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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 8, issue 5
Solid Earth, 8, 1003–1016, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-8-1003-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Solid Earth, 8, 1003–1016, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-8-1003-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 28 Sep 2017

Research article | 28 Sep 2017

Physical soil quality indicators for monitoring British soils

Ron Corstanje1, Theresa G. Mercer2, Jane R. Rickson1, Lynda K. Deeks1, Paul Newell-Price3, Ian Holman4, Cedric Kechavarsi5, and Toby W. Waine1 Ron Corstanje et al.
  • 1Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute, School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE), Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL, UK
  • 2Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures, School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE), Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL, UK
  • 3ADAS Gleadthorpe, Meden Vale, Mansfield, Notts., NG20 9PF, UK
  • 4Cranfield Water Science Institute, School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE), Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL, UK
  • 5Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ, UK

Abstract. Soil condition or quality determines its ability to deliver a range of functions that support ecosystem services, human health and wellbeing. The increasing policy imperative to implement successful soil monitoring programmes has resulted in the demand for reliable soil quality indicators (SQIs) for physical, biological and chemical soil properties. The selection of these indicators needs to ensure that they are sensitive and responsive to pressure and change, e.g. they change across space and time in relation to natural perturbations and land management practices. Using a logical sieve approach based on key policy-related soil functions, this research assessed whether physical soil properties can be used to indicate the quality of British soils in terms of their capacity to deliver ecosystem goods and services. The resultant prioritised list of physical SQIs was tested for robustness, spatial and temporal variability, and expected rate of change using statistical analysis and modelling. Seven SQIs were prioritised: soil packing density, soil water retention characteristics, aggregate stability, rate of soil erosion, depth of soil, soil structure (assessed by visual soil evaluation) and soil sealing. These all have direct relevance to current and likely future soil and environmental policy and are appropriate for implementation in soil monitoring programmes.

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This research assessed whether physical soil properties can be used to indicate the quality of British soils in terms of their delivery of ecosystem goods and services. A prioritised list of physical soil quality indicators (SQIs) were tested for robustness, spatial and temporal variability, and expected rate of change. Seven SQIs were selected: soil packing density, water retention characteristics, aggregate stability, rate of soil erosion, soil depth, soil structure and soil sealing.
This research assessed whether physical soil properties can be used to indicate the quality of...
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