Soils: A contemporary perspective

Cheryl Palm, Pedro Sanchez, Sonya Ahamed, Alex Awiti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)


Soils are viewed in the context of ecosystem services, soil processes and properties, and key attributes and constraints. The framework used is based on the premise that the natural capital of soils that underlies ecosystem services is primarily determined by three core soil properties: texture, mineralogy, and soil organic matter. Up-to-date descriptions and geographical distribution of soil orders as well as soil attributes and constraints are given, along with the relation-ships between soil orders, properties, and biomes. We then relate ecosystem services to specific soil processes, soil properties, and soil constraints and attributes. Soil degradation at present is not adequately assessed and quantified. The use of an approach combining digital soil maps, pedotransfer functions, remote sensing, spectral analysis, and soil inference systems is suggested for simultaneous characterization of various chemical, physical, and biological properties to overcome the great limitations and costs of conventional methods of soil assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-129
Number of pages31
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomes
  • Degradation
  • Digital maps
  • Ecosystem services
  • Geographical distribution
  • Properties and processes


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