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Anthropogenic pollution

The most diverse bedrock and rock components have weathered to fertile soils over thousands of years. They constitute the indispensable foundation for the terrestrial ecosystem, for plant growth and higher forms of life. The Swiss Soil Monitoring Network NABO monitors the state and development of soil pollution and is an important instrument in preventative soil protection.

Cores from a Humax probe taken from a reference location
Cores from a Humax probe (0-40 cm) taken from a reference location


Contaminated soils

The levels of pollution in the soil have increased greatly since the start of industrialization. These pollutants are not broken down but remain in the soil far longer than in the air or the water bodies. If the pollutant level is high, the fertility of the soil decreases. Contaminated soils can rarely, or only with great effort, be rehabilitated. Preventative soil protection requires a long-term monitoring program and reliable data, which in turn represents the knowledge-based foundation for environmental policy measures.

The nationwide temporal and spatial detection and assessment of pollution, monitoring of the success of soil protective measures, early detection of negative trends and forecasting of future soil contamination are part of the mandate of the Swiss Soil Monitoring Network NABO, jointly operated by FOEN and FOAG since 1984.


Mercury is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in various minerals of the earth's crust. Mercury has been used in the manufacture of products such as batteries, thermometers, amalgam for dental fillings, lamps, plastic additives and pesticides. It can enter the environment through anthropogenic activities and natural processes.


The NABO reference measurement network records the background contamination of the soils, but not for suspected or contaminated sites. It currently includes 105 permanent observation sites in Switzerland, which are sampled in a 5-year cycle. The analysis program is limited to the so-called total content of the “Ordinance Relating to Impacts on the Soil (OIS)” of July 1998 (Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb, Zn and Co) as well as to important soil parameters.



Geologische Gefahren


Contaminated Sites Section (FOEN)
Soil Section (FOEN)

Pollutant releases (SwissPRTR)