The need to continue improving soil survey maps

Miller, B.A. 2012. The need to continue improving soil survey maps. Soil Horizons 53(3). doi:10.2136/sh12-02-0005.


Soil Survey maps are the preeminent data set collected about our environment. Although there are other impressive data sets that are regularly used for studying and utilizing the environment, none match the wide utility and potential of soil maps. Today, practically every acre of soil that can be reached in the United States has been mapped by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Because the Soil Survey is a natural resource inventory it is tempting to consider the finished product the end product. However, many users would benefit from the availability of more accurate and precise soil maps. Also, new demands are being put on the Soil Survey data through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and integration of spatial soil data into environmental models. Recent innovations create opportunities to increase both the resolution and the efficiency at which Soil Survey maps are made. However, new technologies do not replace the need for field observation and validation. Unfortunately, the momentum for improving Soil Survey maps appears to be waning, as budget and personnel cuts continually hit the Natural Resource Conservation Service. With the increasing need to manage our limited resources wisely, now is not the time to slow down our pursuit to better understand and represent our environment in maps.

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