LIFE Project Cover Photo

Soil Administration Models 4 Community Profit

Reference: LIFE13 ENV/IT/001218 | Acronym: LIFE SAM4CP



Soil provides a great variety of benefits (Ecosystem Services) with direct or indirect utility for humans; among them we can identify seven main ecological functions: capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide (carbon sequestration); purifying water; preventing erosion; supporting biodiversity; providing habitat for pollinators; producing wood/fibre; and producing food. Most of these functions also contribute to social and economic wellbeing of local communities. When soil is covered by impervious materials such as concrete for housing, parking or roads (a process known as 'soil sealing'), it stops being able to provide these functions. Ecological functioning is also diminished when soil is compacted by agricultural machinery. The European Commission has issued specific ‘Guidelines on best practice to limit, mitigate or compensate soil sealing’ (SWD(2012) 101 final). However, current studies suggest that soil sealing is nearly irreversible. It is therefore essential that territorial management planning takes into account the environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with soil functions when assessing land-use options. Such an assessment could also be used by decision-makers to better intervene to preserve soil.


The goal of LIFE SAM4CP was to create an easy-to-use simulator that will allow town planners and other relevant decision-makers to take the ecological functions of soil into account when assessing the environmental and economic costs and benefits of potential urban planning and land-use measures and choices. The simulator would allow different territorial transformation scenarios to be assessed according to the 7 main Ecosystem Services provided by soil in order to integrate these functions – and their potential gain or loss – into the decision-making process. This would help avoid land-use decisions that disproportionately reduce soil functions. The simulator would also enable a proper evaluation of the potential costs and benefits of specific measures aimed at reducing soil sealing. The project team planned to use it to help draft a municipal land-use plan to preserve the ecosystem services provided by soils in the Metropolitan City of Turin. The project hoped to demonstrate how use of the tool and integration of soil conservation considerations into the decision-making process can protect ecological functions for the benefit of the local community. The expected outcome was a significant reduction of soil sealing as well as overall economic savings thanks to the preservation of natural resources and restoration of the benefits provided by good quality soils.


The LIFE SAM4CP project achieved its objective. The project team first established a methodology for quantifying the services that soil provides and the monetary value of those services. After rigorous testing two different "simulators" were developed to quantify the costs of land uptake: - Playsoil: an information and awareness raising web tool based on GIS system that aims to raise awareness on the value of ecosystems on land and to introduce, through some simple simulations, to what extent and what we would lose depending on how and where we decide to transform land; - Simulsoil: an app to analyse possible value changes as a result of assumed transformations of land take. This app records the sensitivity of environmental services granted to land changes, estimating the overall cost, in terms of value changes of the available Natural Capital. As a result of that, even inexperienced users can perform ecosystem analysis and “simulations” which would, otherwise, require a complex data processing and deep knowledge of computer procedures related to GIS. The SAM4CP system has been officially adopted by the 4 municipalities of the Metropolitan City of Torino that were involved in the project. The resulting modifications to their local urban plans to reduce land uptake have helped to prevent almost 500 hectares of agricultural soil being sealed for building purposes. The project calculated that in the 29 municipalities in the Metropolitan City of Torino that have shown an interest in its initiatives, the cost of land uptake, if all the settlement expansions planned were carried out, could vary in a range between € 6 and 9 million (€ 12-18 per inhabitant and € 18.500 -27.850 per hectare). This could be cut by € 3 million by authorising only the construction of low-density urban areas, avoiding complete soil sealing. The use of Simulsoil for town planning is helping to deliver the EU's Soil Thematic Strategy and makes a significant contribution to the implementation of the European Commission's Guidelines for best practice to limit, mitigate or compensate soil sealing as well as supporting the aims of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. Quantifiable indicators to be used in the future to assess the project success are as follows: - Number of municipalities that will adopt the SAM4CP simulator. - Number of hectares excluded from building areas in local plans. - Cost saving, in terms of ecosystem services provided by soils, due to the prevention of land uptake. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Reference: LIFE13 ENV/IT/001218
Acronym: LIFE SAM4CP
Start Date: 03/06/2014
End Date: 30/06/2018
Total Budget: 1,425,350 €
EU Contribution: 700,474 €
Project Location:


Coordinating Beneficiary: PROVINCIA DI TORINO
Legal Status: PAT
Address: via Maria Vittoria, 12, 10123, Torino, Italia
Contact Person: Simonetta Alberico
Tel: +39118616223

LIFE Project Map



  • Integrated management
  • Soil and landscape protection
  • Spatial planning
  • Urban design (urban-rural)


  • land use planning
  • decision making support
  • modelling


  • COM(2006)231 - “Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection” (22.09.2006)


Name Type
INEA(Istituto Nazionale di Economia Agraria), Italy Participant
ISPRA(Istituto superiore per la protezione e la ricerca ambientale), Italy Participant
POLITO(Politecnico di Torino - Dipartimento di Scienze, Progetto e Politiche del Territorio (DIST)), Italy Participant