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The total costs of soil degradation in England and Wales


  • Graves, A.R.
  • Morris, J.
  • Deeks, L.K.
  • Rickson, R.J.
  • Kibblewhite, M.G.
  • Harris, J.A.
  • Farewell, T.S.
  • Truckle, I.


There is growing concern that the way that soils are used often results in their degradation, giving rise to significant costs, both to direct users of soils and to society as a whole. This paper develops and uses an approach to derive the total economic cost of soil degradation in England and Wales. An estimate was made of degradation costs at the national scale for dominant combinations of land cover and soils, defined as ‘soilscapes’. An ecosystem services framework was used to assess how degradation affects the capacity of soils to support a range of ‘final goods’, distinguishing between on-site and off-site costs, and market and non-market effects. Quantifiable soil degradation costs ranged between £0.9 bn and £1.4 bn per year, with a central estimate of £1.2 bn, mainly linked to loss of organic content of soils (47% of total cost), compaction (39%) and erosion (12%). Eighty percent of costs occur off-site and, as such, are often of limited concern to those whose actions may be causing soil degradation. The findings confirm that control of soil degradation has implications for a number of key policy areas such as flood risk management and climate change mitigation.

Suggested Citation

  • Graves, A.R. & Morris, J. & Deeks, L.K. & Rickson, R.J. & Kibblewhite, M.G. & Harris, J.A. & Farewell, T.S. & Truckle, I., 2015. "The total costs of soil degradation in England and Wales," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 399-413.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:119:y:2015:i:c:p:399-413
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.07.026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stern,Nicholas, 2007. "The Economics of Climate Change," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521700801, November.
    2. Dominati, E. & Mackay, A. & Green, S. & Patterson, M., 2014. "A soil change-based methodology for the quantification and valuation of ecosystem services from agro-ecosystems: A case study of pastoral agriculture in New Zealand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 119-129.
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    4. Dominati, Estelle & Patterson, Murray & Mackay, Alec, 2010. "A framework for classifying and quantifying the natural capital and ecosystem services of soils," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1858-1868, July.
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    9. Paavola, Jouni & Primmer, Eeva, 2019. "Governing the Provision of Insurance Value From Ecosystems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 1-1.
    10. Eder, Andreas & Salhofer, Klaus & Scheichel, Eva, 2021. "Land tenure, soil conservation, and farm performance: An eco-efficiency analysis of Austrian crop farms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 180(C).
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