Protecting life's foundation: A proposal for recognizing rare and threatened soils

P. J. Drohan, T. J. Farnham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Worldwide pressure on soil resources and the recognition by many international organizations, scientists, and universities of the importance of soils to humans and the natural world lias recently led to further exploration of soils and their rarity. Using the example of species protection from wildlife conservation, we define a rare soil as one of limited ureal extent and a threatened soil as one of greater areal extent undergoing a transformation that alters the soil's characteristics and function and makes it less able to carry out that characteristic or function (e.g., growing food or supporting a native plant community). We propose a process to recognize natural rare and/or threatened soils based on five categories that could be used to describe the values associated with these soils: (1) economic; (2) ecosystem; (3) scientific; (4) historic/cultural; and (5) rarity. We propose not a legally binding designation, but a program modeled on several successful wildlife-oriented conservation awareness and education programs. We aim to create a non-politically mired system that draws attention to rare and threatened soils and their role in supporting people and ecosystems while lending support to the soils' study and management. Land-use planners might find this system valuable in helping to identify ecologically important areas. Conservation organizations might find the scientifically based assessments of soil value useful in defining their designations of important conservation areas. The publicity generated by designating rare and threatened soils might help U.S. citizens and politicians appreciate the importance of soils in so many aspects of our lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2086-2096
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science


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