LIFE Project Cover Photo

S.O.S. 4 LIFE - Save Our Soil for LIFE

Reference: LIFE15 ENV/IT/000225 | Acronym: SOS4LIFE



Soils provide various ecological functions, among which: carbon sequestration; water purification; prevention of erosion; support of biodiversity; habitat for pollinators; production of wood/fibre; and food production. Most of these functions provide economic, as well as ecological benefits, to local communities. However, they are inhibited by soil sealing, a phenomena created by human activities. Soil sealing is the covering of the ground by an impermeable material; it is one of the main causes of soil degradation in the EU. Soil sealing often affects fertile agricultural land, puts biodiversity at risk, increases the risk of flooding and water scarcity and contributes to global warming. According to the European Environment Agency, since the mid 1950s the total surface area of cities in the European Union has increased by 78%, whereas its population has grown by only 33%.

In the context of the Soil Thematic Strategy (COM(2006) 231), the European Commission has highlighted the need to develop best practices to mitigate the negative effects of sealing on soil functions. Furthermore, the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM(2011) 571) proposes that by 2020 EU policies take into account their impact on land use with the aim of achieving no net land take by 2050.

A working group was set up to focus on European Guidelines on Best Practices to Reduce, Mitigate and Compensate Soil Sealing [(SWD (2012) 101], though 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.



SOS4LIFE was a demonstration project that aimed to implement European regulations on soil protection defined by the European Guidelines on Best Practices to Reduce, Mitigate and Compensate Soil Sealing. The main objective of the project was the implementation of a viable regulatory framework and planning tool to achieve, at municipal level, the ‘no net land take’ target and promote de-sealing interventions as a way of compensating fir newly urbanised areas and improving urban resilience to climate change.

SOS4Life aimed to fill a structural gap that is widespread in public systems of land governance, namely the lack of tools and appropriate urban regulations for municipalities (not only in Italy) to counteract land take.

The specific objectives of the project were to:

  • Evaluate ecosystems services provided by urban soils and quantify costs and impacts caused by land take and soil sealing, both in urban and rural contexts;
  • Define a viable regulatory framework and operational tools for achieving, at the municipal level, the no net land take target and for promoting urban regeneration
  • Promote and practice de-sealing interventions as a way of compensating newly urbanised areas and improving the urban resilience to climate change through practical case study applications;
  • Give methodological bioclimatic criteria for the re-design of the de-sealed open spaces;
  • Develop a Urban and Soil Decision Support System to be adopted by municipalities and regions for monitoring land use change, soil-sealed areas, urban regeneration processes and soil ecosystem services;
  • Transfer regulatory frameworks, tools and methods to other municipalities and local authorities both in Italy and elsewhere in Europe to allow for replication; and
  • Raise awareness of the need to safeguard our soils among decision makers, technicians and local citizens.



The SOS4LIFE project created tools for tackling issues linked to land uptake.


As a first step, the project team carried out an overview of the best practices on soil de-sealing in Europe, along with an evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts due to land uptake in the territory of three project municipalities.


These studies allowed the team to draw up guidelines for the quantification and evaluation of ecosystem services provided by soils. A case study quantifying these services in the municipality of Carpi was also produced. Other key outcomes of the project was the creation of a mapping tool, indicators and a geo-referenced database for the quantification and monitoring of land uptake at municipal and regional level (Urban and Soil Decision Support System – US-DSS linked to a regional webGIS).


The project also developed a monitoring system for urban soils in the sites where interventions were scheduled to have taken place, with de-sealing activities at least starting at San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna, and Forlì (Emilia-Romagna).


Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the project held 12 photographic exhibitions on soils and land uptake in a dozen towns in the region of Emilia-Romagna.


The project was not able to achieve all its foreseen objectives before the end of the project due mainly to the lengthy and complex administration procedures necessary for the planned urban regeneration interventions (including problems of environmental remediation).


Nonetheless, the results attracted much interest due in part to new regional planning legislation compelling municipalities in Emilia-Romagna to adopt the urban planning approach proposed by the project.

The replication potential of the project can therefore be considered excellent. To this end, guidelines were also drawn up for the development of urban regeneration credits exchange, the revision of urban plans and the improvement of urban resilience to climate change.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).





Reference: LIFE15 ENV/IT/000225
Acronym: SOS4LIFE
Start Date: 01/07/2016
End Date: 30/09/2020
Total Eligible Budget: 1,788,749 €
EU Contribution: 1,060,551 €
Project Location:


Coordinating Beneficiary: Comune di Forl
Legal Status: PAT
Address: Piazza Saffi 8, 47121, Forl, Italia
Contact Person: Stefano Bazzocchi
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website

LIFE Project Map



  • Soil and landscape protection
  • Urban design (urban-rural)


  • urban planning
  • climate change mitigation
  • climate resilience
  • soil surface sealing


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


Name Type
Comune di Forl Coordinator
Comune di San Lazzaro di Savena, Italy Participant
Comune di Carpi, Italy Participant
Regione Emilia-Romagna, Italy Participant
Legambiente Emilia-Romagna, Italy Participant
Istituto per la BioEconomia - Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy Participant
Forlì Mobilità Integrata s.r.l., Italy Participant