The Geochemistry Expert Group delivers geochemical knowledge, services and products of European near-surface materials.
The Geochemistry Expert Group (GEG)
Chemical elements are the Earth’s building blocks. The Earth (and everything on it) is composed of different combinations and abundances of specific elements. However, they are not fixed into place. Natural cycles and human-induced processes cause elements to move and become incorporated into different materials. Desert winds winnow away all but silica sand, weathering of volcanic lavas rich in potassium and phosphorus yield rich farming soils, industrial effluent or fertilizers filtering into the subsurface can degrade the quality of groundwater. Geochemistry is the study of the distribution and concentration of Earth’s elements. The GEG harmonises the collection of this data, providing a pan-European picture of near-surface earth materials such as soil.
Geochemistry’s importance spans more than just geoscientific disciplines. All life and the continuation of natural systems rely on specific elements, in the correct amounts and correct combinations. As a result, geochemical knowledge is crucial for:
- Environmental reports
- Mineral exploration
- Renewable energy
- Animal Husbandry
- Geomedicine or medical geology
- Determination of natural background values for environmental risk assessment
Geochemistry applications are wide ranging and of international importance. The goal of the GEG is to establish a standardised multi-element geochemical database for Europe. This database will not only support data analysis now but will serve as a benchmark for future work. Recent geochemical research published by the GEG include European geochemical atlases, which show the abundance and distribution of elements across Europe. These atlases provide geochemical baselines for industries to evaluate their chemical management, monitoring the health of the surrounding environment and allow them to comply with the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of chemicals) regulation.
Through collaboration, GEG delivers harmonised, multi-purposed and multi-element geochemical data for Europe’s shallow earth material. This provides scientists, the public and the European Commission with geochemical knowledge and expertise.
The work of the GEG is driven by the EU Soil Strategy for 2030, and underpinned by European Commission (EC) Directives and chemical regulations, such as:
- The Water Framework Directive
- The Mine Waste Directive
- The INSPIRE Directive
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals)
Comparable geochemical data across Europe is integral to GEG’s work. We use standardised approaches to geochemical analysis for pan-European harmonisation of data and knowledge. For example, the GEMAS (Geochemical Mapping of Agricultural and Grazing Land Soil) project applied a systemised sampling method for the geochemical data of ploughed agricultural land and non-cultivated grass land. This was the first time that over 60 elements were mapped for these land types on a continental scale (33 European countries). This was a major step towards a unified geochemical database and vital knowledge for agricultural food production in Europe. Further work on geochemical data and analysis was also conducted in urban environments in the URGE 1 and URGE 2 projects, with geochemical elemental mapping of urban and suburban topsoil across European cities.