IT-1 :: Sustainable management of natural resources: so what?

Limited natural resources (such as water and soil) should be used and managed following the principle of sustainability, in order to preserve them for the next generations. Generally NKS focused on the need of preserving water and soil (by quantity and hydrogeological stability), highlighting specific research question related to agriculture.
Specific research questions:
• Genetic selection practices and techniques:
The challenge of Genetically Modified Organisms s to mitigate farming impacts and to increase crop production; GMOs are able to make plants more resistant, so reducing the use of chemicals. In Italy GMOs field trials are forbidden, but genetics is a research priority for some NKS;
Why: According to some NKS, research on GMOs can help to answer an increasing food request with a limited soil availability, assuring same production with less chemical provision. Others strongly disagree. The lack of scientific certainties about the long-time effects on consumers makes the theme strongly debated and asks to be studied in depth.
Natural capital:
• Water purification technologies for reuse:
Phytoremediation for example does not always achieve optimal results; therefore it would be important to analyse existing technologies and to implement them, even creating innovative tools.
Why: The use of these technologies can ensure safe water for agriculture, contributing to food security and safety.
• Recovery and treatment of rainwater:
The water cycle (primary water, rainwater and treated wastewater) should be integrated by implementing existing technologies and developing appropriate strategies of intervention and management. The legislation already works in this direction, but it’s important to promote a sustainable water management based on the local needs and conditions. Particularly these strategies are required in some Italian geographical areas, which are characterized by limited presence of water. A diffused culture of sustainable consumption and of water reuse should be also promoted among citizens.
Why: It is particularly important to encourage water cycle in urbanized areas in order to ensure the efficient use of water.

Land management:
• Optimization of water use in agriculture:
Agriculture is the main consumer of water and the productive cycle of crops requires large water volumes. The water resource is available in limited quantities; therefore optimizing the use of water in irrigation is needed in terms of sustainability. A contribution to this research topic, even financial, could come from irrigation Consortia, which are economically strong bodies who govern water management in agriculture;
Why: The responsible use of limited resources is becoming an urgent theme in political agendas worldwide. Increase protection of fertile soils and enhance protected areas, by limiting transformative pressures of natural sites (following the Natura 2000 strategy).
• Development of conservative agricultural techniques:
Conservative agricultural techniques are able to guarantee greater stability of soils, thus mitigating impacts on soil biodiversity and saving soil fertility; while massive “industrial” techniques for food production don’t take in account soil and biodiversity as a limited resource.
Why: Preserve biodiversity and soil fertility is clearly recognized as an urgent theme, even by the literature.
• Integrated operating models for soil and sediment management and reuse:
Ground movements caused by human or natural reason, in urban or suburban areas, river or lake areas, generate ground and sediments that could be reused in situ. It’s important to create models, technologies and tools for their reuse.
Why: Laws already claim for such procedures, but it’s important to improve them in order to enact the sustainable development paradigms.
Net impact:
• Land subsidence monitoring and management:
To measure the effects of subsidence, various components have to be considered: natural, tectonics, geological, anthropic etc. Risk areas should be adequately monitored by measuring precisely the vertical soil movements. The current measuring methods aren’t still able to take to fully describe this complex phenomenon.
Why: research in this area is required in order to prevent damage caused by subsidence and to propose possible remedies to this phenomenon.