Among the forms of degradation that afflict European soil, that related to the loss of land due to changes in use, in favour of infrastructures, buildings, landfills, quarries or other interventions that involve the removal of soil and its vegetation, represents the most aggressive and least reversible form.
For Italy this is certainly a priority threat, which has already caused a loss of land quantified by ISPRA as equal to 7.6% of the national land area: a region as extensive as Tuscany. Although other European countries such as Holland, Belgium, Germany, have comparable or even higher levels of soil consumption, the figure for our country is alarming in relation to the orography: soil consumption, in fact, is concentrated in lowland areas, in the North and in the coastal strips, which in a region with an uneven morphology such as Italy represents a scarce and precious regional resource. Furthermore, the consumption of soil is in direct conflict with productive use, leading to the loss, mainly, of agricultural land.
There has been a significant increase recorded to date: since the 1950s the total area of urbanised soil has tripled, with a growth that is not reflected in the demography, but is more related to the impetuous growth of road infrastructures and, associated with this, to the growing settlement dispersion, started as housing sprawl (growth of widespread settlements, suburbs, satellite cities, unauthorised building) and consolidated by the more recent decentralisation of industrial, commercial and tertiary settlements.
At European level, a distinction is made between land take, a measure of the region transformed into its intended use, and soil sealing, meaning the portion of land that is effectively sealed. A part (net of green areas and land pertaining to buildings or in any case kept porous in the urban fabric), removed from any residual ecological functionality, including that relating to the infiltration of rainwater, in direct relation with the increase in the hydraulic risk connected to intense meteorological phenomena and, in large aggregations, with the development of urban heat islands.