Soil Quality Indicator
Soils represent the basic support system for
terrestrial ecosystems because of their role
in providing nutrients, water, oxygen, heat,
and mechanical support to vegetation. Any environmental
stressor that alters the natural function of
the soil has the potential to influence the
productivity, species composition, and hydrology
of forest systems. In the Forest Inventory and
Analysis (FIA) Program, we collect data to evaluate
soil physical and chemical properties and the
extent of erosion and compaction.
Why Is the Soil Quality Indicator Important?
quality refers to the capacity of a soil to
function within ecosystem and land use boundaries,
to sustain biological productivity, maintain
environmental quality, and promote plant and
animal health (Doran and Parkin, 1994).
Information about soil chemical and physical
properties can be used to answer the following
types of questions about soil quality and forest
- Can declines in forest productivity
be correlated with changes in the availability
of soil nutrients
and water to plants?
- What impacts are pollution (e.g., acid
deposition) having on soil chemical
How much carbon is currently stored
in forest soils and is this quantity
changing over time?
- What percent of U.S. forestland is
impacted by soil compaction and
- How much topsoil and forest floor
material may be lost each year due
Data from the soil quality indicator
are not intended to be used alone
when making statements
about forest health. However, once
the presence of a potential soil
quality issue has been
identified, these indicator data
can be considered in association
with other FIA measurements to assess
the impact of soil quality on forest
Soil quality information contributes to the
investigation of several key forest ecosystem
concerns: (1) the productivity and sustainability
of forest systems, (2) the conservation of soil
and water resources, (3) the accumulation of
persistent toxic substances, and (4) the contribution
of forested systems to the global carbon cycle.
For more information about the Soil Quality
Indicator visit our Soil
Indicator website or view
Soil Quality Indicator Fact Sheet.