Contributions on soil security matters

​Local and/or overseas publications about Maltese soils are hard to come by. Intermittent financial investment has been devolved over the years within this sphere of wider environment policy and mainly to support agricultural pursuits at the expense of broader instrinsic value of this resource and its vital contribution to nature.

The most notable initiatives have been taken in the mid-1950 to 1960 with the eminent, pioneering contribution of Dr. D.M. Lang culminating in the production of a Soil Map for the Maltese Islands.

The setting up of the National Soils Unit within the then Department of Agriculture and the design and implementation of MALSIS (Maltese Soil Information System) contributed significantly to input of multi-stakeholder experience on this asset with a view to eventually enable the establisment of a monitoring system for this non-renewable resource.

More recently, an ERDF project on environmental monitoring, managed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, contained a soil component, one of the five themes investigated in this project. This initiative contributed to generating baseline integrated soil information necessary for public awareness  although much remains to be done for Malta to have fundamental governance elements necessary for sustainable long-term administration of this largely private resource.

Sustainable Soil Governance hinges primarily on:
  • the formulation of comprehensive soil legislation which takes into account principles enshrined in the World Soil Charter, the five pillars of action (described under the UN-FAO's Global Soil Partnership initiative) and the Soil Thematic Strategy established since 2004, 
  • the setting up of a detailed soil survey tradition (including both qualitative and quantitative characterisation of soil resources present in all Maltese territory) done on a regular basis perhaps through the preparation of established Visual Soil Assessment (view FAO's Guidance on Visual Soil Assessment) and extensive multi-scalemanual-based evaluations of local soil pedons, orders, sub-orders and so on (click here to access the USDA-NRSC Field book),
  • harmonization of soil data, indicator standards and monitoring systems, and
  • the establishment of locally-funded structured soil research.

The latter aspect is, on its own, an essential prerequisite for the drawing up of an improved National Soil Policy and Strategy.
Below set of contributions shed further light on this capacity management assessment for this natural resource and indicate whether Malta is fully prepared to meet future reporting obligations related not only to the European Commission's Soil Thematic Strategy but also peer-reviewed evaluations at multilateral level across the global soil and non-soil communities.
Official Maltese Publications
State of the Environment Reporting for Malta
- SOER SOEReport1998.pdf1998 edition (Chapter 3: Living Resources, Fisheries and Agriculture)
- SOER SOEReport2002.pdf2002 edition (Chapter 4: Living Resources, Fisheries and Agriculture)
- SOER SOER05_Background_Report_Soil.pdf2005 edition (refer to Background Report addressing soil indicators)
- SOER 2006 edition  (information investigating S2_Lead_content_of_ Maltese_soils SOER 2006.pdflead content in soils, S3_Salinity_of_Maltese_soils SOER 2006.pdfsoil salinity and  S1_Organic_carbon_content_of_Maltese_soils 2006 SOER.pdforganic carbon content)
National Environment Policy (Approved_Feb2012).PDFNational Environment Policy for the Maltese Islands - NEP. (approved: February 2012) establishing, amongst other, the nation-wide strategy targets for soil quality management.
Overview of the National Soil Information System (MALSIS) project funded under LIFE III (Third Countries: 2000-2004)

Research & Specialised Studies

Soil Survey and Soil Mapping in the Maltese Islands: the 2003 position. Research Report for European Soil Bureau authored by Sonya Vella
Soil Information in the Maltese Islands. Paper presented by Sonya Vella during a CIHEAM event (re: Options Mediterraneennes, Serie B, n.34)
Protection of Soils and Rural Landscapes in North West Malta - Technical Reports Volume I & Volume II (click here for further details describing project's context). Authors: Tanti, C., Role, A., Borg. C., Calleja, I. 2002. In: UNEP/MAP. 2003. MAP CAMP Project “MALTA” Final Integrated Project Document and Selected Thematic Documents, MAP Technical Reports Series No 138 Volume II, UNEP/MAP, Athens.
The MAP CAMP "Malta" Project was approved by the Eighth Ordinary Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, held in 1993 in Antalya. First activities related to the formulation of the project started in 1996. By the end of 1997, a Diagnostic Analysis report (EPD, 1997) was prepared by the Environment Protection Department, Ministry for the Environment (Malta). Detailed preparatory activities were implemented during 1998 - 99, and the Project Agreement and Terms of Reference were finalised in September 1999. The Agreement was signed in November 1999.
Soil Erosion Plan for North West Malta. Author/s: refer to MAP CAMP MALTA project
Numerical modelling of soil erosion in the Maltese Islands using GIS and the Revised USLE. A 2015 research paper authored by Daniel Sultana which appeared in Xjenza Online - Journal of The Malta Chamber of Scientists ( DOI: 10.7423/XJENZA.2015.1.06
Selected academic contributions (student research projects)
Master of Science in Agricultural Sciences
Galea, K.(2003) The Water Holding Capacity in Maltese Soils
Sacco, A.(1997) A Study on the Organic Matter Content of Maltese Soils
Vella, J.(1997) Heavy Metals in Soils Amended by Composted Municipal Waste
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Mediterranean Agro-ecosystems Management
Sammut, I. (2015) Potential Leaching of Nitrate and Ammonium, following the Application of Fertilisers in a Typical Calcareous Soil from Malta 
Abela, J. P. (2014) An Analysis of Heavy Metal Content in Sediments from Valleys around Gozo 
Caruana, M. (2014) Establishing a Plant Availability Test for Ba, Cu, Mn and Zn from Calcareous Soil from Malta Using Wheat as an Indicator Plant
Farrugia, M. (2014) Leaching Potential of Metals and Nitrates from Digestate-Amended Soils
Grech, M. (2014) Metal Sorption Isotherms  of Agricultural Calcareous Soils from Malta
Vella, J. (2014) The Effect of Citric Acid and EDTA on the Uptake of Ba, Cu, Mn and Zn by Wheat from Maltese Calcareous Soils
Aguis, M. (2012) Variation of Organic Matter Content in Maltese Soils Over a 15 Year Period
Cassar, A. J. (2012) Humification of Organic Matter in Calcareous Soils from Malta
Ciantar, K. (2012) A Soil Erosion Study on Two Clay Soils in Malta
Caruana, D. (2011) A Study on the Effect of Different Irrigation Water (TSE, Groundwater and RO Water) on Lettuce and Soil

Bachelor of Science in Earth Systems

Gauci, C. (2015) Geochemical Investigations Across Malta and Gozo
Portelli, A. (2015) An Investigation on the Level of Organic Matter of Soils from Organically Manages and Conventionally Managed Fields
Vella, R. M. (2015) Gozitan Farmers : Sustainable Agricultural Practices to Prevent Soil Erosion and Future Possibilities
Debono, M. (2014)  Seismic-induced Landslide Susceptibility in Malta and Gozo

Diploma in Agriculture

Galea, (2015) A. Phytormediation and Water Purification
Schembri, R. (2015) The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture in Contrast with How Agriculture Impacts Climate Change
Grech, M.(2011) A Study on Water Infiltration and Percolation in Soils Having Contrasting Textural Characteristics
Sammut, R.(2010) An Investigation of Azotobacter SPP. Population Distribution in Differently Managed Soils
Bonanno, R.(2009) A Study on the Performance of Two Lettuce Varieties in Soils from Malta
Buhagiar, F.(2009) The Activity of Azotobacter in Different Soils Types from Malta
Fenech, M.(2009) The Effect of Fertiliser Application on Soil pH
Borg, M. (2005) Soil Solarization

Further information can be obtained from the Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta (click here for specific information on the Division of Rural Sciences and Food Systems).