U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



L.T. West et al. (eds.), The Soils of the USA, World Soils Book Series, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41870-4_18


U.S. government work.


Soil change is the central, if under-recognized, component of land and ecosystem changes (Yaalon 2007). Soils change naturally over a long timescale (decades to millennia) in response to soil-forming factors (biota, climate, parent material, time, and topography). However, human land-use pressures are currently the driving force in maintaining, aggrading, and degrading soil properties across nearly all ecosystems. Traditionally, in order to simplify and standardize the relationships between soils and soil-forming factors, pedology and soil survey have often focused on “natural” or “virgin” soil (e.g., Hilgard 1860; Jenny 1980), but many argue that humans should be thought of as a part of soil genesis and formation (Amundson and Jenny 1991; Yaalon and Yaron 1966; Bidwell and Hole 1965).

Landscapes and soils have been altered by wide-scale conversion to agriculture, use of vegetative products, and development for direct human use. Land-use impacts can be gradual or abrupt, subtle, or catastrophic (Table 18.1). The interactions between environmental changes and geomorphic and biotic feedback loops vary across temporal and spatial scales depending on the setting (Monger and Bestelmeyer 2006). The effects of land use can linger for decades to centuries and beyond (Hall et al. 2013; Jangid et al. 2011; Sandor et al. 1986). While each land resource region has some specific soil–land use interactions, this chapter will focus on general uses and topical areas: croplands, wetlands, grazing lands (both pasture and rangelands), and forest lands with smaller sections devoted to special issues including acid sulfate soils, strip-mined lands, and cold soils.