This doctoral thesis (ETH Zurich) contains an operational framework for assessing soil functions to facilitate the incorporation of soil function assessment (SFA) into decision-making, thereby highlighting the multiple functions of soils, which will enable the sustainable use of soil resources to be promoted during spatial planning.
Soil provides functions that support life and are essential to human society and the environment. For instance, soil regulates water and nutrient cycles, sequesters carbon, prevents contaminants leaching into groundwater, buffers acidic inputs, contributes to biodiversity by providing a habitat for organisms, and supports biomass production. The ecosystem service (ES) concept is widely used to evaluate the values of natural resources and allows them to be included in decision-making processes. Up to now, however, little account has been taken of soil in any ES assessments. ES mapping studies that included soil in their foci were reviewed in this thesis. About 60% of these studies used at least one soil property as an indicator of soil-related ESs and more than two soil functions were considered in a minority of studies. Better integration of soil into ESs requires tools that are effective and readily applicable.