Soil survey mapping unit accuracy in forested field plots in northern Pennsylvania

P. J. Drohan, E. J. Ciolkosz, G. W. Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)


The use of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) digital data and soil survey report data in geographic information system (GIS) models is becoming more common as the mapping becomes NRCS SSURGO certified. How accurate this data is in reflecting the actual field situation is an essential aspect of the GIS model. This study was conducted to determine how well NRCS official series descriptions (OSDs) matched field data from 30 forested plots in northern Pennsylvania. If plots proved to match OSD data well, then a model of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) decline could be developed from U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data using this data. Soil descriptions of the plots sampled in 1998 were compared with the NRCS OSDs. Plot variability was assessed with four exploratory soil pits and detailed field characterization was done on the most representative pit to a depth of 1.2 m. Results indicate that field soil data from plots matched OSD data well (less than two parameters outside the range) 80% of the time and very well (less than or equal to one parameter outside the defined data range of six properties) 63% of the time. Properties that fell outside the data range were almost always very close to the range of characteristics for the named series. Plots with more than two properties outside the range of the mapped series often occurred in landscape positions (backslope or toeslope [near streams]) prone to disturbance that could have resulted in large variability in the properties under observation. These data indicate that NRCS OSD data for the six properties in this study in forested areas of Pennsylvania can be used for GIS modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-214
Number of pages7
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science


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