The "Soil Protection" group, a Research Group of the Government of Catalonia with file number 2021 SGR 01038, is composed of 11 members, of which 8 are Ph.D. holders specialized in Soil Science, Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Geology. Our research is focused on the study and conservation of soil, as well as its environmental and social functions. The members belong to CREAF, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Barcelona, and the Cartographic and Geological Institute of Catalonia. 

As a group, we combine basic and applied research through competitive research projects at the national and European level, as well as research contracts with public and private institutions. Our activities can be grouped into five research objectives:

1) The study of soil as a living natural system, edaphogenic processes, its taxonomic classification, and the diagnosis of its quality for the subsequent evaluation of its land use capabilities, cartography, territorial planning, and knowledge of local soil heritage. We also study the soil-microorganism-plant system comprehensively and in response to disturbances, including climate change.

Responsibles: Xavier Domene, Sara Marañón, Matias Pons, Vicenç Carabassa, Andrea Vidal.

Descripció d’un perfil de sòl a Llobera (Solsonès)

Figure 1.1. A soil profile description in Llobera (Solsonès).

Làmina prima d’una mostra d’un Fluvisol

Figure 1.2. A thin section of a soil sample from a Fluvisol (Caldes de Montbui) where a pine wood biochar amendment had been applied years ago. Under a microscope, two large dark-colored charcoal fragments can be observed, along with the coating of some pores with finer charcoal particles, all embedded in a matrix of various minerals.


2) Improving the provision of soil ecosystem services, with a special emphasis on its role in climate regulation, as well as its significance for food security and human well-being. We study carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient cycles, and soil biodiversity (microorganisms, microfauna, and mesofauna). Advanced genetic and isotopic techniques enable us to catalog the local soil biological heritage and determine the relationships between soil communities and their ecosystem functions. We are particularly interested in identifying management practices that can enhance these services.

Responsibles: Sara Marañón, Xavier Domene, Rubén Olmo, Matias Pons, Patricia Campdelacreu, Vicenç Carabassa.


Figure 2.1. Close-up view of soil microarthropods (springtails and mites) extracted from a soil sample of a juniper-dominated mountain shrubland in Pallars Sobirà (Serrat dels Gossos, Parc de l’Alt Pirineu).

Mostreig de sòls en un camp d’ordi amb sembra a Agramunt.

Figure 2.2. Soil sampling in a no-till barley field in Agramunt.

Cambres estàtiques per la mesura de les emissions de gasos amb efecte hivernacles a un alzinar a Caldes de Montbui

Figure 2.3. Static chambers for measuring greenhouse gas emissions in an evergreen oak forest in Caldes de Montbui.

Injecció de una solució de aminoàcids

Figure 2.4. Injection of a 15N-labeled amino acid solution into the soil to determine the fate of nitrogen in response to increasing temperatures in geothermal gradients in Iceland.


3) The prevention, mitigation, and reversal (rehabilitation) of soil degradation resulting from pollution, agricultural activities, mining, road infrastructure, or fires. We utilize soil indicators to measure risk or evaluate the success of soil rehabilitation, with a particular focus on changes in biological activity. We contribute to the understanding of the potential of innovative organic waste in agriculture and the rehabilitation of degraded soils. Additionally, we construct technosols (tailored soils) for the rehabilitation of a mosaic of habitats able to maximize ecosystem services.

Responsibles: Vicenç Carabassa, Pau Montero, Irene Raya.

Activitat extractiva restaurada utilitzant diferents tipus de tecnosols i tècniques de revegetació per a la restauració de diferents tipus d’hàbitats mediterranis

Figure 3.1. Limestone mine in operation alongside restored areas using different types of technosols and revegetation techniques for the rehabilitation of various Mediterranean habitats.

Tecnosol després de 25 anys de la seva construcció per a la restauració d’una mina de calcària a Mont-Ral

Figura 3.2. A 25-year Tecnosol after 25 years of tis contruction for the restoration of a limestone mine in Mont-Ral (Alt Camp).


4) The remediation of contaminated soils and the comprehensive study of the ecotoxicity associated with various contaminants and waste materials. We conduct both prospective laboratory experiments and retrospective field studies to understand the dynamics of contamination and assess the ecological risks involved, and to evaluate the effectiveness of decontamination practices using bioassays. We have recently expanded our investigations to include the emerging issues of microplastics and bioplastics. Through the application of advanced spectroscopic techniques.

Responsables: Jordi Sierra, Esther Martí, Xavier Domene. 

Assaig ecotoxicològic basat en plantes per a la determinació de la toxicitat de biomassa pirolitzada

Figure 4.1. Ecotoxicological plant-based assay for the determination of the toxicity of pyrolyzed biomass (biochar).

Macroplàstics presentes en composts urbans.

Figure 4.2. Macroplastics from urban composts.


5) The communication, dissemination, and awareness of the importance of soil to prevent soil degradation and its environmental, economic, and social impacts. Soil have often been overlooked by society, which has led to irreversible problems and costs such as desertification, increased greenhouse gas emissions, famine, and socio-economic imbalances. Soil plays a crucial role in many of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, including food security, water scarcity, climate, climate change mitigation, biodiversity loss, and health threats. Part of our work focuses on communicating scientific knowledge to various audiences and sectors of society, engaging stakeholders, and raising awareness about the importance of soil and its proper management for sustainable development.

Responsibles: all members.



Main researcher

External members: 

Jordi Sierra

Professor agregat: Edafologia i Química Agrícola
Esther Martí

Esther Martí

Professora agregada: Edafologia i Química Agrícola

Andrea Vidal-Dura