Friday, 14 July 2006

Grouping and Naming Soils in the South African Classification.

Martin V. Fey, Department of Soil Science, University of Stellenbosch, Victoria Street, Stellenbosch, 7602, South Africa

International soil classification systems such as Soil Taxonomy and the World Reference Base (WRB) employ a key which permits unambiguous identification of the soil order or reference soil group by a process of elimination. A similar scheme is presented here for organizing the 73 soil forms of South Africa into a dozen groups (Organic, Humic, Vertic, Melanic, Silicic, Calcic, Duplex, Podzolic, Oxidic, Plinthic, Hydromorphic and Inceptic, with the last group being further divided into cumulic, lithic and anthropic sub-groups) using nomenclature that follows pedological tradition while being based on key diagnostic horizons as defined in the South African system. The nomenclature has been extended to cover soil forms and families by making use of qualifier terms similar in concept to those in the WRB and Soil Taxonomy. This conceptual nomenclature should (i) provide more intelligible legends for soil maps (ii) conceivably facilitate future revision of the classification system by encouraging the use of WRB-style qualifiers and (iii) universalize local classification, making it more relevant to pedologists elsewhere in Africa, for example, while preserving its essential structure and consequently the usefulness of local soil maps. The twelve soil groups have provided the basis for a systematic account of SA soils (their properties, geography, genesis and use), which is currently in preparation.

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