Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Special Publication Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: One of the greatest challenges associated with assessing soil health or quality is determining how to interpret and combine indicator data gathered using various qualitative and quantitative procedures. The objective for this chapter is to review various approaches for accomplishing this goal within a common conceptual framework based on the role of soil in land use and environmental protection. The functional role of soil in terrestrial ecosystems, the need to qualify indicator properties as a function of land use, landscape and climate characteristics, and linkages between soil and environmental and biological systems are discussed. A functional definition of soil quality and soil health that recognizes the fitness of soil to carry out critical functions within specified land use, landscape, and climate boundaries is presented. Experimental implications of this functional definition are discussed and basic approaches for characterizing soil quality and health are reviewed. Finally, a protocol for assessing and managing soil quality and health is presented.