ENVU5S5: Soil Quality & Protection

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Paul Adderley

Soil quality assessment is a topic of considerable current interest and importance. It is also generating much controversy within the soil science community. The assessment and monitoring of soil quality are essential for underpinning policies dealing with soil protection. The Royal Commission Report on Environmental Pollution on the subject of The Sustainable Use of Soils (1996) recommended for the UK the need for soil protection strategies in the UK. Parallel developments in Europe and elsewhere have led to research in soil quality and to policy initiatives .Locally, the development of soil protection strategies has come to fruition with the Scottish Soil Framework finally published by the Scottish Government in 2009.  This unit will examine the background scientific issues associated with soil quality assessment.

Course Content

  1. Soil surveys and their applications
  2. Soil quality assessment
  3. Soil management in contrasting environments
  4. Impact of vegetation change on soils
  5. Soil fertility and management
  6. Nutrient cycles in relation to soils
  7. Biological diversity and ecosystem function in soils


At this stage of your degree it is vital that you make time to read study materials germane to the course. Reading materials for ENV5S5 are available via the library, background texts, and online. The course will require your study of journals and monographs held in the library, and through reference to course texts. It is important that you read these materials to support lectures, practicals and field work.

Key reading materials

Key reading materials will be listed via WebCT using the Talis service. This provides a direct link to journal articles and to library catalogue entries.

Support reading

Four text books are recommended for support reading: 
Soil Management: Problems and Solutions (by Michael A. Fullen and John A. Catt; Arnold);
The Nature and Properties of Soils (by N C Brady and R R Weil; Prentice Hall); 
Principles and Practice of Soil Science (by R. E. White; Blackwell); and 
Biogeochemistry: An analysis of Global Change (by W.H. Schlesinger; Academic Press) 

These are all useful and all are available in the library’s Reserve Book Room.

Background reading

For background knowledge on soils, students are encouraged to be familiar with the CD-ROM Interactive soils (available in the teaching computing labs). It will be assumed that students have knowledge of key soil properties and processes. See Ch. 4: factors of soil formation, Ch. 5: processes in soils and Ch. 6: properties of soils.

Learning Objectives

  • To examine the nature, properties, distributions and functions of soils
  • To examine the nature of soil resources and their evaluation
  • To examine the factors governing soil fertility
  • To examine the role of organisms in the functioning of soils
  • To examine soil protection, through land management and government policies 

Teaching Arrangements

Teaching will be mainly by lectures, but use will also be made of a teaching package in soil survey and some field visits. Lecture material will be provided on the intranet.

Themes and Lectures

Theme: Soils and the Natural Landscape

  • Introduction to soils
  • Soil and landscape survey
  • Soil quality
  • Soil biodiversity

Theme: World soils and nutrient cycles

  • Temperate soils
  • Tropical soils - ultisols and oxisols
  • Tropical soils - vertisols
  • Diffuse pollution and wetlands
  • Nutrient cycles and soils I
  • Nutrient cycles and soils II
  • Nutrient cycles and soils III

Theme: Soils and People

  • Agricultural and Forest soils - physical damage
  • Agricultural and Forest soils - salinity
  • Agricultural and Forest soils – soil quality and health
  • Urban and peri-urban soils – tropical soil erosion
  • Urban and peri-urban soils – functions and problems
  • Urban and peri-urban soils – planning and policy
  • Soil protection policies
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