Decades of Soil Surveys Becoming an Online Tool

by | March 30, 2012
Category: News

Africa Soil Profiles Database includes profiles for 37 countries

Significant progress has been made in collecting legacy soil profile data for sub-Saharan Africa. This effort draws on decades of soil survey campaigns in Africa, converting the legacy profile data into formats that link to the digital platforms developed for AfSIS.

The Africa Soil Profiles Database now contains over 12,000 geo-referenced legacy soil profile records for 37 countries. This number significantly adds to the amount of soil data available within AfSIS and continues to grow steadily. The soil profile records were collected from over 300 data sources, both digital and analogue, and the data were converted to a common standard and parsed through basic quality rules and cleaning. Previously, such data would only be accessible through a myriad of sources and would not be standardized, hindering efforts to make the data shareable and usable.

The setup of the database mirrors the compilation process. It stores an inventory of profile features, including full lineage and geo-coordinates, which forms the backbone of the database, together with the reported feature-attributes and their values and the measurement methods applied, both original and standardized. Partner organizations can also enter and submit data into the database. Another possible pathway to extend the database entails the use of semi-automated procedures to locate and capture web-based data. This method is currently being tested in a feasibility study.

Figure 1. Africa Soil Profiles Database, v. 3. The total number of profile records stored exceeds 12,000. Data added during 2010-2011 are indi- cated as purple dots (>9300); green dots (> 2700) refer to the baseline recordings drawn from the ISRIC-WISE3 database.

Figure 1. Africa Soil Profiles Database, v. 3. The total number of profile records stored exceeds 12,000. Data added during 2010-2011 are indi- cated as purple dots (>9300); green dots (> 2700) refer to the baseline recordings drawn from the ISRIC-WISE3 database.

The compilation of soil data in the database integrates into a coordinated effort of a team of scientists atISRIC – World Soil Information, which contributes to the project as part of the global digital soil map consortium – GlobalSoilMap. (For more information, see GlobalSoilMap.net.) ISRIC has developed a web-based Soil Information Service to serve as the international platform for data exchange and implementation of digital soil mapping procedures. The Africa Soil Profiles Database is soon to be collated into this service and will be extended to a total of 14,000–20,000 profile records in 2012.

The Africa Soil Profiles Database was acknowledged as one of three major scientific achievements of the GlobalSoilMap consortium in the past year. It is an information treasure, serving as a test-bed for analysis and modelling and as input for soil property mapping according to GlobalSoilMap specifications. Dr. Markus Walsh, AfSIS Project Leader, states: “Using this kind of information, we come closer to generating high resolution quantitative soil information to accomplish the ultimate aim of the GlobalSoilMap project — to help feed nine billion people in 2050.” The database will also used by third parties for a range of purposes, including to validate pedotransfer functions for predicting bulk density and soil moisture holding capacity of African soils, among others.

The Africa Soil Profiles database is available here through a creative commons license.

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