The Physical Environment

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Soil Systems

Chapter 11
Soil Systems

Fertile soil dried and cracked due to a lack of rain, Morocco
Courtesy FAO

Soil is crucial to the functioning of the Earth system. Soil is the foundation upon which vegetation grows and home to a diverse community of organisms. The global mosaic of world soils is a reflection of the geographic variation of climate, vegetation, and geological processes. Soil is a resource easily degraded or destroyed by misuse. Once damaged, it take hundreds of years to regenerate and become productive again.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the chapter you should be able to:

  • Create and label a diagram of horizon development process.
  • Explain how soil color relates to soil properties.
  • Define soil texture, structure and bulk density, and explain their importance to soil development.
  • Use the soil texture triangle to determine soil texture class.
  • Explain basic soil chemistry and relate it to soil fertility.
  • Construct, label, and describe the horizons in a typical soil profile.
  • Describe each of the soil development factors and how they influence properties of soils.
  • Describe the soil forming (pedogenic) processes and their effects on soil properties.
  • Describe the major soil orders and explain their general distribution.


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For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
2006. Date visited.  ../title_page.html

Michael Ritter (

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