PROGRAM TITLE: Soil Landscape Models ACTIVITY STREAMS: Observe/Data Mgt; Process; Models SCIENCE ELEMENT:
Earth System History U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Soil Conservation ServiceDESCRIPTION: Interactions of soils as critical hydrologic components of small watersheds is, in part, dependent on the properties that have developed and been preserved in the various soils throughout the watershed. The spatial distribution of soil features and their relationship to the evolutionary processes of the total landscape hold the key to relating phenomena to climates of past periods. Most models of soil genesis (formation) are qualitative, thus quantifying them is an important process in developing further relevant relationships and to assist in predicting consequences of different climate scenarios. Soil genesis, landscape hydrology, and paleo soil studies will enable us to develop preliminary paleo-soil maps. Such information assists biogeochemical cycle modelers and biological response modelers who need, or want, to extrapolate current results backward in time and space. The kind, pattern, and time of formation of near-surface stratigraphy in pilot test areas will support broader extrapolations. STAKEHOLDERS: The soil science community doesn't have a basic framework on which to hang the pieces of their soil genesis research. This will enable them to develop a more coherent view of how, where, and why soils have developed over time and space in the United States. Learning more about small landscape hydrology allows more reliable interpretations for proposed or implemented mitigation practices that are soil, or soil-related. The U.S. lags rather far behind our European colleagues in the modeling of soils and landscapes. SHORT-TERM POLICY PAYOFFS: Prior responses of soils to climate and other global changes occurred but the degree of certainty of the effects is less well known. The scientific community still has a ways to go to assess the short-term value for policy makers. Earth system history will be the glue that holds the stories of change together in time and in space, however, that is a longer-term payoff.