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Urban Soils

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Community garden in a city.According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 81 percent of the nation’s population lives in urban areas. This fact alone is enough to justify the need to identify, describe, and map urban soils to modern standards. For most urban areas, the current soil information is incomplete, outdated, or nonexistent. Even in the areas where urban development has expanded into previously mapped areas, the information is deficient. The soils in these areas have been so modified that the maps no longer provide correct information.

Soil characterization information is needed in urban areas because the natural resources are used intensively and provide valuable ecosystem services. Detailed, modern information on soils can help city planners determine the best land uses and management practices. This information can directly serve the public and strongly impact human health and quality of life. Collaborative, goal-oriented mapping projects and technical soil services not only address the soil data needs of urban planners, engineers, and community groups, they also confront emerging issues, such as climate change, coastal resiliency, estuary restoration, small- and large-scale watershed planning, and environmental literacy.

Baseline urban soil survey data can guide the management of the major urban centers and suburban areas where most of us dwell, serving to direct the best use of open space and the optimal delivery of soil ecosystem services.

Soil Science and Urban Soil Survey

We provide nationwide leadership in soil science to meet the needs of urban customers. We define urban as populated areas of various sizes.

Urban soils are found in watersheds that provide drinking water, food, waste utilization, and natural resources to communities. Urban soils also are located within cities in park areas, recreation areas, community gardens, green belts, lawns, septic absorption fields, sediment basins and other uses.

Photo showing the Nebraska State Capitol in downtown Lincoln (urban area).Urban soil survey is a broad area that can be divided into 6 topics. Each of the following will be discussed in detail to illustrate the state-of-the-art in urban programs.

Technical Resources

Contact Information

Please look around and let us know how we can continue to meet your needs.

Randy Riddle, MLRA Soil Scientist, Urban Soils Team
Phone: (805) 984-2358