Land use - 2020 Outlook

What is the 2020 outlook?

Although soil resources are on average in good condition, soil functions are still (threatened by the deposition of airborne pollutants, a legacy of contamination in industrial and urban areas and the continuing increase of built-up areas.


Diffuse soil contamination. There are some uncertainties in future trends of soil contamination due to the lack of data on the presence of organic pollutants in soil and the appearance on the market of new chemical products whose effects are not fully understood (Umweltbundesamt, 2004 and 2007b). The input of pollutants, particularly lead, cadmium and POPs, into soil is expected to decrease, since emissions are decreasing. On the other hand, acidifying substances, in particular nitrogen oxides (NOx) from traffic sources, are expected to increase. Moreover, soil contamination and its adverse effects are still expected to occur in the long-term since many pollutants, including heavy metals and POPs, show low mobility, high persistence and accumulation. In addition, the increase of the emissions of acidifying substances may result in an increase of pressures on forests. Major indirect impacts will be the loss of biodiversity and quality of groundwater resources.


Local soil contamination. The clean-up of historical contamination will continue to pose a challenge. Although considerable efforts have already been made , further acceleration of the contaminated sites management programme is under way. (46 mio. m³ groundwater and 15,5 mio. t of contaminated soil have been cleaned. 145 ha of former contaminated land have been redeveloped.)  In this regard, a policy support project, Contaminated Sites Management 2010 (German: Altlastenmanagement 2010), was initiated, the overall objective of which is to amend the current system according to more sustainable principles. This project includes a variety of initiatives including a new national vision for contaminated sites management (BMFLUW 2008). This vision is based on six key principles, one of them depicts the overall time frame and the goals to be achieved in the future, for example, the identification of all historically contaminated sites shall be completed by 2025 and completion of remediation measures at heavily contaminated sites by 2050.


Sealing. Spatial planning is legislated at the level of the Federal Provinces. Solutions for the future include polycentric structures, enhanced development of city centres, increasing the quality of life in small cities, location of new settlements only along top public transport lines, redeveloping brownfield sites, and protection of landscapes and recreational areas.


The Ministry of the Environment is currently supporting an initiative Space management in Austria - Progress and Prospects (German title "Grund genug") aimed at concentrating the efforts of the Federal Provinces, with specific focus on collecting best practice examples and on defining future measures.  

Erosion, compaction and decline in organic matter.


As mentioned above, soil degradation in agricultural areas, especially erosion, compaction and a decline in organic matter are not expected to increase in the future due to the implementation of prevention and reduction measures. For the same reasons, the organic carbon stock in soils is expected to remain stable.


Climate change in combination with land development in tourist areas may induce higher hydro-geological risks.