Research & results

Soil & air

The research theme 'Soil and air' covers a large number of projects that follow up crucial aspects of our soil and, to a lesser extent, air in the short and long term.

  • NBO investigates stocks, cycles and flows of nutrients and chemicals in and between the air, soil, water (including groundwater) and vegetation. This is mainly done by means of long-term monitoring, largely in research sites that are part of the European eLTER research infrastructure.
  • Knowledge of the status and trends of nutrient stocks and cycles is of great importance for estimating the impact of environmental pressures (e.g. eutrophication, pollutants, climate change, land use changes) on forests and wildlife, and for proposing measures. Data on air concentrations and deposits contribute to reporting on the effects of air pollution on ecosystems (NEC guideline23). We are continuing this research into stocks and cycles.
  • INBO is also building further on its knowledge of the basic abiotic conditions for habitats and of the relation between nutrient reserves and their availability. It is starting additional research into the effects of recovery measures (e.g. liming) on the nutrient balance, and plans to work on the development of bio- and other indicators, expert systems and signal maps. By intensifying cooperation with university partners we are placing more emphasis on ecosystem modelling, such as the development of balance models for chemicals and for water (including groundwater).
  • For the investigation of soil life, we are developing biological indicators that monitor the status and evolution of soil quality and biodiversity in the main habitat types. The effect of management measures on soil quality will also be a research topic.
  • In the area of groundwater and ecohydrology, we describe ecohydrological processes. We rely for this purpose on existing data sets, specifically collected measurement data and long-term monitoring initiatives, including in the LTER sites. We advise on ecological goals for the sustainable conservation and restoration of groundwater-related ecosystems. We also develop assessment frameworks and indicators to critically evaluate the status and trend of and goals in relation to groundwater-related ecosystems and to estimate the potential of nature. INBO continues to support the management and restoration of groundwater-related ecosystems by means of specific advice.
  • Research into the risk of groundwater depletion in nature reserves is becoming an important theme. For this purpose we are developing drought indexes and water balance models, in cooperation with universities and other research institutions.
  • Despite emission-reducing measures over the past few decades, ecosystems in Flanders are still under great pressure from processes such as acidification and eutrophication. INBO is continuing its long-term monitoring of the effects of air and soil pollution on forests and open habitats, with an emphasis on analysing and making effective use of the measurement series.