Soil and land information is needed for a wide range of applications but available data are often inaccessible, incomplete, or out of date. GEOSS plans a global Earth Observation System and, within this framework, the e-SOTER project addresses the felt need for a global soil and terrain database. As the European contribution to a Global Soil Observing System, it will deliver a web-based regional pilot platform with data, methodology, and applications, using remote sensing to validate, augment and extend existing data. Technical barriers that have to be overcome include: quantitative mapping of landforms; soil parent material and soil attribute characterization and pattern recognition by remote sensing; standardization of methods and measures of soil attributes to convert legacy data. Two major research thrusts involve: 1) improvement of the current SOTER methodology at scale 1:1 million in four windows in Europe, China and Morocco. Moderate-resolution optical remote sensing will be combined existing parent material/geology and soil information, making use of advanced statistical procedures; 2) within 1:250 000-scale pilot areas, advanced remote sensing applications will be developed - geomorphic landscape analysis, geological re-classified remote sensing, and remote sensing of soil attributes. Advances beyond the state of the art include: transformation of pre-existing data and addition of new information with remote sensing and DEM; interpretations of the e-SOTER database that address threats defined in the EU Soil Thematic Strategy and comparing the results with current assessments; and delivery through a web service of a data portal. e-SOTER will deliver a Pilot Platform and a portal that provides open access to: 1) a methodology to create 1:1 million-scale SOTER databases, and an enhanced soil and terrain database at scale 1:1 million for the four windows; 2) an artifact-free 90m digital elevation model; 3) methodologies to create 1:250 000-scale enhanced SOTER databases, and the databases themselves for four pilots; 4) advanced remote sensing techniques to obtain soil attribute data; 5) validation and uncertainty propagation analysis; 6) dedicated applications related to major threats to soil quality and performance.