Soil map

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The Soil Geographical Database of Europe

This database forms the core of European Soil Information System (EUSIS) developed by the action 'Monitoring the State of European Soils' (MOSES) of the Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit (LMNH) of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) of the JRC. Its history dates back to the mid 80's:

In 1985, the Commission of the European Communities published a soil map of the EC at 1:1,000,000 scale (CEC, 1985). In 1986, this map was digitised to build a soil database to be included in the CORINE project (Co-ordination of Information on the Environment). This database was called the Soil Geographical Database of the EC, version 1. The database was enriched in 1990-1991 from the archive documents of the original EC Soil Map and became version 2. The JRC then formed the Soil and GIS Support Group with experts to give some advice concerning this database. These experts recommended that new information should be added and each participating country should make updates, leading to the current version 4.0 of the database.

The aim of the Soil Geographical Database at scale 1:1,000,000 is to provide a harmonised set of soil parameters covering Europe and the Mediterranean countries to be used in agro-meteorological and environmental modelling at regional, state, or continental levels. Its elaboration focuses on these objectives.

Originally covering countries of the European Union, the database has recently been extended to Central European and Scandinavian countries. It currently covers Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. The extension is completed for Iceland and the New Independent States (NIS) covering Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. Finally, work is on-going to further extend it to other Mediterranean countries: Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

Beside these geographical extensions, the database has also experienced important changes during its lifetime. The latest major changes concern the introduction of a new extended list for parent materials, and, for coding soil types, the use of the new World Reference Base (WRB) for Soil Resources in association with the 1990 FAO-UNESCO revised legend.

The database contains a list of Soil Typological Units (STU), characterizing distinct soil types that have been identified and described. The STU are described by attributes (variables) specifying the nature and properties of the soils, for example the texture, the moisture regime, the stoniness, etc. The scale selected for the geographical representation is the 1:1,000,000. At that scale, it is not technically feasible to delineate each STU. Therefore STUs are grouped into Soil Mapping Units (SMU) to form soil associations. The criteria for soil groupings and SMU delineation have taken into account the functioning of pedological systems within the landscape. Although the location of each STU within a SMU is unknown, the relative amount within a SMU is known.

The detailed instruction guide (doc. EUR 20422 EN) of this inventory as well as the full data and documentation are available from the EU Soil Portal.

Soil data used in the CGMS

The soil data of version 4.0 of the Soil Geographical Database of Europe (SGDBE) is used in CGMS to determine soil input variables to the agrometeorological model giving information about the soil type’s geographical location and the soil properties which are needed to simulate the crop growth during the year. The main soil properties are soil depth aiming at defining the potential rooting depth, and water retention properties giving through soil physical groups. The description of the soil characteristics for the crop simulation model in CGMS only relies on these two parameters. They fully describe the soil for simulation purposes. Each STU is attributed to a rooting depth class and a soil physical group defining the available water capacity (AWC). The AWC is a static soil characteristic and gives the amount of water between field capacity (wet soil) and wilting point (no water available for plants anymore) per unit length rooting depth. Multiplication of AWC and rooting depth gives the maximum available water which a soil can supply to a plant. It should be noted that the rain fed crop yields of the CGMS are more sensitive to the rooting depth than to the soil physical group ((van der Goot, 1998).

Further, the soil map is used to exclude particular STUs in case these STUs are unsuitable for growing crops. Suitable STUs are determined per crop group on the basis of crop growth limiting properties of these soils. The limiting soil properties are for instance slope, texture, agricultural limiting phase, rooting depth, drainage, salinity and alkalinity. The slope, texture and phase data can be obtained directly from the soil database, while others like rooting depth, drainage conditions, salinity and alkalinity are derived from basic soil properties using pedotransfer rules.