Monday, 10 July 2006

A Web Map-Based Tool for Exploring the Spatial Extent of U.S. Soil Taxonomy – Series through Order.

Brian W. Bills1, Sharon W. Waltman2, Douglas A. Miller1, Stephen Crawford3, James L. Sloan II1, Amanda Moore2, Jon Hempel2, Craig Ditzler4, and Jim Fortner4. (1) The Pennsylvania State Univ, 2217 Earth-Engineering Sci Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, (2) USDA-NRCS-NGDC, 157 Clark Hall Annex, Prospect Street, West Virginia Univ, Morgantown, WV 26506, (3) The Pennsylvania State University, 2217 Earth-Engineering Sci Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, (4) USDA-NRCS-NSSC, 100 Centennial Mall North, Room 152, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866

The explosion of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology in the 1980's and 1990's and the growing ubiquity of the World Wide Web in the past decade have produced new tools and opportunities for delivering highly visual, interactive applications for exploring the geographic distribution of natural phenomena such as soils. Utilizing web vector animation and internet map service technologies, we are developing applications, accessed with a standard web browser, that deliver interactive national maps illustrating the extents of individual soil series and other soil taxa. These national maps are based on the land area of soil series mapped in the Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database. The SSURGO data represent detailed mapping scales of 1:12,000 and 1:24,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Data Mart. These detailed data are linked via the series name to the Soil Classification File database, where current Soil Taxonomy concepts are stored and maintained through time. Users may construct a wide-range of queries based on Soil Taxonomy—searching by formative element roots or specific soil series names. Typical queries might include searches for “Typic Fragiudults” or simply any soil with “vitrandic” character. Maps generated depict soil survey areas (roughly counties) in which SSURGO soil map unit components matching the search criteria occur. Individual soil survey areas are symbolized with color according to the acreages of the specified soil. Interactive map elements display summary information regarding mapped features and provide access to printable reports. On-screen color map images are also easily printed by the user. The map-based interface provides geographic context to information currently provided only in tabular and text format to soil scientists preparing and maintaining soil surveys in the United States. Geographic expression in national and regional contexts enhances the understanding of soil series concepts and Soil Taxonomy in relation to natural phenomena discernable best at national and regional scales. This application provides soil science professionals with rapid access to soil information for the purpose of evaluating broad historic Soil Taxonomic concepts embedded in the national collection of detailed soil survey map information compiled over the last half century.

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