Soils in Natural Landscapes: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Soils in Natural Landscapes

1st Edition

By Earl B. Alexander

CRC Press

319 pages | 76 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2013-10-21
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In any complete investigation of terrestrial ecosystems, rocks and soils must be considered. Soils are essential resources, providing water and nutrients for vascular plants, and mitigating the flow of water from the land. In addition, soil diversity is critical for biotic diversity. While there are many references on the agricultural perspective of soils, there is a need for a basic soils book for those concerned with natural landscapes and ecosystems. Soils in Natural Landscapes fills this niche, providing a thorough introduction to the physics, chemistry, and biology of soils and their roles in local to global systems.

The book begins by describing the field of soils and the major roles of soils in natural landscapes. The chapters that follow cover a range of topics:

  • Soil parent material
  • Architecture of soils
  • Temperature and soils
  • Water, air, and climate
  • Classification of soils
  • Soil landscapes
  • Plant nutrition
  • Soil organisms
  • Organic matter in soils

The author also discusses global issues such as water and carbon cycles, global warming, and acid rain. He addresses land management for different uses, soil quality, and soil degradation. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this book provides practical insights for the evaluation of soils in natural environments and their non-intensive management.

Table of Contents

Soils, Landscapes and Ecosystems

Concepts of Soils

Soils from the Bottom Up and from the Top Down

Soils, Landscapes, and Ecosystems

A Global Perspective

Land Use

Land Management

Soil Parent Material, Weathering, and Primary Particles

Parent Material


Primary Soil Particles


Ion-exchange and the Soil Solution

Soil Architecture—Structural Units and Horizons

Soil Structure

Soil Pores and Soil Density

Soil Strength

Ecosystem Effects of Soil Structure

Soil Horizons and Pedons

Heat and Soil Temperature

Sources of Heat and Heat Transfer at the Surface of Earth

Soil Temperatures

Soil Temperature Regimes

Soil Temperature Effects

Soil Water, Air, and Climate

Infiltration of Water into Soils

Energy Status and Disposition of Water in Soils

Water Storage and Air in Soils

Movement of Water and Air in Soils

Evaporation and Transpiration

Composition of Air in the Soil Atmosphere

A Landscape Perspective

Global Patterns of Precipitation

Soil Classification—Kinds of Soils

Organisation of the USDA System, Soil Taxonomy

Diagnostic Horizons

Soil Temperature and Moisture Regimes

Order and Lower Levels of Soil Taxonomy

The World Reference Base (WRB)

Features of Soil in the 12 Orders of Soil Taxonomy

Global Distributions of Soils

Hydric Soils

Soils and Landscapes

Lithology and Stratigraphy

Landforms and Topography


Biota (Plants, Animals, and Other Living Organisms)

Plant Communities and Ecosystems

Soils and Time

Soils and Ecological Landscape Maps

Primary Production and Plant Nutrition

Primary Productivity

Plants in the Physical Environment and Photosynthesis

Role of Soils in Plant Nutrition

Potential Plant Productivity

Soil Organisms: Life in Soils

Faunal and Microorganism Habitats


Main Kinds of Organisms Living in Soils

Soil Ecology

Soil Organic Matter

Sources of Organic Matter and Its Composition in Plant Tissues

Decomposition of Organic Matter

Composition of Soil Organic Matter

Distributions of Soil Organic Matter

Functions of Soil Organic Matter

Soils and Global Processes

Crust of Earth

Free Water Balance

Carbon Cycle

Ancient Climates, Plants, Weathering, and Atmospheric CO2 and Methane

Nitrogen Cycle

Sulphur Cycle

Acid Rain, Water, and Soils

Phosphorus Cycle

Nutrient Cycling, Plant (Site) Productivity

Land Management and Soil Quality

Types of Use and Management for Different Land


Soil Degradation

Diversity of Plants and Animals

Soil Quality

Degraded Landscapes and Soils



Appendix A: Extensive and Intensive Properties and Flow of Heat, Air, and Water in Soils

Appendix B: Forms of Life

Appendix C: Notes on the Elemental Nutrition of Living Organisms

Appendix D: Rock Classification for Nongeologists

Appendix E: Naming the Suborders, Great Groups , and Subgroups in Soil Taxonomy

Appendix F: Taxonomic Names of the Plants

About the Author

Earl B. Alexander is a retired pedologist, if you can call writing books (first author of Serpentine Geoecology of Western North America) and professional papers retirement. He has a Ph.D. in soils and has worked for the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS), the California (now Pacific Southwest) Forest and Range Experiment Station, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the University of Nevada, and three regions of the U.S. Forest Service. He has mapped and investigated soils in Ohio, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Nevada, California, Oregon, Alaska, and other states and provinces in western North America. He has developed interpretations for evaluating soil conditions and expected soil behaviours and made and reviewed recommendations for land management. More than 75 of his papers have been published in professional journals.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Ecology
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / Forestry