More Information about MEUSIS: Panagos, P., Liedekerke, M.V., Montanarella, L. Multi-scale European Soil Information System (MEUSIS): a multi-scale method to derive soil indicators. Computational Geosciences: Volume 15, Issue 3 (2011), Page 463-475

The European Soil Database at scale 1:1,000,000 has been created starting from the first digitized soil map of Europe in 1985. This database has been developed jointly with partners in participating countries resulting in the only harmonized coverage of digital soil information for Europe. The database is extensively used for applications in the most diverse fields: agriculture, water protection, climate change, flood forecasting, desertification assessment, etc. The recent development of an EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection has been mainly based on data and assessments derived from this soil database.

Increased demand for soil data has also put in evidence the shortcomings of the geometric component of the European Soil Database, the Soil Geographical Database of Europe (SGDBE) at scale 1:1,000,000. Data are essentially derived from surveys done in the period 1950-69 and are obsolete for some countries. Parameters in the database only seldom respond to the direct needs of the users.

Among the new initiatives that were launched during the recent years to collect new, updated and policy relevant soil information for Europe, the implementation of the INSPIRE directive (The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) should allow the building of a common framework for spatial data in the EU. Among the spatial themes identified in the annexes of the proposed INSPIRE Directive, the creation of an harmonized hierarchical grid with a common point of origin and standardized location and size of grid cells could constitute an ideal framework for the building of a nested system of soil data. This reference grid will be based on implementing rules facilitating interoperability: a common coordinate reference system, such as the ETRS89 Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area CRS (ETRS-LAEA), a unique grid coding system, a set of detailed and standardized metadata, an exchangeable and open format.

Implementation of the directive should allow the construction of a Multiscale European Soil Information System (MEUSIS), from the data producer up to the final user, responding to the various needs at different scales. In order to achieve this, a common standard for the collection of harmonized soil information will have to be developed and implemented.

The final result of these developments should be the building of an harmonized soil information system for Europe streamlining the flow of information from the data producer at a local scale to the data users at the more general Regional, National, European and Global scales. Such a system should allow the derivation of the data needed for the regular reporting about the state of European soils by the European Environment Agency and the European Commission.

However, soil geography, soil qualities and soil degradation processes are highly variable in Europe. Soil data sets from different countries have been often created using different nomenclatures and measuring techniques, which is at the origin of current difficulties with comparability of soil data. The availability of soil data is also extremely variable in Europe. Individual Member States have taken different initiatives on soil protection aimed at those soil degradation processes they considered to be a priority.

To reach a common understanding throughout Europe of soil degradation processes, it is crucial to ensure data comparability. There is therefore a strong need to accelerate progress in this field. Much efforts and many studies still have to be conducted to establish an efficient workflow for updating and maintaining grid based thematic layers with highly detailed information, more particularly in a participatory approach, involving bottom-up transfer of spatial information from local to global level. By each country or region, specific methodologies are therefore necessary to flow local data to a harmonized Multiscale European Soil Information System.

The Land Resources Management Unit is trying to identify regions in Europe which will eventually contribute in the analysis of the feasibility of such approaches. The objectives of this process are:

- To test the present version of the common reference “exchange format” for data ;
- To provide information on soils, according to the reference exchange format, and metadata.

The Ecalp Project is currently contributing towards this participatory approach as:

  • Creates a useful network among regional and national institutions which own and manage soil data
  • Uses of participatory approach, according to the principles of the INSPIRE
  • Contributes to the exchange of knowledge and experience among different regions, different countries
  • Achieves the setting up and updating of a shared soil database for the Alps
  • Contributes to the exchange of harmonised soil information
  • Develops common procedures to allow data exchange, updating and evaluation for some application purposes
  • Gives an overview of available information on alpine soils


Responsible Role
Panos Panagos Web Design / Applications Developer, Technical Development
Marc Van Liedekerke Technical Development

Questions(Q) - Answers (A)

  • Q: Which methodology would be followed for upscaling the values of grid cells in the case of Attributes with Numerical Values? 
    A: One proposal is the Weighted Average of the grid cells for the Numerical Attributes (e.g. topsoil Organic Carbon).
  • Q: Which methodology would be followed for upscaling the values of grid cells in the case of Attributes with Class Values? 
    A: One proposal is the Frequency of classes for the Class Attributes (e.g. Parent Material).
  • Q: How i can create a grid polygon shapefile with specific size?
    A: Download the Fishnet Script. This command allows you to create a new shapefile that is composed of many identical sized cells.
  • Q: Which Projection system is recommended? 
    A: The recommended Projection is the ETRS89 Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area (ETRS_LAEA) co-ordinate system.
  • Q: Who is responsible for filling the shared (cross border) pixel-cell? The case where two regions are sharing the same cell.
    A: Both partners should fill the pixels for their own area, specifying the percentage of the pixel surface they are able to describe. The responsible person for collecting all pixel data will then decide how to describe the whole pixel. When there is a strong majority of the pixel area belonging to one partner (>80%?) the other partner can be free from describing that pixel.
  • Q: Is the 1Km x 1Km pixel a simplified approach? Should it be more detailed? Should it be tested in 100m or 500m? 
    A: Every partner is free to test more detailed grids, but standard grid is set to 1 km and multiples of 1km like 100m or 10m. The more suitable pixel size depends on data availability and purposes. Small pixels are necessary for most of the analysis purposes, whereas bigger pixels are more suitable for description and reporting at general levels of detail.
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Title: European Reference Grids
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Projects Data
Year: 2009