, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 470–482 | Cite as

Soil Diversity and Land Use in the United States

  • Ronald Amundson
  • Y. Guo
  • P. Gong


Soils are dynamic components of terrestrial ecosystems that historically have been viewed as economic resources by government and private interests. The large-scale conversion of many sections of the United States to agriculture and urban land uses, combined with the growing awareness of the role of soils in global biogeochemistry and ecology, ultimately requires an assessment of the remaining distribution of undisturbed soils in the country. Here we conduct the first quantitative analysis of disturbed and undisturbed soil distribution in the USA using a GIS-based approach. We find that a sizable fraction (4.5%) of the nation’s soils are in danger of substantial loss, or complete extinction, due to agriculture and urbanization. In the agricultural belt of the country, up to 80% of the soils that were naturally of low abundance are now severely impacted (greater than 50% conversion to agricultural/urban uses). Undisturbed soils provide ecosystem services that warrant their preservation, including a somewhat complex relationship with rare or endangered plants. The known and unknown attributes of undisturbed soils suggests the need for an integrated biogeodiversity perspective in landscape preservation efforts.


soils biological diversity land use extinction 



We thank Kit Paris and Eric Vinson of the NRCS in California for assistance and advice on the STATSGO database. Stephen Howard at the USGS EROS Data Center provided assistance in describing the NLCD data structure. Mu Lan provided technical assistance, and Cristina Castanha, Stephanie Ewing, and Kyungsoo Yoo provided comments on an earlier draft of the paper. The research was supported by the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Ecosystem Sciences, 151 Hilgard HallUniversity of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3110USA
  2. 2.Center for Assessment and Monitoring of Forest and Environmental Resources (CAMFER)University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3110AUSA
  3. 3.International Institute for Earth System Science (ESSI)Nanjing UniversityChina, 210093

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