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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Quantification of Soil Quality

Authors
item Seybold, Cathy - SOIL QUALITY INSTITUTE
item Mausbach, Maurice - SOIL QUALITY INSTITUTE
item Karlen, Douglas
item Rogers Jr, Hugo

Submitted to: Carbon Sequestration In Soil An International Symposium
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 26, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Protecting soil resources by enhancing soil quality has been identified as an important goal for national policy with respect to natural resources and the environment. Our objectives are to discuss some different approaches for quantifying soil quality and to recommend a framework for measuring and assessing it. We define soil quality as the "capacity of the soil to function" and view soil quality in two ways: (1) as inherent properties of soil; and (2) as the dynamic nature of soils as influenced by climate and human use or management. Soil quality cannot be measured directly, but must be inferred by measuring changes in its attributes or attributes of the ecosystem, referred to as indicators. Mechanistic indicators such as soil organic matter fractions, descriptive indicators often used by farmers or land managers, production indicators, and ecosystem process indicators are discussed and related to various evaluation scales. Qualitative and quantitative indices of soil quality are discussed, and two methods of assessing soil quality from a minimum data set are presented. One establishes baseline values and monitors for changes over time. In the second, reference values for indicators are established and used within a framework that also includes models, pedotransfer functions, historical literature values, values in data bases, and research publications.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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