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Suggestion of soil quality uses in urban and periurban zone - application to Provence mine basin (Uqualisol-ZU)

Suggestion of soil quality uses in urban and periurban zone - application to Provence mine basin (Uqualisol-ZU)

Summary
Soils are considered as a major constituent of anthroposystems as well as a non-renewable resource. They are of utmost importance for the economical and social development of territories, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas where they undergo urge pressure. But soils are also a resource with properties and qualities on which many human activities rely on, first of all food and energy production. Moreover, soils fulfill various ecological functions which may not be considered useful to human beings, but which are undoubtedly essential, such as support filtering of water or biodiversity tank. Because of urban sprawl, soil contaminations due to human activities, as well as urban waste land, soil management and soil conservation have emerged as a critical issue. A thorough management and conservation of the soil resource appears thus necessary for sustainable land management. To achieve this goal, there is a need for tools and dedicated approaches that would raise awareness on the importance of soil quality in urban planning.
Within the framework of the GESSOL program the Uqualisol-ZU project aims at investigating whether and how a scientific knowledge on soil quality can be integrated into urban planning so as to allow soil quality to be taken into account in all its dimensions, which has not been the case so far in France. Its objectives are 1) the assessment of a legal concept of soil that would lead to integrate soils in preliminary studies and preserve economic and ecosystemic functions of soils, by choosing the best adapted uses in land use planning; 2) the production of a scientifically-sound SQI (soil quality index) including all soils and adapted to the needs of land planners; 3) to perform a knowledge transfer to urban planners so that soil quality is understood and taken into account.
The work was conceived as a pluridisciplinary approach and performed by researchers from various fields: soil sciences, geography, ecology and law sciences. As background information, a state of the art on regulations involving soils at the local, national and supra-national levels was undergone simultaneously with a state of the art on soil quality indices. Then, an experiment was conducted on two municipalities within the peri-urban outskirts of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence (southern France): Gardanne and Rousset. A preliminary data compilation and analysis was necessary to get the historical background (several decades) of both municipalities as well as to identify the challenges for land planning on both territories. Various possibilities of introducing the concept of soil functions into local land use planning were identified and proposed. Preliminary interviews of local stakeholders and analysis of the land planning documents (POS and PLU) orientated the research towards the development of a soil suitability index related to land use. The results were spatialised and integrated into a GIS to obtain maps of soil “land use polyvalence”. The outcomes of the research were presented for discussion to the local authorities. This index, the first of its kind, was found to fulfill the requirement of integrating soil quality knowledge into an operational form for potential use within the framework of the PLU (plan local d’urbanisme), but will need to be tested in other situations in the near future.

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Contact
CNRS Aix (Samuel Robert)

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