sustainability and resilience
Principal Investigator: Davies, Dr J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ADAS (RSK ADAS Ltd.) JBA Trust Sustainable Food Trust
WBCSD (World Business Council Sust Dev)
Department: Lancaster Environment Centre
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 June 2016 Ends: 31 May 2021 Value (£): 755,202
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Ground Engineering Soil science
Urban & Land Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Feb 2016 LWEC Challenge Fellowships Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Soils are a life support system for global society and our planet. Soils directly provide the vast majority of our food; they are the largest store of carbon in the earth system; and they regulate water quality and quantity reducing the risk of floods, droughts and pollution. In this way, soils provide a natural form of infrastructure that is critical to supporting both rural and urban communities and economies. Despite the criticality of this infrastructure, we do not understand:

- the current delivery of services in terms of food production, water flow and quality regulation and carbon storage - from which soils do these services derive and what value do they have for rural/urban communities?

- how the decisions we make regarding land drainage, tillage, crop choice, livestocking, tree planting, deforestation, and urban development influence the capability of the soil to provide its' multiple services, or how these decisions may interact.

- how resilient our soil infrastructure will be to a changing climate and the increasing pressures to produce more food from less land that our global society faces in trying to feed a population of 9 billion by 2050, and ongoing urbanisation.

This lack of understanding stems from a lack of integration across traditionally separate scientific fields that relate to soil infrastructure. Soil functioning is the product of hydrological, physical (soil erosion and weathering), biological and chemical processes, and as such it requires knowledge to be combined across these fields.

This fellowship will draw together these disciplines to create a new computer model that will improve our understanding of soil infrastructures, their value to society and their resilience. This model will be used to explore how future scenarios will influence the provision of food-water-carbon services to our societies. Uncertainty and risk analyses will be performed to provide a coherent robust evidence base for decision-making. This will allow us to find ways to enhance our soils to provide more benefits for our societies, improving sustainability and well-being.

This fellowship aims to:

a. Assess the value of soils as a natural infrastructure that protects and enhances both rural and urban areas through food production, water regulation and carbon storage.

b. Estimate the resilience of soil infrastructure to climate change and changing land-use pressures and explore the potential for managing soil infrastructures to mitigate risks and enhance their value and resilience.

c. Transform the perceived value of soil infrastructure in communities and businesses, and enhance decision-making capabilities across sectors to help create sustainable resilient societies.

The outputs of this fellowship will include:

- Scientific insights into soil functioning, sustainability and resilience.

- The first valuations of soil as an infrastructure, it's capacity for enhancement, and it's vulnerability to a changing climate and increasing land use pressures.

- Estimates of the uncertainties surrounding these estimations, and how this influences to the risk to delivery of food, water and carbon services.

- Quantitative predictive modelling frameworks that can support sustainable, resilient decision making across food, water and environment sectors.

- Deepened engagement between scientists, businesses, policy makers, and NGOs.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk