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A Compendium of On-Line Soil Survey Information

Learning Resources

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If you don't know much about soil survey, here are some good starting places.

PageTop What is soil and soil survey?

PageTop Why do a soil survey?

"The practical purpose of soil survey is to enable more numerous, more accurate and more useful predictions to be make for specific purposes than could have been made otherwise [i.e., in the absence of location-specific information about soils]. To achieve this purpose, it is necessary to:
  1. determine the pattern of the soil cover; and to
  2. divide this pattern into relatively homogeneous units; to
  3. map the distribution of these units, so enabling the soil properties over any area to be predicted; and to
  4. characterize the mapped units in such a way that useful statements can be made about their land use potential and response to changes in management."

- Dent & Young, p. 1. [emphasis and punctuation dded]. This description applies to area-class (`polygon') soil maps; for continuous-field (`raster') maps another methodology is used.

PageTop Fact sheets

PageTop On-line Tutorials & Courses

SectionTop My Lecture Notes

ITC

Cornell

SectionTop Others

PageTop Off-line Tutorials & instructional materials

PageTop Soil Science Links

PageTop Guidebooks and Tours

The best way to learn about soils is to see them in the field, or at least as profiles in a museum. Here are the descriptions some field or virtual tours.

PageTop Reference Materials

PageTop Other lists of links

PageTop Sites with a link to this Compendium

These people had the good judgement to link to this Compendium, therefore, you might think that their other links are similarly well-chosen!

Click here for a Google search of all sites that currently refer to this Compendium under its old address (../~rossiter/..), and here for the new address (../personal/rossiter/..).

Here are some pages that Google thinks are similar to the Compendium

PageTop Courses

In a few places you can follow a formal course in soil survey and related skills.

PageTop On-line Discussions

Here you can post your questions and opinions about soil survey related topics.

PageTop History

PageTop Ideas

SectionTop What is soil?

"The most fundamental and, possibly, the only real difference between soil and other unconsolidated geological materials is that, in the case of soil, the materials have been organized by natural, non-depositional processes into horizons".

- Soils of the Tugela Basin, p. 43.

SectionTop Why do a soil survey?

"The practical purpose of soil survey is to enable more numerous, more accurate and more useful predictions to be make for specific purposes than could have been made otherwise [i.e., in the absence of location-specific information about soils]. To achieve this purpose, it is necessary to:

  1. determine the pattern of the soil cover; and to
  2. divide this pattern into relatively homogeneous units; to
  3. map the distribution of these units, so enabling the soil properties over any area to be predicted; and to
  4. characterize the mapped units in such a way that useful statements can be made about their land use potential and response to changes in management."

- Dent & Young, p. 1. (emphasis and punctuation mine)

SectionTop What is a soil survey?

"A soil survey

The different uses of the soils and how the response of management affects them are considered. The information collected in a soil survey helps in the development of land-use plans and evaluates and predicts the effects of land use on the environment."

- Soil Survey Manual, p. 1. (emphasis and punctuation mine)

Editor's comment: There are several hidden assumptions in this definition. First is that soils must be classified according to a standard system. This is the practice in the USA (using Soil Taxonomy), but as long as useful statements about soils have been made, the classification seems to me to be a separate step. The second assumption is that boundaries must be drawn. This ignores approaches based on the Continuous Model of Spatial Variation.

SectionTop What makes a useful survey?

"The test of accuracy is, and should be, this: does it convert to an interpretive map satisfactorily?"
- Hubert Byrd, Soil Survey Horizons 32(4): 126-127.

SectionTop Some thoughts on scale

"It is nature which controls the areal variability of soils, not soil scientists"
- Hubert Byrd, Soil Survey Horizons 32(4): 126-127.

SectionTop Areas of low predictability

A major challenge to traditional free-survey based on airphotos and soil- landscape analysis are so-called areas of low predictability, where important soil properties (typically in the subsoil) have no surface expression, neither in the vegetation or present landuse, nor in their landscape position. Yet, the soils must be mapped accurately to predict the success of new uses which would rely on some of the subsoil properties.

Here are some thoughts from the USDA Soil Survey Manual Soil Survey Manual, page 230:

PageTop

Author: D G Rossiter URL: http://www.itc.nl/personal/rossiter/research/rsrch_ss_tut.html
E-Mail: rossiter@itc.nl Last Updated: 2010_346
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