Soil science

A floor pit with differently coloured layers.Click to enlarge
There are numerous types of strong soils.
Source: S. Marahrens / Umweltbundesamt

Germany has many different kinds of soil, which are studied and described by soil scientists. As in the plant kingdom, a distinction is made between the various types of soil. The properties of the numerous so called strong soil types differ greatly in terms of the mechanisms with which they control environmental processes. We human beings are the main beneficiaries of these functions.

Soil science is a discipline that is practiced by agricultural engineers, geographers, geologists, and lately environmental scientists who specialize in ecology. This field needs to be multi-disciplinary owing to its great complexity and in light of our current knowledge of soil processes. One of the tasks of soil science is to describe and systematically investigate soil and all of its various properties. These findings are incorporated into soil maps that are indispensable for successful and effective soil conservation. In the interest of raising public awareness of the various types of soil and their characteristics, for some years now a “soil of the year” has been selected, and is announced each 5 December.

Another and more recent focus of soil science is effective soil conservation, which mainly aims to preserve the multifarious soil functions that are an invaluable ecological resource. The Soil Protection Act (Gesetz zum Schutz der Böden) brings these functions to centre stage and promulgates the precautionary principle in the interest of soil stewardship. To achieve this, it is absolutely essential that those concerned be familiar with soil properties, any change in which has a direct impact on soil functions.