Approaches to measuring air and water quality are well established, but soil quality assessment protocols to be used in landscape monitoring efforts are largely non-existent. The concept of soil quality represents the integration of the physical, biological, and chemical aspects of soils. Limited attention has been given to the holistic assessment of soil quality in landscape and urban planning, as it is typically addressed only through chemical analyses. We describe the process used for the selection of soil quality indicators that are being offered as part of the new Cornell Soil Health Test. Over 1500 samples were collected from agricultural landscapes, including controlled experiments, and analyzed for 39 potential soil quality indicators. Four physical and four biological soil indicators were selected based on sensitivity to management, relevance to functional soil processes, ease and cost of sampling, and cost of analysis. Seven chemical indicators were selected as they constitute the standard soil fertility test. For potentially contaminated sites, additional chemical indicators were considered through a total elemental analysis. Test reports were developed to allow for overall soil quality assessment and the identification of specific soil constraints that may be remedied through management practices. The use of the new soil quality test is exemplified for three landscape scenarios in New York State: a vegetable farm, a town park, and a vacant urban lot. The protocol provides a comprehensive assessment of the soil's ability to perform critical environmental functions at a relatively modest cost, and it helps target management and remediation approaches.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law