Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Results and Discussion

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 The literature search yielded 52 environmental monitoring programs that met the search criteria. The term "program" is used to describe both entire programs and separate parts of a monitoring program. The search revealed environmental monitoring programs which did not include the repeated monitoring of any soil properties. Others had not resampled any soil properties since the program was established. An example of this is the National Resources Inventory (NRI) in the United States of America. This program monitors over 800,000 sample points across the entire nation but does not monitor soil on a regular basis (53). Many long-term monitoring programs, which imposed agronomic treatments were also found. For example, in Alberta alone, there are six long-term, small plot, sustainable cropping systems studies which 1) determine crop productivity and soil quality effects in accordance with established research protocols and 2) determine the capacity of Alberta agroecosystems to sequester atmospheric carbon. Although programs of this type are valuable in identifying profitable and sustainable agricultural systems and may provide supplemental information for monitoring programs, they impose agronomic treatments and therefore do not meet the criteria set out for this literature review.

A majority of the references are "grey" or unpublished literature found on web pages and in institutional reports. This poses a problem because the documents referenced may become unavailable or outdated in a short time frame. Dramstad et al. (2002) also experienced difficulties finding documentation because a large portion of information about certain monitoring programs is located in non-English language institutional reports. An analysis of the literature cited finds that 35% are web pages or electronic citations, 20% are conference proceedings, 16% are reports, 11% are refereed journal articles, while the remainder are from magazine articles, books, emails, dissertations and poster presentations.

Programs that met the criteria were researched further and the program details were summarized (Tables 2 and 3). The information collected in Table 2 includes:

  • country or organization responsible for the monitoring program
  • program title
  • program management
  • program lifespan
  • objectives or purpose of monitoring
  • type of ecosystem and components measured
  • spatial variability of sampling points
  • sampling interval and methods
  • program costs
  • data dissemination
  • data trends
In many instances, a complete program description was not available. Blank cells in Table 2, with the exception of the "End Date" column, indicate no information was provided in the reviewed documentation or the category was not applicable. The "End Date" column includes text only if the program was terminated, otherwise the program is assumed to be operational. The programs were grouped into continents or networks, organized by alphabetical order and were then given numbers (column labeled "Prog No."). The numbers facilitate referencing the programs in the document and in displaying the information in tables. Bibliographic references appear as numbers in the "References" column of the table and are recorded in ProCite version 5 for Windows (ISI ResearchSoft, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) The numbers correspond to the same number listed in section 6.0, the "Literature Cited" section of this document.

Selected parameters measured by each program are included in Table 3. The ten parameters are:
  • soil test analysis
  • chemical
  • physical
  • biological
  • biochemical
  • micronutrients
  • pollutants
  • management information
  • site description
  • climatic data
Some programs measured other parameters related to air, water and biota, which were not the focal point of this review and were excluded. A "yes" in the table indicates the parameter was measured or is pertinent. Blank cells in the table, indicate no information was provided in the reviewed documentation or the category was not applicable.

Additional program details are provided in the Appendix of this document.

Table 2. Monitoring Program Descriptions - Part 1

Table 2. Monitoring Program Descriptions - Part 2
Table 2. Monitoring Program Descriptions - Part 3

Table 3. Soil, site and management parameters measured by monitoring programs1

Soil test analysis (fertility): can include measurements of N, P, K, S, Ca, Mg, Na, NH4, NH3, NO2, NO3, PO4, SO4

Soil chemical: can include TOC, Total inorganic carbon, soil greenhouse analysis, sorptive capacity, pH, EC, CaCO3, CEC, base saturation, acid and base cations, soluble cations, exchangeable cations, exchangeable acidity, hydrolytic acidity, sodicity, Total N, Total P, Total K, Total S, Total Mg, Total Ca, Total Na, SAR

Soil physical: can include Db, compaction, penetration resistance, total porosity, macroporosity, infiltration rate, shrinkage/swelling tests, plastic/liquid limits, saturated and near-saturated hydraulic conductivity, aggregate stability, texture, PSA, specific gravity and soil water characteristics.

Soil biological: can include Nmin, Cmin, respiration, microbiology, microfauna, mesofauna, macrofauna, microflora, microbial biomass activity, enzyme activity and earthworms.

Soil biochemical: can include measurements of LFC, LFN, organic humus, humus fractions, litter/cellulose decomposition, oxidizable C, particulate organic matter.

Micronutrients: can include measurements such as B, Cl, Co, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Se, Si, V, Zn
Pollutants: can include measurements of Ag, Al, As, Ba, Be, Bi, Cd, Cr, F, Hg, Li, Pb, Sb, Sn, Sr, Ti, Tl, PCBs, PAH, halogenated compounds, surfactants, tricyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides, herbicide residues, chlororganic insecticides, radionuclides.

Management: can include land use history, site history, crop residues, cultivation, vegetation composition, plant yield, plant quality, manure application, manure storage, fertilization.

Site description: can include morphology, soil profile description, soil type, soil series, soil classification, mass of forest litter, type/depth of humus horizon, landscape attributes, slope, aspect, relief, soil parent material, erosion/deposition, weathering, mineralogy/rock type, hydrological conditions, phases/stages of soil development

Other Documents in the Series

  Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Abstract
Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Results and Discussion - Current Document
Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Summary
Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Literature Cited
Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review - Appendix
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Len Kryzanowski.
This document is maintained by Laura Thygesen.
This information published to the web on May 11, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 27, 2015.