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EUROPA > European Commission > Joint Research Centre > Institute for Environment and Sustainability > Land Management & Natural Hazards Unit

Soil Datasets > Background

The European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) is the thematic centre for soil related data in Europe and has been established according to a decision taken at the end of 2005 by the European Commission's DG ENV, DG JRC, ESTAT and the European Environment Agency (the so-called "group of four" or G04) to establish ten environmental data centres in Europe.

Each environmental data centre acts as the primary data contact point for DG ENV in order to fulfill its information needs. It has the task of ensuring that the collected data fit DG ENV's requirements, that data collection is organized in an efficient way, that the necessary quality assurance is performed and that all relevant existing data are accessible to other Go4 parties. It thus has the primary responsibility for organizing the availability and quality of the data required for policy.

The requirements of DG ENV in relation to the ESDAC are at the one hand to receive scientific and technical support for issues in relation to the proposed Soil Framework Directive and for the development of European datasets, and at the other hand the availability of a suitable IT facility that allows management of and access to the soil data and information collected during the course of providing the scientific and technical support. Scientific and technical support includes the specification of guidelines for the identification of risk areas and of associated guidelines on data issues (quality, data-exchange formats) and the production of maps of risk for the different soil threats in the EU.

The sources for the soil information that reside at the ESDAC are:

The ESDAC IT facility hosts soil related products: datasets, documents, services and other types of information such as maps and graphs and provides web-based tools for the access to and the update of its contents.

The ESDAC IT facility currently operates in a centralized way, meaning that it presents only information that is currently available at ESDAC. In order to be interoperable with other emerging services (e.g. in other environmental data centres), metadata will be created according to agreed metadata standards; in a second phase, metadata services will be set-up so that ESDAC can search in distributed catalogues and that the ESDAC catalogue can be consulted by remote ESDAC-external services. Similarly, on-line applications (e.g. web map services) will be developed according to standards so that they are as interoperable as possible with other similar services.

One particular aspect that ESDAC will promote is the use of grids (or rasters) as a possible way to exchange data between organizations. The basis for such work is the availability of standard (or reference) grids in a common co-ordinate system with fixed cell sizes and common cell coding. A proposal for such grids has been adopted during the European Reference Grids Workshop, held at Ispra (October 2003).


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European Commission - Joint Research Centre
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Marc Van Liedekerke(tel. +39-0332-785179)
Panos Panagos (tel. +39-0332-785574)