Learning about Soil Resources with Digital Soil Maps

Authored by: Darrell G. Schulze , Phillip R. Owens , George E. Van Scoyoc

Handbook of Soil Sciences Resource Management and Environmental Impacts

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  November  2011

Print ISBN: 9781439803073
eBook ISBN: 9781439803080
Adobe ISBN:


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Many of the concepts that students learn in soil, crop, and environmental science courses are inherently spatial. Soils vary across landscapes in predictable, repeating patterns. Certain soils and landscapes are better for particular crops than others. An environmental problem may impact a whole watershed, not just the point at which a contaminant is introduced. Patterns of land uses, whether for crop production, forestry, wildlife habitat, or urban development, vary spatially in response to soils, topography, geology, human infrastructure, and many other factors. Although we implicitly acknowledge the existence of spatial patterns in our soil, crop, and environmental science courses, our ability to explicitly observe these spatial patterns visually and make them clear to our students has, in the past, been limited. Geographic Information Systems (GISs) and the recent availability of detailed digital soil survey data, particularly in the United States, along with increasingly detailed Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) worldwide, allow us to visualize and analyze such complex geospatial information in new ways, and to use them to enhance teaching and learning. Research has repeatedly shown that a dynamic, active, visually rich learning environment significantly increases comprehension and retention relative to a more passive, auditory environment (Bransford et al., 2000).

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