Soils represent the result of a complex set of interacting processes and are an integral component of the environment. Yet soils remain the most undervalued and misused of the Earth's resources. This work examines the fundamental importance of soils. Combining practical analysis and interpretation with a theoretical approach, the authors discuss the properties of soils, debate the environmental factors that influence their development, and address their resulting spatial characteristics on a global scale. Examining the impact of environmental controls on soil formation this book also analyzes the role of soils as components of natural environmental systems, and soil-human interactions. A glossary of terms aids the less scientific reader. Adopting macro and micro-scale, pure and applied, spatial and temporal, and natural and human related approaches, this book offers an understanding of soils within an environmental context. As environmental problems, such as pollution, acidification, erosion and climatic change become matters of greater concern, this work offers an understanding for readers across a spectrum of environmentally-related subjects.