New EU atlas maps threats to soil biodiversity

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European soil biodiversity is at risk in parts of Britain, the Benelux countries and northern France, according to an atlas released Thursday by the European Commission.

The 128-page atlas, mapping potential threats to soil diversity, was released by the Commission's research body as a contribution to the UN's International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

"Soil is essential to the biodiversity which makes life on earth possible and keeps our economies sustainable," said research and environment commissioners Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Janez Potocnik in a statement.

"Soil degradation threatens our access to food, clean air and water, as well as to many crucial raw materials."

"Unless we tackle this problem soon," they added, "it will cost a lot more to put it right."

The European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity includes the first ever threat map covering most EU Member States.

Regions most affected are particularly concentrated in several parts of Britain, except the most northern, the Benelux countries and northern France, it said, as well as Italy's Po valley, the country's only region to fall into the high risk category.

© 2010 AFP

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