Learning about and experiencing soil

Anthill in forestClick to enlarge
Tiny ants can build amazingly large anthills!
Source: Jeannette Mathews / UBA

Life in all its multifarious forms would be unthinkable without the earth’s various soils, which can only assure a plentiful and healthy supply of food and drinking water if their ecology remains intact. But how can we best ensure that our soils are used judiciously and responsibly as habitats and resources? The UBA contributes to soil stewardship among other things by disseminating information.


Bodenwelten.de, which is operated by Bundesverband Boden, contains comprehensive and clearly presented information on all soil related matters. In May 2013, a content management system was launched for the site, which, like Wikipedia, is maintained and kept updated by volunteers.

The Bodenwissen im Handumdrehen game

This online parlor game provides players with exciting and intriguing insight into the world of soils, comparable to the concentration game known as Memory. When a player turns over a card, they enter the fascinating world of soils and learn a great deal worth knowing about the genesis and beauty of soils, as well as current threats to soil ecology. The game also shows players how rewarding it can be to engage with and learn about soils, via Franz the bog body, the European soil map, and the predators, parasites and scavengers that inhabit the soil, to name just a few examples.

A joint initiative of the UBA, Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) and Landesamt für Bergbau, Energie und Geologie (LBEG), the game is free of charge and is mainly intended as an educational tool for institutions that teach children and young people about the environment.

Die Böden Deutschlands - Ein Reiseführer

Issued by the UBA in early 2011, this “travel guide to Germany’s soils” contains information concerning soil discovery trails, museums and profile compilations. In order for a facility to be eligible for inclusion in the guide, it needs to provide fresh and interesting material and information that are not readily available elsewhere; it must also help users to orient themselves on their journeys through the exciting world of German soils.

Die abenteuerliche Reise von Fridolin, dem Regenwurm [“The adventures of Fridolin the earthworm”]

This 30 page children’s book tells the tale of an adventurous earthworm, Fridolin, who recounts his exciting odyssey in search of a soil habitat where he can lead a happy and healthy existence. In telling his tale, Fridolin also imparts a wealth of information about soils and earthworms. The book, which was illustrated by children from the Erich-Kästner Grundschule primary school in Berlin and by the Berlin based artist Simon Schrieber, is for children ages four to seven; it is also a useful instructional tool for elementary schools.

Soil of the Year

December 5th is World Soil Day, at which time the Soil of the Year for the coming year is announced after having been selected by the Boden des Jahres panel of Deutsche Bodenkundliche Gesellschaft, the Bundesverband Boden (BVB) and the Ingenieurtechnischer Verband Altlasten (ITVA). Each Soil of the Year is described in terms of its attributes, genesis, importance for human beings, the threats to which it is subject and its incidence. The poster and flyer that are elaborated for each new Soil of the Year are available free of charge.

The 2013 Soil of the Year was plaggic anthrosol.

Verbesserung des Bodenbewusstseins (Raising soil awareness) study

Which soil awareness activities help to strengthen soil awareness and promote soil stewardship on the part of both government and the general public? In the interest of addressing this issue, in October 2012 the BMU and UBA commissioned a study involving an analysis of past and ongoing soil awareness campaigns and activities such as exhibitions, municipal initiatives, recreational activities, social media and so on.

Ohne Boden bodenlos [“There’s no ground beneath our feet without soil”]:
a Wissenschaftlicher Beirat Bodenschutz (WBB; Scientific advisory panel on soil protection) pamphlet

This richly illustrated and readily understandable pamphlet describes how genuinely exciting and multifarious soils are, and also provides practical tips for better soil stewardship. The brochure also contains a glossary, as well as an extensive list of additional sources of information. Publication of the brochure was supported by Deutschen Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU). The WBB members at the time of the brochure’s publiation were Peter Grathwohl, Dietrich Henschler, Werner Klein, Günter Miehlich, Heidrun Mühle, Hans Willi Thoenes, Wolfgang Walther and Berndt Michael Wilke.