Soil Resources

Soil Quality Assessment

Soil quality is an assessment of how well soil performs all of its functions now and how those functions are being preserved for future use. There are a variety of tools that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can use to evaluate soil quality.

Guidelines for Soil Quality Assessment in Conservation Planning, prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), describes a step-by step process for assessing soil quality. It provides guidance to decide whether to conduct an elaborate or simple assessment, which tools to use, and what management practices to use to address soil quality concerns.

Soil Quality/Health Test Kits are used to compare soils under different land management systems, track changes in soil quality over time, and demonstrate the effects of management practices on soil quality. NRCS provides guidance on how to conduct field procedures to evaluate or indicate the level of the following soil indicators:

Soil Quality/Health Cards are qualitative field assessment tools to help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and others inventory and assess resources, evaluate planning alternatives, and monitor management effectiveness over time. They are also educational tools to initiate discussions about soil quality and soil management.

Example of Soil Quality Health Card — Numerical Rankings 1–10
Indicator

Poor Quality,
Ranked 1

High Quality,
Ranked 10
Soil StructureCloddy, powdery, massive, flakeyFriable, loose, crumbly
Free of Compactive Layers/RootsHardpans, roots turned, difficulty for wire flag penetration, poor root distributionEase for wire flag penetration, good root distribution
Soil Organisms (earthworms, critters)AbsentVisible/full variety
Plant Residue PresenceNone or too much not decomposingFull decomposition
Plant HealthStunted growth, discoloredVigorous, uniform growth
Water InfiltrationWater on surface for long timeAdequate drainage and lack of ponding
Bare groundConsiderableCover of plants and residues of soil/site
Aggregate StabilityDoes not hold together well as a result of wind, rain, compactionHolds together well as a result of wind, rain, compaction


Topics

Soils and Ecosystem Stability
·Soil Indicators and Function
·Soil Quality Assessment
·Soil Management
·Soil Issues
·BLM Authorized Management Activities Affecting Soil
·Organic Matter

Using the Web Soil Survey
Soils and Vegetation
·Ecological Sites and Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs)
·State and Transition Model (STM)
·STM Example
·STM Application and Use
Restoration and Recovery