Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 96-100

First online:

Classification of Urban and Industrial Soils in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (5 pp)

  • David G. RossiterAffiliated withInternational Institute for Geo-information Science & Earth Observation (ITC) Email author 

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Background, Aim and Scope

Historically, built areas were ignored in soil mapping and in studies of soil formation and behaviour. It is now recognized that these areas, and therefore their soils, are of prime importance to human populations. Another trend is the large increase in reclaimed lands and new uses for old industrial areas. In several countries there are active projects to map such areas, either with locally-developed classification systems or ad-hoc names. Soil classification gives unique and reproducible names to soil individuals, thereby facilitating correlation of soil studies; this should be possible also for urban soils. The World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) is the soil classification system endorsed by the International Union of Soil Science (IUSS). The 2006 edition has important enhancements which allow urban and industrial soils to be described and mapped, most notably a new reference group, the Technosols.

Main Features

Urban soils are first defined, followed by the philosophical basis of soil classification in general and the WRB in particular. WRB 2006 added a new Technosols reference soil group for soils whose properties and function are dominated by technical human activity as evidenced by either a substantial presence of artefacts, or a impermeable constructed geomembrane, or technic hard rock. Technosols are one of Ekranic, Linic, Urbic, Spolic or Garbic; further qualifiers are added to show intergrades to other groups as well as specific soil properties. Soils from fill are recognized as Transportic Regosols or Arenosols. Toxic soils are specifically recognized by a qualifier.




The limit between Technosols and other groups may be difficult to determine, because of the requirement that the technic nature dominate any subsequent pedogenesis.




The WRB should certainly be used in all urban soil studies to facilitate communication and correlation of results. In the period leading up to the next revision in 2010, the quantitative results from urban soil studies should be used to refine class definitions.

WRB World Reference Base for Soil Resources urban soils Technosols Soil classification