Spatial evaluation and trade-off analysis of soil functions through Bayesian networks

Dirk Vrebos*, Arwyn Jones, Emanuele Lugato, Lilian O'Sullivan, Rogier Schulte, Jan Staes, Patrick Meire

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing recognition that soils fulfil many functions for society. Each soil can deliver a range of functions, but some soils are more effective at some functions than others due to their intrinsic properties. In this study we mapped four different soil functions on agricultural lands across the European Union. For each soil function, indicators were developed to evaluate their performance. To calculate the indicators and assess the interdependencies between the soil functions, data from continental long-term simulation with the DayCent model were used to build crop-specific Bayesian networks. These Bayesian Networks were then used to calculate the soil functions' performance and trade-offs between the soil functions under current conditions. For each soil function the maximum potential was estimated across the European Union and changes in trade-offs were assessed. By deriving current and potential soil function delivery from Bayesian networks a better understanding is gained of how different soil functions and their interdependencies can differ depending on soil, climate and management. Highlights: When increasing a soil function, how do trade-offs affect the other functions under different conditions? Bayesian networks evaluate trade-offs between soil functions and estimate their maximal delivery. Maximizing a soil function has varied effects on other functions depending on soil, climate and management. Differences in trade-offs make some locations more suitable for increasing a soil function then others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1575-1589
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number4
Early online date23 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bayesian modelling
  • DayCent
  • European Union
  • mapping
  • maximization
  • soil function
  • trade-offs


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