Contamination of natural resources has received increasing attention in the past decades. The extensive application of man-kind chemicals designed for use in industry, agriculture, pest control, and consumer products as well as the growing consumption fossil fuels have led to a widespread distribution of pollutants into the environment. Xenobiotica can be found in all environmental compartments, such as atmosphere, soil, and water. The diffuse distribution of pollutants impacts the quality of natural resources and ultimately the human well being. It has been recognized that, with respect to the ubiquitous occurrence of anthropogenic and natural chemical substances, soils pose a key zone since this compartment may store, filter, and transport water and dissolved pollutants. Moreover, soils can act as a secondary source which releases pollutants to adjacent compartments, such as groundwater, surface water, or sediments. This fact has recently been addressed by the EU Soil Thematic Strategy (DG Environment: "Towards a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection", COM(2002), 179). Another aspect of diffuse pollution is the scale problem. Basically diffuse pollution is dealing with contaminated compartments on a large-scale. That requires a fundamental understanding of processes ongoing on European and/or global scale in a multi-compartmental environment and needs the involvement of resources from different scientific-technical disciplines.
Abatement and control of diffuse pollution as well as the management of large-scale polluted environmental compartments, such as soils and groundwater, require and integrated understanding of scientific-technical processes, socio-economic factors and other driving forces. Current research activities are focused on filling the gap particularly in the area of interactions between the different environmental compartments and the anthrosphere. Moreover, the behavior and fate of diffuse pollution of soils and water (e.g. groundwater, surface water, rivers) at large scales as well as the effects of large scale pollution on the ecosystem function is object of ongoing research activities. In detail following major research topics in the area of diffuse pollution are addressed in research projects on the European level:
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