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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. 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 (fig. 1). 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.


Figure 1-1: Provisional soil map extracted from the Euroasian Geographical Soil Databases ver. 4.0.

The database is currently managed using the ArcInfo® Geographical Information System (GIS) software package.

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.

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: http://eusoils.jrc.it/index.html.

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MARS STATEuropean Commission Directorate General Joint Research CentreIES - Institute for Environment and Sustainability IPSC - Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen