A Functional Land Management conceptual framework under soil drainage and land use scenarios

C. Coyle, R.E. Creamer, R.P.O. Schulte, L. O'Sullivan, P. Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural soils offer multiple soil functions, which contribute to a range of ecosystem services, and the demand for the primary production function is expected to increase with a growing world population. Other key functions on agricultural land have been identified as water purification, carbon sequestration, habitat biodiversity and nutrient cycling, which all need to be considered for sustainable intensification. All soils perform all functions simultaneously, but the variation in the capacity of soils to supply these functions is reviewed in terms of defined land use types (arable, bio-energy, broadleaf forest, coniferous forest, managed grassland, other grassland and Natura 2000) and extended to include the influence of soil drainage characteristics (well, moderately/imperfect, poor and peat). This latter consideration is particularly important in the European Atlantic pedo-climatic zone; the spatial scale of this review. This review develops a conceptual framework on the multi-functional capacity of soils, termed Functional Land Management, to facilitate the effective design and assessment of agri-environmental policies. A final functional soil matrix is presented as an approach to show the consequential changes to the capacity of the five soil functions associated with land use change on soils with contrasting drainage characteristics. Where policy prioritises the enhancement of particular functions, the matrix indicates the potential trade-offs for individual functions or the overall impact on the multi-functional capacity of soil. The conceptual framework is also applied by land use area in a case study, using the Republic of Ireland as an example, to show how the principle of multi-functional land use planning can be readily implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39 - 48
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date15 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Nov 2015


  • Soil functions
  • Agriculture
  • Sustainable intensification
  • Ecosystem service


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