Project Details Use of reference soils for testing fate and effects of chemicals

Project No.: 
Start Date: 
01 September 2002
End Date: 
31 December 2008


To generate and evaluate general principles for the selection of reference soils used for testing fate and adverse ecological effects of chemicals.


Soils are complex matrices, whose structure and pro perties differ considerably. Fate and adverse ecological effects of chemicals present in soil are strongly influenced by soil properties. In principle this requires that fate and effect testing is carried out with a large range of soils, spanning a wide variety of soil properties. In practice, however, this is not feasible and this is the reason why soil testing should preferably be restricted to a limited set of well-chosen reference soils that represent a realistic range of soil properties. Laboratory test results obtained with this limited set of reference soils may subsequently be extrapolated to field soils.

The objective of this project is to generate and evaluate general principles for the selection of reference soils. To achieve this objective, the following work packages will be elaborated in the proposed project:

  • Definition of the term “reference soil testing” and delimitation from the terms “reference materials”, “artificial soils”, etc.
  • Requirements for the selection of reference soils and their use in soil testing
  • Selection criteria with respect to different applications of reference soils:
    • Elaboration and validation of analytical methods for the determination of pollutant concentrations in soils.
    • Application for the determination of the mobility of chemicals in soils (e.g. adsorption/desorption, column experiments, etc.).
    • Application for the determination of abiotic and biotic degradation kinetics
    • Application for the determination of effects on soil flora and fauna.
  • Ranking of the criteria according to their importance for the different applications
  • Proposal of defined ranges of criteria/factors for soil classification
  • Proposal of methods to elucidate the occurrence of the selected soils in the field, and the frequency of occurrence
  • Characterization of the reference soils according to current methods in soil science and soil quality.

The anticipated outcome of the project is a set of recommendations on the use of reference soils in soil testing.


Jan 2009 – project completed. Ref: W. Kördel et al, Trends in analytical Chemistry, volume 28, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 51-63 [doi:10.1016/j.trac.2008.07.007]