Impacts of national scale digital soil mapping programs in France

Dominique Arrouays*, Anne C. Richer-de-Forges, Florence Héliès, Vera Leatitia Mulder, Nicolas P.A. Saby, Songchao Chen, Manuel P. Martin, Mercedes Román Dobarco, Stéphane Follain, Claudy Jolivet, Bertrand Laroche, Thomas Loiseau, Isabelle Cousin, Marine Lacoste, Lionel Ranjard, Benoît Toutain, Christine Le Bas, Thomas Eglin, Marion Bardy, Véronique AntoniJeroen Meersmans, Céline Ratié, Antonio Bispo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


During the last 10 years, several attempts to map soil attributes at the scale of mainland France have been realised. We exemplify them by seven major outputs: maps of organic C stocks, trace elements (TE), microbial density and diversity, soil thickness, available water capacity (AWC), extractable P, and changes in soil pH. We first briefly describe the data and the methods used to produce these maps and summarise their main results. We then focus on their impacts on various categories of the public, i.e. the general public and citizens; farmers; private companies; non-governmental organisations; agricultural development organisations, stakeholders, and national agencies; French governmental bodies; and international organisations. We also analyse the demands that came to the French National Soil Information Centre from 2008 to 2018 and the impact that our activities had in various media. Soil organic C had the largest impact in nearly all categories of end-users, which may be linked to the recent ‘4 per 1000’ initiative launched by the French governmentduring the COP21 and to the fact that farmers are interested in increasing the organic matter content of their soil for increasing the fertility. TE obtained high scores, which may be related to citizens' care about health and to the fact that governmental bodies and national agencies have a major interest in site contamination assessments. The soil P content, pH, and AWC exhibited major impacts on the agricultural sector. Maps of the soil P content and pH were used as geomarketing tools by private companies selling fertilisers and soil amendments, whereas the AWC was already incorporated into decision-making aid tools for irrigation management developed by development organisations for farmers. Microbial diversity generated collaborations with a large network of farmers and had a large media impact. Nevertheless, the visibility of soil information to the general public should be increased. This can be done by using new multimedia and interactive tools. Overall, these selected examples of digital soil mapping of soil attributes at the national scale in France clearly indicate that the soil attributes have substantial impact on various categories of end-users, such as farmers, professional organisations, stakeholders, and policymakers at different levels of decision-making, among others. However, the impacts on the general public and citizens are more difficult to quantify, and increasing the soil awareness of the general public should be of high priority.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00337
JournalGeoderma Regional
Early online date13 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Digital soil mapping
  • France
  • Impacts
  • National scale

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