How can pedology and soil classification contribute towards sustainable development as a data source and information carrier?

J. Bouma*, A. Bonfante, A. Basile, J. van Tol, M.J.D. Hack-ten Broeke, H.M. Mulder, M. Heinen, D.G. Rossiter, L. Poggio, D.R. Hirmas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Soil classification is based on both the properties of the soil material and the pedogenetic pathways responsible for those properties. Because soil properties are linked to soil function and potential, information on soil classification has formed the basis for empirical interpretations of mapping units in terms of limitations or suitabilities for a wide range of land uses. In this way, a soil type acts as an accessible “carrier of information” presenting “the story of..”. Though valuable for broad land-use assessments, these empirical interpretations of soil functionality are inadequate to answer modern interdisciplinary questions focused on sustainable development. Four case studies are presented showing various quantitative approaches focusing on soil functions contributing to ecosystem services in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Green Deal, demonstrating that: (i) the use of soil surveys and associated databases feeding soil–water-atmosphere-plant simulation models can contribute to defining soil functions and ecosystem services; (ii) hydropedological characterization of soil types can allow a strong reduction in the number of landscape units to be considered, improving practical applicability; (iii) pedotransfer functions can successfully link soil data to modeling parameters; (iv) functionality requires expression of soil management effects on properties of a given soil type, to be expressed by phenoforms; (v) only models can be applied to explore important future effects of climate change by running IPCC scenarios; and (vi) the most effective level of soil classification—acting as carriers of information when defining soil functionality—will differ depending on the spatial scale being considered, whether local, regional or higher.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115988
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2022


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