Saturday, 15 July 2006

New Technology and the NRCS Soil Survey Maintenance/Update Process in Abilene, Texas.

James Gordon and Alan Stahnke. USDA-NRCS, 4400 Buffalo Gap Rd. Ste.3600, Abilene, TX 79605


Recent advances in field data collection and geospatial analysis technologies have the potential to increase the efficiency, consistency, and reliability of soil surveys. Geospatial analysis tools such as a Geographic Information System (GIS) will have an integral role in future resource inventory applications. The National Cooperative Soil Survey, through the National Soil Survey Handbook (NSSH), Part 610 has acknowledged the utility of GIS technology in mapping operations and in the development of ancillary products which aid in describing and mapping patterns of landscape features correlated to the spatial distribution of soil properties. The Abilene Soil Survey Office has been charged with maintaining/updating soil surveys using only digital techniques and methods. The field soil mappers/scientists in the office are taking full advantage of existing and emerging technologies in order to capture, inventory, and analyze resource information. The maintenance/update process will focus on documenting and evaluating soil map units and line placement using new and existing GIS tools, as well as field observations. Preliminary soil survey maintenance/update investigations have traditionally been conducted using a combination of field observations and analysis of existing hard-copy geology, topographic, vegetation, soils, and other maps. These investigations provide the basis for the evaluation of current soil-landscape models and line placement in maintenance/update soil surveys. While the use of GIS technologies to store, display, distribute, and manipulate soil survey information has already been institutionalized, a standardized approach for the implementation of GIS technologies for maintenance/update has not been developed. GIS technology can be used to analyze important environmental characteristics of the soil survey area. Digital maps and/or data layers that quantify differences in aspect, elevation, geology, slope gradient, slope curvature, vegetation and other environmental features can be readily generated, provided adequate data sources are available. In maintenance/update soil surveys, these data layers combined with other analyses can be used to evaluate current map unit design, line placement, and the distribution of soils series and map units within a survey area and/or Major Land Resource Area. It is our goal to use a series of GIS tools, data layers and procedures that will increase the efficiency, consistency, and reliability of soil surveys.

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