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BIOTAGENE : Elaboration of novel metagenomic method for environmental monitoring


The degradation of soil, which is vital for human activities and the survival of ecosystems, is a serious problem in Europe. Soil degradation is driven by inadequate agricultural and forestry practices, industrial activities, tourism, urban and industrial sprawl and construction works. Climate change, and specifically changes in precipitation patterns (e.g. prolonged droughts), may contribute to increased soil degradation. In Europe, these factors result in erosion, decline in organic matter, contamination, salinisation, compaction, decline in biodiversity, sealing, floods and landslides. Soil degradation impacts directly on water and air quality, biodiversity and vulnerability to climate change. Furthermore, it can have a negative effect on human health and threaten food and food safety. Soil loss and declining fertility have been highlighted in the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development as one of the main threats to sustainable development and one of the main causes of the decrease of the viability of agricultural land. Microorganism communities are responsive to environmental conditions and therefore good indicators of environmental status. However, the application of metagenomic approaches has been limited as a result of high costs and lack of access to highly specialised technical infrastructure. The overall objective of the project is to develop and demonstrate a novel approach to environmental monitoring, based on metagenomic data and using modern biotechnology and IT technologies. During the lifetime of the project, 300 samples of soil will be collected from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Poland and Germany. From the samples, DNA will be extracted, amplified, sequenced and analysed. Based on the genomic data, markers will be determined that describe the environment. These markers will allow us to evaluate the integral influence of different human activities such as agriculture and climate change on ecosystems. This kind of evaluation enables the influence of factors endangering the environment and humans to be characterised and to better forecast potential future impacts.

Project information

Tallinn University of Technology

University of Tartu, Estonia

Source of funding

Reference information



soil degradation‚ monitoring system



Climate impacts

Droughts, Flooding


Observations and Scenarios, Vulnerability Assessment


Agriculture, Biodiversity, Forestry

Geographic characterization


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