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Physical Geography of Northern Eurasia

Soils of Northern Eurasia

<<< Climate at Present and in the Historical Past: Conclusions | Physical Geography Index | Soil-forming Factors >>>


Pedology or soil science was established as a new academic discipline more than a hundred years ago by the prominent Russian scientist Vasily Dokuchaev (1846-1903), who has been recognized worldwide as its founder. Dokuchaev defined soil as an independent natural body developed over time under the influence of five soil-forming factors: parent rock, living organisms, climate, relief, and time (Dokuchaev, 1948). This has become a classic definition of soil. He suggested a classification of soils based on scientific principles and was the first to examine their geographical distribution. The development of the theory and practice of soil conservation is also credited to this outstanding scientist. Many other scientists, who worked in the former Soviet Union (FSU), also contributed greatly to the development of genetic pedology: Vysotsky (1901), Neustruev (1913), Glinka (1927), Volobuev (1963), Dobrovolsky (1967), to name but a few.

According to the canons of the Russian pedological school, the diagnostics, taxonomy, and nomenclature of soils are based on the following principles:

  • (1) profile method: soil profile is an integral unity of interrelated and interdependent genetic horizons;
  • (2) integrated approach: soil diagnostics include analysis and description of a number of properties and indicators (morphological, physical, chemical, physicochemical, biological, and mineralogical);
  • (3) comparative geographical analysis based upon soil-forming factors (vegetation cover, climate, weathering crusts, and geochemical landscapes);
  • (4) genetic aspect: primary use of properties and indications connected with the origin and history of soils related to the general geological history and paleogeography of a given area. This approach uses a degree of expression and differentiation of soil profile, accumulation or loss of separate compounds, and transformation of the soil-forming material.

The application of this methodology reveals the main features of the soil geography of Northern Eurasia, such as bioclimatic zonality, lithologic differentiation of soil cover, landform and geochemical connections, and age differentiation of soil cover and their relationships with soil-forming factors. While this methodology is widely used in the FSU, in other countries different non-genetic criteria are employed (Klassifikatsiya, 1977). As a result, systems used to classify soils differ. The lack of a uniformly accepted classification scheme complicates work and international effort is currently aimed at the creation of a standard classification of soils (–јќ-UNESCO, 1990; World Reference, 1994; Stolbovoy and Sheremet, 1996). To assist the reader, I have attempted to match the classification used in Russian-language texts with that used elsewhere (Table 4.1).

Classification of soil types

Table 4.1 Classification of soil types

The main soil regions and the corresponding vegetation zones of Northern Eurasia are shown in Figure 4.1.

Types of soils and corresponding vegetation zones in Northern Eurasia

Fig. 4.1 Types of soils and corresponding vegetation zones in Northern Eurasia

The soil grouping of Northern Eurasia reflects much of the soil diagnostics, nomenclature and definitions elaborated in the framework of international cooperation during the compilation of the –јќ-UNESCO world Soil Map (FAO-UNESCO, 1990).

<<< Climate at Present and in the Historical Past: Conclusions | Physical Geography Index | Soil-forming Factors >>>




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