Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1602–1618 | Cite as

A review on anthropogenic soils from a worldwide perspective

  • Gian Franco Capra
  • Antonio Ganga
  • Eleonora Grilli
  • Sergio Vacca
  • Andrea Buondonno
Soils, Sec 5 • Soil and Landscape Ecology • Review Article

Abstract

Purpose

This review focuses on what are referred to as “anthropogenic soils” (AS). It investigates and clarifies their descriptions, definitions, and classifications in terms of the following: (i) historical temporal trends in AS research worldwide, (ii) geographic distribution at various scales, (iii) dominant research themes, (iv) main site features, and (v) dominant anthropogenic processes.

Materials and methods

To assess the current status of AS research from an international perspective, an inventory of published studies on AS and related grey literature was prepared and compiled in an annotated bibliography, supported by an electronic database and coupled with a geographic information system. From an initial raw collection of over 3000 issues, 925 references published in the last 70 years (1945–2014) were considered a “representative population” of research focused on AS proper. Analysis of this source of information reveals that AS research is becoming increasingly consolidated. Indeed, it now represents an innovative field among soil sciences, expanding its conceptual scope and scientific production.

Results and discussion

AS research is spread over 64 different countries, mainly in Europe and North America. The USA is the most investigated country, with AS studies becoming extremely popular from 1965 to 1974 and increasing considerably thereafter. In all other countries, AS investigations only became very popular in the decade 1995–2004. On a worldwide scale, the most investigated urban areas (UA) are Berlin, Moscow, and New York City, while several important metropolises have been partially or entirely neglected. Interestingly, the review shows that although humans are able to significantly alter, transform, manipulate, and damage soil, with an incredible number of negative effects, the transformation of “natural” soils into AS may also have unexpected benefits.

Conclusions

It is hypothesized that AS research will become increasingly popular within the international scientific community over the next decades, with particular reference to those characterizing UA (such as Technosols). Finally, it is scientifically recognized worldwide how much AS can deviate from natural soils (in terms of physicochemical features, pedogenic processes, matter and energy fluxes). Therefore, we suggest definitively highlighting such differences, defining those parts of the pedosphere characterized by AS cover as the “anthropedosphere.”

Keywords

Anthropedosphere Anthropogenic soils Anthrosolization processes History Human activities Worldwide database 

Supplementary material

11368_2015_1110_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (110 kb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 1Editorial allocation and temporal trend of investigated studies (PDF 109 kb)
11368_2015_1110_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (6.8 mb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 2Geographic distribution of the studies on AS in the urban areas (UA) of the most investigated countries (PDF 7001 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gian Franco Capra
    • 1
  • Antonio Ganga
    • 1
  • Eleonora Grilli
    • 2
  • Sergio Vacca
    • 1
  • Andrea Buondonno
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Architettura, Design e UrbanisticaUniversità degli Studi di SassariNuoroItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Ambientali, Biologiche e FarmaceuticheSeconda Università degli Studi di NapoliCasertaItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Architettura e Disegno Industriale “Luigi Vanvitelli”Seconda Università degli Studi di NapoliAversaItaly
  4. 4.Environmental Technologies srl, Spin-off UniversitarioSeconda Università degli Studi di NapoliCasertaItaly

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