Saturday, 15 July 2006

Integrating Soil Survey, Research, and Outreach in California's National Parks.

Dylan Beaudette1, Anthony O'Geen2, Kenneth Oster3, Valerie Bullard3, Susan Southard3, David W. Smith4, and Pete Biggam5. (1) Land, Air & Water Resources, Univ of California, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616, (2) Land, Air & Water Resources, Univ of California, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616, (3) USDA-NRCS, 65 Main Street, Suite 108, Templeton, CA 93465, (4) USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 430 G Street, #4164, Davis, CA 65616, (5) NPS, PO Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287

The National Cooperative Soil Survey has provided communities with detailed soil resource inventories for a large percentage of the US. Some regions have not been surveyed, particularly in the west, which include rugged mountain ranges, non-arable land, or public land such as national parks or monuments. These gaps in the current extent of the US soil inventory parallel previously held sentiments toward the purpose of a soil survey; to guide the use of land for agricultural, commercial, or residential development. It is not surprising that the thought of surveying public lands, in particular national parks and monuments, may evoke two immediate questions: 1) Should we bother, and, 2) How will the survey be used? We offer two cooperative soil survey efforts on public lands (Pinnacles National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore) as examples of how the University of California, National Park Service (NPS), and the USDA-NRCS National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) are working to survey lands, conduct research, and deliver information about soils in national parks. University of California students worked closely with field soil scientists in order to gain mapping experience, but also to introduce and integrate GIS and terrain analysis expertise into the mapping process. Considerable interplay between students and NRCS staff was maintained to facilitate efficient field work. For example, a statistical k-means algorithm was implemented as a way to identify terrain-specific slope classes rather than arbitrary or tradition slope delineations. Further work with terrain generalization algorithms is being pursued in order to assess their utility in the automatic generation of soil polygons. Exciting research opportunities have evolved as a product of this collaboration. Solar radiation and hydrologic models are being fused with external sources of data that the NPS have created (e.g. detailed vegetation and geology maps) in order to develop quantitative predictions of soil development. A comparison of annual insolation values across contrasting terrain indicate that soil properties such as organic carbon content and its distribution with depth can be predicted using landscape models. Testing of predictive soil models based on terrain analysis was facilitated by a large pedon dataset collected during the soil survey. Plans are in place to include the results from selected research projects in the final soil survey product. With the help of NPS botanists and ecologists, new forms of educational materials highlighting important soil-ecosystem relationships were produced to be displayed in Park Visitor Centers. A web-based interface with digital soil survey data was created to facilitate interactive exploration of soil resources, properties, and landscape relationships. New data visualization techniques are being tested to better illustrate the importance of soil as an integrated component of the ecosystem.

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Back to The 18th World Congress of Soil Science (July 9-15, 2006)