In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pedology

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Soil Genesis
  • Soil Survey
  • Soil Classification
  • Soil Models
  • Applications of Pedological Knowledge
  • Future Directions in Pedology

Environmental Science Pedology
Eric C. Brevik, David C. Weindorf, Cynthia Stiles
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-0017


In modern soil science pedology is widely viewed as the study of soils in their natural environment. Pedology has a fairly lengthy history within soil science, dating to the late 1800s and the work of Dokuchaev. The areas of soils study that fall under the pedology umbrella make pedology important for many modern applications of soils knowledge, including agriculture, agroforestry, environmental issues, and land-use planning. This makes a basic understanding of pedology important for anyone working in these areas. Future needs in pedology include improved knowledge of soil processes, information on soil surveys on soil change over time, a better understanding of soils and climate change interactions, and soil-water interactions. A particular need exists for pedologists to work with scientists in related fields to address pressing modern issues that cannot be covered by a single field alone. We thank Horea Cacovean and Damien Field for discussions concerning pedology textbooks used in Europe and Australia.

Introductory Works

The Soil Science Society of America defines pedology as “the scientific study of soils and their weathering profiles” (quoted from the society’s Glossary of Soil Science Terms web page). According to Wilding 1994 this makes pedology a bit narrower in scope than the general field of soil science, although historically some have equated the terms pedology and soil science. For the purposes of this article we have elected to take the narrower view of the meaning of pedology, which is in line with its primary use since the latter half of the 20th century (Calzolari 2013). Most trace the birth of pedology as an independent scientific discipline to the publication of Russian Chernozem (Dokuchaev 1883). Several areas of study traditionally fall within the pedology umbrella. Wilding 1994 includes soil genesis (formation) and soil survey (mapping) within pedology, and McCracken and Helms 1994 notes that soil survey and soil classification are mutually dependent activities. Therefore, we find that the quality of our soil maps and our classifications are mutually dependent and soil classification has often fallen under the pedology umbrella as well. In addition to these traditional pedology topics, this article will include information on tools of the field, such as soil models that have been central to soil survey and genesis; human impacts on soils; and discussion of the future of pedology. Some of the tools used today have been mainstays throughout the study of pedology (e.g., augers and shovels) (Lapham 1949), while others have become available as technological advances have improved our abilities to quantify certain aspects of the field, including the Munsell color books (Pendleton and Nickerson 1951), aerial photograph base maps (Miller and Nichols 1979), geostatistical techniques (Di, et al. 1989), and proximal sensors.

  • Calzolari, C. 2013. Research in pedology: A historical perspective. In The soils of Italy. Edited by E. A. C. Costantini and C. Dazzi, 1–17. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-5642-7

    Provides an overview of pedologic work with a focus on Italy, but also spends some time tying Italian pedology into the larger international picture.

  • Di, H. J., R. A. Kemp, and B. B. Trangmar. 1989. Use of geostatistics in designing sampling strategies for soil survey. Soil Science Society of America Journal 53:1163–1167.

    DOI: 10.2136/sssaj1989.03615995005300040028x

    The use of kriging to quantitatively access soil morphological properties and the efficiency advantage of kriging over traditional statistical techniques are discussed.

  • Dokuchaev, V. V. 1883. Russian chernozem: Selected works of V. V. Dokuchaev. Vol. 1. Jerusalem: Israel Program for Scientific Translations.

    Widely regarded as the publication that marks the birth of genetic soil science as a modern scientific discipline; recognized soil as an independent natural body and established the commonly recognized five soil-forming factors. Translated in 1967.

  • Lapham, M. H. 1949. Crisscross trails: Narrative of a soil surveyor. Berkeley, CA: Willis E. Berg.

    A review of the career of Macy Lapham, one of the first soil surveyors in the United States, including many amazing insights into the early years of soil survey in the United States.

  • McCracken, R. J., and D. Helms. 1994. Soil surveys and maps. In The literature of soil science. Edited by P. McDonald, 275–311. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    A historical overview of soil survey through the early 1990s, including techniques, products, and uses of soil surveys.

  • Miller, F. T., and J. D. Nichols. 1979. Soils data. In Planning the uses and management of land. Edited by M. T. Beatty, G. W. Petersen, and L. D. Swindale, 67–89. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy.

    An overview of the types of data collected and types of maps produced by the US soil survey, relationships between soil surveys and classification, and historical advances.

  • Pendleton, R. L., and D. Nickerson. 1951. Soil colors and special Munsell soil color charts. Soil Science 71:35–44.

    DOI: 10.1097/00010694-195101000-00004

    A review of the history behind and argument for the adoption of the Munsell color charts for use in soil science.

  • Wilding, L. P. 1994. Factors of soil formation: Contributions to pedology. In Factors of soil formation: A fiftieth anniversary retrospective; Proceedings of a symposium cosponsored by the Council on the History of Soil Science (5205.1) and Division S-50 of the Soil Science Society of America, Held in Denver, CO, 28 October 1991. Edited by R. Amundson, J. Harden, and M. Singer, 15–30. SSSA Special Publication 33. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America.

    A review of the contributions and limitations of Jenny’s Factors of Soil Formation as it relates to applications in pedology.

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