Soil, an element often overlooked, is a critical resource for humans and ecosystems. Not just dirt beneath our feet, soil is a complex mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms that together support life. It is the foundation of terrestrial ecosystems and plays a vital role in food production, water filtration, and climate regulation.
In the United States, soils vary widely due to differences in climate, geology, topography, and vegetation. These variations have profound effects on the country's ecosystems, agriculture, and even human settlements. Understanding these soil types and their distribution is essential for various fields like agriculture, ecology, geology, and environmental science.
Soil classification in the United States is based on a hierarchical system called Soil Taxonomy. This system classifies soils into different levels of increasing specificity, from the broadest level, the soil order, to the finest level, the soil series. Each soil series represents a unique combination of properties like texture, drainage, fertility, and color.
The National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) is a collaborative effort of these federal agencies that has been mapping soils across the United States for over a century. They have produced detailed soil maps that show the distribution of different soil types across the country. These maps are an invaluable resource for understanding the soil diversity of the United States.
The study of U.S. soils is not just a theoretical exercise. It has real-world applications and implications. For instance, understanding the soil types and their properties is crucial for successful agriculture. Different crops have different soil requirements, and farmers need to know the soil type of their fields to optimize their crop choices and management practices.
In the context of environmental science, soil plays a crucial role in carbon and nutrient cycling, and its health is often used as an indicator of ecosystem sustainability. By studying U.S. soils, we can better understand the impacts of human activities like urbanization and agriculture on ecosystem health and make informed decisions about land use and conservation.
In this project, we will delve into the world of U.S. soils, exploring their types, distribution, and properties. We will use the resources provided by the NCSS, including their soil maps and the soil data they have collected over the years. By the end of this project, you will have a solid understanding of the diversity and importance of U.S. soils and how they shape our environment.
The Soil Science Society of America: This website provides a wealth of information about soils, including their classification, properties, and management.
Web Soil Survey (WSS): This is an online tool developed by the NCSS that provides access to their soil data and maps. You can use this tool to explore the soils of your local area or any other part of the United States.
Soil Orders of the United States: This page on the USDA-NRCS website provides an overview of the 12 soil orders found in the United States.
Soil Series Classification Database: This database contains detailed information about the soil series in the United States, including their properties, distribution, and classification.
Introduction to Soils course on Coursera: This free online course provides a comprehensive introduction to soils and their properties. It can be a useful resource for understanding the basic concepts of soil science.
"Unearthing U.S. Soil: Understanding Soil Diversity and Its Implications"
Objective of the Project
The main objective of this project is to understand the diversity of soils in the United States. By creating a soil profile, students will describe the soil's characteristics, analyze its properties, and interpret its implications for agriculture, ecology, and human settlements.
Detailed Description of the Project
Students will form groups of 3-5 members and select an area in the United States. Using the online tool 'Web Soil Survey' and other relevant resources, each group will investigate and analyze the soil type and its properties in the selected area. The groups will then create a detailed soil profile, including a written report, a physical model, and a presentation.
The physical model of the soil profile should be constructed using common household materials to represent the distinct layers of the soil. The written report should cover the following sections:
Introduction: The group should provide a brief overview of their selected area and why they chose it. They should also explain why understanding the soil type and its properties in this area is important.
Development: The group should detail the process they used to investigate and analyze the soil. They should explain the concept of soil taxonomies and how they used it in their analysis. They should also describe the creation of the physical model, including the materials used and the reasoning behind their design choices.
Results: The group should present their findings, including the soil type and its properties. They should also discuss the implications of these findings for agriculture, ecology, and human settlements.
Conclusion: The group should summarize their main findings and insights. They should also reflect on the project experience and what they learned from it.
Bibliography: The group should list all the resources they used in their research, including websites, books, and videos.
- Internet access to use the 'Web Soil Survey' and other online resources.
- Common household materials for creating the physical model (e.g., cardboard, paint, markers, glue, sand, clay, etc.).
- Writing materials for the report (paper, pens, computer for typing, etc.).
Detailed Step-by-Step for Carrying Out the Activity
Form groups and select an area: Form groups of 3-5 members. Each group should select an area in the United States they are interested in.
Research and analysis: Using the 'Web Soil Survey' and other resources, investigate and analyze the soil type and its properties in the selected area.
Create a soil profile: Using the gathered information, create a physical model of the soil profile. The model should represent the distinct layers of the soil accurately.
Write the report: Based on the investigation, analysis, and creation of the soil profile, write the report covering the sections mentioned above.
Prepare the presentation: Prepare a brief (5-10 minutes) presentation summarizing the main points of the project.
Present and submit: Present the project to the class. After the presentation, submit the written report and the physical model to the teacher.
The project deliverables include:
- A written report covering the key points of the project.
- A physical model of the soil profile.
- A brief presentation summarizing the main points.
The project should be completed within one week. The written report should be around 1000 words (about 4 pages in a standard Word document, using 12-point font and 1-inch margins) and should be submitted along with the physical model at the end of the week. The presentation will be done in class on the day of submission.